Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

published May 25, 2008

DISNEY Animations hearkens back to an earlier genre of cartoon storytelling and moves the company forward into the future with its March 2007 release of Meet the Robinsons. Based on William Joyce’s A Day with Wilbur Robinson, the theme is simply to “let go and keep moving forward,” explains director and co-writer Stephen Anderson.

The animated feature film follows the story of a genius inventor boy, Lewis. Exhausted after so many adoption interviews (124 and counting), Lewis concludes that no one wants him and decides to find his biological mother by inventing a Memory Scanner to help him remember the details of his adoption.

During the all-important science fair, his invention is sabotaged by Bowler Hat Guy, a villain from the future intent on taking Lewis’ invention and passing it off as his own. They are joined by Wilbur, a boy from the future planning on foiling Bowler Hat Guy’s plot and restoring balance to the time stream continuum. As the movie continues, audiences find themselves flitting from past to present, to future, all on a fast-paced exciting ride.

The story is expertly told with the guiding hand of Anderson who felt a strong identification with the main character Lewis, an orphan like him. In fact, not only is he the director and co-writer, he also lends his voice to the villainous tones of Bowler Hat Guy. How’s that for being involved?

Many other celebrities lend their famous voices to the movie including Angela Basset (playing Mildred the house mother of the orphanage), Laurie Metcalf (known for playing primetime comedy show Roseanne’s partner in crime) and Tom Selleck (playing Cornelius, Meet the Robinsons’ Father of the Future). And, as a special treat for the fans of the original Batman series, Adam West plays Uncle Art, a member of the kooky Robinson clan of the future. Their voices are expertly cast lending their distinct tone and giving the movie its much-needed vocal complexity.

The musical score is also something worth noting. The scoring was made by Academy and Grammy Award winning musician Danny Elfman, whose credits include The Simpsons theme, Desperate Housewives, Batman and many more box-office hits. His musical themes conveniently diverge, mirroring Lewis’ own journey to finding his family. The other is joyful and grandstanding similar to the emotional impact of seeing a Jetson-esque bright future ahead.

As if this is not enough, the soundtrack also boasts of a varied and engaging group of artists. Rob Thomas sings the theme song, Little Wonders effectively encapsulating the struggle to move forward. The song reached the No. 5 position on the Billboard top hits. Jamie Cullum and All American Rejects also contribute to the movie.

While there is obviously a lot of expertise invested in the movie and the children will enjoy the vibrant colors, outlandish inventions and animation, it is the tweens and adults who will enjoy the movie most, helping them remember the all-important lesson of letting go — of past hurts, failures and regrets. Who among us can say that we do not have that same kind of struggle within us? We struggle to live our lives, stopping ourselves from blaming others for our mistakes and picking ourselves up after a spectacular failure.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when another of Lewis’ attempts at fixing inventions ends up as a brilliant flop in front of the Robinson family. And what’s the reaction? Applause. One family member says, “From failure, you learn; from success, not so much.”

The movie expertly weaves a tale for those who are in a constant pull between the comforting negativities of the past and the hopeful, oftentimes frightening prospect of moving forward.

Pick up a copy on your way home and add it to your Disney classic collection. You won’t regret it. It’s the second time I’ve watched the movie and the tears keep on coming.

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