Meet the Robinsons, the latest feature-length cartoon from the Walt Disney studio, is a time-warp story about a boy who finds himself caught between the past and the future—and that pretty much sums up where the studio itself is these days.
This is the third computer-animated film to be made by Disney since the studio abandoned hand-drawn animation altogether a few years ago. (The first two were the moderately successful Chicken Little and the huge flop The Wild.) It's also the first Disney cartoon to come out since the studio merged with Pixar and handed the reins of the animation department over to Toy Story director John Lasseter, who has made no secret of wanting Disney to revive some of its older traditions—including making short cartoons and, ironically enough, drawing cartoons by hand.
As a result, for all its cutting-edge technology, Meet the Robinsons is peppered with self-conscious nods to the studio's past. The film is preceded by Boat Builders, a 1938 short in which Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy try to build a ship using a do-it-yourself kit; the way the components unfold and snap into place prefigures the way buildings sprout up instantaneously in Meet the Robinsons' more futuristic setting. (By the way, it is delightful to see such a vintage cartoon on the big screen, and to hear kids laugh at gags that are probably older than their grandparents.)
Then the film itself begins, and we see that the new Disney logo begins with a series of hand-drawn sketches that evolve into a clip from Steamboat Willie, the 1928 cartoon that got Disney off the ground in the first place. And finally, the film ends with a title card bearing an inspirational quote from Uncle Walt himself.
So there is a strong sense ...1