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Holiday Sneaks | Short Ends

Settling some scores

Cartoon contenders

November 03, 2002|Michael Mallory

The holiday season usually signals at least one big-event animated film. This year, however, promises enough live-action family tent poles to hold up a city, which will leave two top-pedigree, traditionally animated adventures striving to keep up with the Potters and the Bagginses.

On Nov. 27 Disney blasts off for "Treasure Planet," a futuristic take on "Treasure Island" from writer-directors John Musker and Ron Clements ("The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "Hercules") that has been in production for five years, and on the back burner since the mid-1980s.

Apart from the high-tech trappings, it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic right down to the 18th century costumes and wooden galleons for spaceships. "It's visually anachronistic because we wanted to keep the romance," says Clements. "Science fiction can be kind of cold and distancing, and we wanted this to be warm and inviting." Initially, the film (which will be released simultaneously in standard and Imax formats) was scheduled as a summer release, though Musker is happier with its current placement: "I think there's something about the holidays and classic English literature that go together."

On Dec. 20, Paramount will open "The Wild Thornberrys Movie," based on the Nickelodeon series about a family of roving wildlife experts. Producer Gabor Csupo believes the film will break through the small-to-big-screen box-office lethargy that plagued this year's "Hey Arnold: The Movie" and "The Powerpuff Girls."

"For one thing it has a lot bigger scope as far as the movie and the adventure" -- it was filmed in wide-screen Panavision -- "and it's a lot more relatable to adults." Csupo frets that the film, which centers on a hunt for animal poachers in the African savanna, "might have a little hard time in the opening weekend," but he hopes word-of-mouth makes up for it in subsequent weeks.

Still, the competition could get Harry.

-- Michael Mallory

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