Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dobutsu Takarajima, aka Animal Treasure Island (1971)



Who's In It: Nobody you know, but one of the animators is Hayao Miyazaki in pre-Ghibli days.

What's It About: A boy and his best friend, a mouse, team up with the granddaughter of Captain Flint to find the dead pirate's treasure before the anthropomorphic pig Silver and his gang of bumbling animal pirates do.

How Is It: Frankly, I wasn't expecting much, but sometimes I like watching old, crappy animated versions of classic stories and if I can't hack it, I just turn it off. But even though Miyazaki was only one of the many animators who worked on it, Dobutsu Takarajima has a lot to appeal to fans of the legendary director.

It's a very loose adaptation of Stevenson's book. It takes Jim (no last name in this version) and gets him the map in much the same way as he does in the novel, but then has him strike off on his treasure hunt alone except for his friend Gran and his stowaway baby brother. There's no Dr. Livesy, no Squire Trelawney, no Captain Smollet or Mr. Arrow. Jim and Company run into Silver at sea, get taken to Pirate Island where they're enslaved with Kathy, the granddaughter of Captain Flint, and the race is on to see who can control the map and find the treasure first.

Most of the animal designs are simple and not terribly inventive, but the three humans (Jim, Kathy, and Jim's brother) are strong. And whatever the movie lacks in character design, it makes up in backgrounds and sheer animation. There's a lot of imagination in the look of the world.

The jokes are all over the place from ridiculously slapsticky to legitimately inspired, but I chuckled a lot and my 12-year-old son couldn't stop laughing. Dobutsu Takarajima isn't classic animation, but it's much more than the cheap kids cartoon I anticipated and very recommended for Miyazaki fans.

Rating: Three out of five piratical pigs.

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