Treasure Planet is my favorite Disney Movie. This is a simplistic statement, and does not quantify it to be the BEST Disney movie because I think plenty of us can agree that which movie is the best will change based on what you need in the moment. There are Disney movies for Musical Bop Time (TM) and there are Disney movies for Tear Time (TM) and impressively some of those CAN overlap. But I’m not talking about the best Disney movie, I’m talking about my favorite. Which makes the conversation simultaneously much more simple, and still impossibly difficult to write.
Lets start with the basics. Treasure Planet came out is 2002, making me 7 at the time of release. A bit younger than Jim Hawkins, but definitely still in the age range where my love for Joseph Gordon Levitt was ingrained into my impressionable brain (can you blame me? did you SEE his super cool undercut/rat-tail combo!)
Jim Hawkins starts the movie as a teenage stereotype: his mom can’t get a handle on him, he’s brought home by cops, and he’s sullen and ill-mannered when pushed for answers. Now I usually have a lot of beef when movies or TV shows depict teenagers this way, but Treasure Planet expands upon his behavior in a beautiful manner that I’m willing to give it a pass. Jim is shown being a broody teen but he is not belittled for his emotions by the film, his motivations are explained and validated and the entire journey is an exploration of his psyche and how he grows as a person.
Also it’s a story about space pirates so that’s cool.
Now I could write an entire essay about Treasure Planet’s unique design, or about how the soundtrack perfectly encapsulates the mix between its adventurous seafaring origin and the massive and awe-inspiring space setting. But I’m grown now and so I don’t have to write essays, I’m just going to talk about my one favorite scene a lot and maybe do some editing if the fancy strikes me. (sorry Alex)
My favorite scene is everyone’s favorite scene, but my favorite quote is not everyone’s favorite quote. The scene where Silver comforts Jim after his apparent error caused the death of the first mate (spoilers? it’s been 17 years) brings to us a very inspiring quote in the form of “the makings of greatness”
Now, you listen to me, James Hawkins. You got the makings of greatness in you, but you gotta take the helm and chart your own course! Stick to it, no matter the squalls! And when the time comes, you’ll get the chance to really test the cut of your sails and show what you’re made of! And… well, I hope I’m there, catching some of the light coming off you that day.
This is a great quote! but it’s not the quote that resonated with me. The quote that was ripped directly from 7 year old Kiersten’s soul was Jim’s lead-in.
Look, don’t you get it?! I screwed up! I mean, two seconds, I thought the maybe I could do something right, but… [angry yell] I just– Just forget it. Forget it.
I STILL have that quote resonate with me to this day. The feeling of helplessness we all feel sometimes but is especially prevalent during our teenage years is something that I had never heard articulated quite in the same way, major kudos to JGL who crushed it out of the park with that delivery.
The film so far shows that there are people who have told him he was a failure, a loser, or that the feelings that he was experiencing were out of place. It becomes easier just to half-ass things so that any failure you feel is a choice of your own. But when Jim reaches the point of this quote he has just tried, really, really tried his hardest at something that he cared deeply about and experienced failure anyway. It’s a feeling that we all have at some point and when you’re young it hits all the harder.
As we grow our experiences compound and allow us to gain perspective.
Sometimes it is possible to do everything right and still fail (Star Trek TNG anyone?) Failure is inevitable and the awful feelings around it will fade with time and experience. When we pass along our experiences to the young we often try to emphasize the impermanence of bad feelings and talk about how things will get better. There is a crucial addition in the conversation of “this too shall pass” and that is the acknowledgement that the emotions you feel in that moment are valid, that we all have weak and low points sometimes. Jim wasn’t a bad kid because he experienced low points, he was learning and growing just as everyone has to.
I suppose that if I were to summarize why Treasure Planet resonated so heavily with me it would actually come down to something fairly simple. Jim was a dumbass, and so was I. But you know what? We were pretty good kids anyway.