Treasure Planet is Disney’s ‘In Space!’ version of the classic novel, Treasure Island. It is the story of Jim, a troubled youth who is adrift in the world as he searches for his path and his purpose. The cause of his aimlessness is the loss of his father, at a fairly young age, leaving him unsure, sad and angry.
This is actually one of the most honest portrayals of fatherlessness I have seen in a film, especially a family cartoon.
The story begins with Jim as a happy, smiling, chubby child, enjoying story time with his mother. We then transition to teen-Jim, a rugged, obviously rebellious youth out for thrills.
We see all the problems he has been having, with the law, in school, communicating with his mother. It is only a ways in that we learn the trouble started when his father left. This is where the film begins to dig into the problems of fatherlessness, later on detailing Jim’s father’s departure in faded flashbacks.
Jim goes through all the problems which sons always experience when they grow up without a father (or even a father figure). Aggression without focus, a lack of drive, no discipline. All this stems from a lack of father involvement, a concept which is reinforced by Silver becoming Jim’s father figure, of sorts, which helps to give him some focus and helps to set him down the right path.
Jim eventually becomes caring, confident and focused, the things any good man should be.
What is important to remember is that these problems are not caused by a bad father (although they can be), but by an absent father, and this isn’t limited to fathers who willingly leave. Deceased fathers and those whom the mother leaves are also absent in the same way, having a similarly negative effect on their children.
While Treasure Planet only shows one situation which can lead to fatherlessness, it is honest enough about the problems and keeps the focus enough on Jim that it is not limited to talking only about fathers who left their families, but about missing dads in general. It doesn’t focus on the evil of the absent father, which keeps it from coming off as an attack on fathers. It focuses on the problems Jim faces, making the point without making fathers feel bad.
The feeling is that the problems don’t come from the father having left, but from him not being there, allowing the message to cover all reasons for absent fathers.
Another thing I like about the movie is how it handles Silver as a father figure. His positive effect on Jim is undeniable, but he is not played as a full replacement father for Jim. Too often movies will show new men stepping in to take the place of the biological father in the lives of children, but this usually doesn’t go so well.
Silver is really more a mentor, just one of the many roles of a father plays, but perhaps the most important to a young man approaching adulthood, like Jim. This helps to give a sense of the absolute importance of fathers without trying to claim just any man can be a true father figure.
All in all, Treasure Planet is a fun movie, one of my favorite Disney movies, which tells a powerful tale of fatherlessness and a young man’s search for himself in the cosmos.
But do you know what’s even cooler?
Half-crazy ranchers who want to be astronauts and whose families help them build real rockets so they can go into space.
That’s cool, and so is The Astronaut Farmer, one of the most touching, sincere and heartwarming movies I have seen in a long time.
The story is about Charles Farmer (just called Farmer by everyone) and his family (wife, son, two daughters and grandfather-in-law). He is a would-be astronaut turned rancher after his father committed suicide. Now he is building a rocket in his barn
The story of Farmer’s trip into orbit is a truly touching one. Here we see a man desperate to follow his dreams, always with the support of his family. The Farmer family is beautifully portrayed as a small-town American family, not always totally functional but wonderfully loving. Farmer is supported by his family the whole way (except for a few spats), even after financial setbacks and rocket accidents almost put the whole endeavor out of commission.
Farmer himself is a surprisingly human character. At first he seems to just be a crazy dreamer, but he develops to be shown as a feeling individual who has sustained great hurt and now needs to prove what he can do, both to himself and his children. This was mostly caused by the death of his father, but something that is very nice about Astronaut Farmer is that Farmer still has great respect for his father, the whole topic obviously being very sensitive. It is an old tradition to not think poorly of the dead, but you don’t see that very often. Here we see Farmer hurt by the loss of his father, but he doesn’t resent him for committing suicide, he just decides to do better.
Besides his own father, Farmer himself is also a wonderfully portrayed father (and husband). He is loved by his children and loves them deeply in return. It is clear that he draws great strength from the enthusiasm of his two daughters; their childish, unconditional love of their father a truly touching sight. He is a remarkably strong and intelligent male figure. He cares deeply for his family and refuses to allow anyone, even his wife, to say otherwise. He stands up for what he believes in as only a father can, and his wife stands by him.
This movie shows a married couple who truly respect and love one another, without any of the self-obsession and fear of commitment which is so commonly seen in American couples (on the screen or on the street).
It’s nice to see a move where the wife doesn’t take the kids and leave the husband at the first sign of trouble.
Then there is Shepard, Farmer’s oldest child and only son. At 15 he is the ground crew for Farmer’s planned rocket flight. He helped put the rocket together, but he also helps keep his family together. Shepard has a deep but quiet relationship with his father. He shares his father’s dream and is as emotionally tied to it as his father in a beautiful, yet subtle way which is quite touching. He is a strong young man who goes for what he believes in.
All in all, The Astronaut Farmer is a beautiful portrayal of an American family, through all its ups and downs. Farmer is a loved part of his family, his dreams embraced and his weaknesses accepted. He is strong but human, as reliant on his family as they are on him. His wife loves him, not unconditionally but truthfully. His daughters adore him as only young daughters can. His son loves and respects him, although he needs few words to say so, as is so often true for fathers and sons.
Astronaut Farmer is one of the most touching stories of family, dreams and fatherhood that I have ever seen and I would recommend it to anyone. It shows a fascinating husband-wife relationship which is far more loving, and more honest, I think, than most of what we see elsewhere in the media.