A Second Look: Meet the Robinsons
In 2007, Steve Anderson released Meet the Robinsons, based on the children’s book A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce. Starring Jordan Fry, Tom Selleck, Wesley Singerman, Harland Williams, Tom Kenny, Anderson, Angela Bassett, Laurie Metcalf, Adam West, Nicole Sullivan, Jessie Flower, Ethan Sandler, Don Hall, Paul Butcher, and Nathan Greno, the film grossed $169.3 million at the box office. Originally planned to have a sequel, the idea was scrapped after John Lasseter became the CCO of Walt Disney Animation Studios, with him also scrapping all future DisneyToon Studios sequels. There was also a video game released coinciding with the film.
Lewis is a 12 year old orphan prodigy who is trying to find a family. However, a strange person by the name of Wilbur Robinson comes to him claiming to be from the future looking for a man in a bowler hat. Turns out, Wilbur is telling the truth and takes Lewis to the future, but the two get stranded and Lewis must rebuild the time machine with the fate of the future depending on him.
A film put out following a very awkward period for Disney, Meet the Robinsons was a great film and a return to form for the company. Interestingly, it seems like the film is as much an apology as a form of entertainment. It was the first feature film made after the Post-Renaissance era, headed by Roy E. Disney with Schneider as president under the control of Eisner, who had been notorious for turning Disney into a soulless company. During this time, Disney churned out a lot of cheap and badly done direct to video sequels, prequels and package films. However, when Edwin Catmull and Lassetter became the Animation Studios’ president and Chief Creative Officer, they closed down the studios making these sequels and put out this film, a film that had the motto “Keep Moving Forward.” It seems the film, in addition to being very entertaining, was an apology for everything that came before it and the promise that Disney was going to move forward and do better. Cue what’s become known as a second renaissance.
As for the film itself, it has quite a good plot, with Lewis spending the whole film truly understanding what it means to “keep moving forward.” He starts off the film spending all his energy on inventions that don’t work as well as trying to get adopted. However, he has the idea to go backwards and delve into the inner recesses of his mind in order to see the mother he once had. Yet, it’s after traveling to the future where he finds a family that he eventually learns that he’s going to become the patriarch of does he realize what everyone means when they say he should “keep moving forward.” Until that point, he had been so focused on the past and present, dwelling on the mother who gave him up and the families that didn’t want to adopt him, that he was essentially refusing to move forward and learn from the past and present. It took his future son and family to show him that a present failure is something to learn from, not something from which to run away.
The Robinsons are quite the family, too. They’re hilariously odd with their own special quirks that make them who they are. However, they truly know what it means to be a family, going so far as to take on a rampaging dinosaur with every tool they have at their disposal to protect someone, even if that person isn’t one of their own. Franny also stands out, considering that the moment she found out that Lewis was an orphan, she immediately gave him the chance to be adopted by them. It’s almost as if having an orphan for a husband made an impact on her.
Bowler Hat Guy is also great as a character. He’s initially seen as a villain, but it’s revealed that he’s the way he is because he allowed himself to wallow in his own self-pity and self-loathing, which caused his hatred of Cornelius Robinson to begin with. This is seen when he’s explaining who he is and his ambitions to Lewis, narrating how Lewis’ inventing kept him awake at night, causing him to miss the ball during a crucial game. While no one cared in the time following that event, he kept it bottled up and eventually became the perfect pawn for DOR-15’s plan. He’s a very humorous character as well due to how he never thinks any of his plans through and relies on DOR-15 for all the good plans (which he will invariably screw up).
Now, there’s not a whole lot of characterization surrounding DOR-15, other than she’s a hypercompetent robotic bowler hat that wants to rule humanity. But that’s just another notable part of the film. She doesn’t need that because she’s simply an invention created by Cornelius that turned out wrong and since he learns from his mistakes, he kept her around. However, by the time Lewis has everything figured out, he’s learned to “keep moving forward” as well, causing him to realize he doesn’t need to invent DOR-15 and he tells her that, which destroys her version of the future.
Unfortunately, that causes some problems with the film’s time travel mechanics, such as Lewis stating that he’s never going to invent DOR-15 invalidating all the reasons that Bowler Hat Guy and Wilbur came to the past to begin with. It’s quite the plot hole for what’s an incredibly great film.
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