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By Thomas Wheeler

Alas, poor Treasure Planet. A superb movie that just didn't work for Disney for some reason. The general consensus is that it was somehow poorly marketed. It certainly wasn't a bad film. I enjoyed it more than I liked STAR TREK NEMESIS, which the more I think about it, the more I realize just what a "downer" that film was on several fronts.

But I was surprised that there didn't seem to be any Treasure Planet action figures. Certainly there was sufficient excuse for them. The movie definitely qualified as an action film. And every Disney movie for the past decade has has toys of one sort or another. Most of the ones from Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin ended up in the girls' section, but they existed. Same for Pocahontas and Hunchback. Lion King had toys. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 still have toy lines. Even Atlantis had a toy line, and that was a movie that, by all accounts, deserved to flop the way it did. I think about the only one in recent memory that didn't have a toy line to accompany it was Emperor's New Groove, which was a mediocre effort at best, anyway.

So where were the Treasure Planet toys? They showed some at Toy Fair last year. Did Hasbro, the current Disney "master license" holder, just ignore it, in favor of pushing their take on Toy Story? There's a toy line that's had its share of owners. First ThinkWay, who still does some stuff, then Mattel, now Hasbro. As it turns out, Hasbro didn't ignore Treasure Planet. But it looks like the toy stores and department stores did.

Not long before Christmas, I saw some Treasure Planet action figures -- at the Disney Store. Whether they were intended to be exclusives there or not, I don't know, but that looks like that's how it turned out.

The assortment of toys featured a series of roughly 4" action figures, which included "Action Arm" Jim Hawkins, "Climb and Escape" Jim Hawkins, "Chop Action" Cyborg Silver, "Missile Shootin'" Cyborg Silver, "Leg Trap" Scroop, and B.E.N. with "Magic Morphin'" Treasure Chest. Would've been nice if a few other major characters like Dr. Doppler had been worked in. There was also a boxed item, a very nicely detailed Electronic Launchin' Solar Surfer, with an exclusive Jim Hawkins figure. Finally, there was a large scale toy of the robot B.E.N., highly articulated, with light-up eyes and several phrases -- more if you popped in his missing memory chip.

I don't know if these Treasure Planet toys will still be available by the time this review is posted, or how long they'll remain available afterwards. They were on sale when I picked up a few of them, but then so were most of the contents of the Disney Store that day, which was New Year's Eve. Might've been some sort of special end-of-the-year sale, and prices may have returned to normal after that.

Sadly, Treasure Planet may go down in Disney history as a horrible flop. It was an expensive movie that didn't make nearly its money back. Lackluster marketing and stiff competition from James Bond, Star Trek, and certainly Lord of the Rings, all major holiday movies (although Star Trek ultimately fared poorly -- deservedly) with fantasy elements to one degree or another, ate up the box office. That's too bad, because Treasure Planet was a good film, that deserved to do a whole lot better. I hope maybe it can recoup some money and respect in its video/DVD release. And it's a shame the toys didn't see wider release, because they looked to be very decently made, as well, and Hasbro should be commended for their commitment to Disney as such.

What's the point of all this? Just that I find it very sad and very unfortunate when a quality, fun concept doesn't get the attention and respect from the public that it truly merits, regardless of what it was up against. Such is the case with Treasure Planet, in the movie theaters and the toy aisles.