"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things. . . and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." -- Walt Disney
If you think your family is different, wait until you MEET THE ROBINSONS, the family from an amazing, hilarious, inventive future where anything is possible. In this time-traveling blast of a comedy event, Walt Disney Feature Animation's latest digital animation technology will jet audiences to an inventive, unexpected techno realm of tomorrow where the wildest dreams come true . . . including those of a young inventor in search of a home.
The story begins with Lewis, a boy-genius with a love of gizmos and gadgets and an undying hope of finding the family he never knew. But Lewis' journey is about to take him to a place even he couldn't have imagined, a place where the impossible no longer exists: the future. When Lewis encounters a mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson, he's in for the time-travel of his life and will be whisked off to meet a family unlike any other - the sublimely fun and futuristic Robinsons - who will help him to discover a series of amazing and heartfelt secrets about his own limitless potential. But his incredible trip will also bring him into conflict with a villain who gives evil a bad name: the bungling Bowler Hat Guy, who steals Lewis' only way home. Filled with unforgettable characters, clever contraptions, classic villains and all kinds of eye-popping exuberance, MEET THE ROBINSONS continues in the beloved Disney legacy of looking ahead to a dazzling world of tomorrow - as it unfolds a story about believing in family, yourself and the wide open future.
Adding to the thrills, MEET THE ROBINSONS will be presented on more than 600 screens across the country in the revolutionary new Disney Digital 3D™. This exciting new format brings to life the already beautifully rendered world of state-of-the-art CG animation and presents not only an unparalleled movie-going experience but a glimpse into the future of digital entertainment.
Walt Disney Pictures presents MEET THE ROBINSON, featuring the feature film directorial debut of Stephen Anderson who previously served as Story Supervisor on Disney's "Brother Bear" and "Emperor's New Groove." The screenplay is by Jon Bernstein and Michelle Spitz; and Don Hall, Nathan Greno, Aurian Redson, Joe Mateo, Stephen Anderson based on the acclaimed book A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce. The producer is Dorothy McKim.
MEET THE ROBINSONS features a spectacular range of distinctive voices including those of Academy Award® nominee Angela Bassett, Emmy® and Golden Globe winner Tom Selleck, Harland Williams, Laurie Metcalf, Adam West, Ethan Sandler and Tom Kenny, among others. Driven by equally inventive music, the film features a symphonic score by two-time Academy Award® nominee Danny Elfman and songs by The All-American Rejects, Rufus Wainwright and Rob Thomas as well as tracks from such artists as Jamie Cullum, They Might Be Giants and the Jonas Brothers.
MEET THE ROBINSONS: A QUICK FAMILY WHO'S WHO
LEWIS is an orphan with a genius IQ and a passion for inventing. His offbeat nature and unintentionally disastrous inventions keep him from obtaining the one thing he longs for the most - a family to call his own. He believes his only chance is to find his real mother, so he invents the Memory Scanner, a machine that will extract his only memory of her.
WILBUR ROBINSON is a mysterious stranger from the future whose biggest flaws - self-confidence, cocky attitude and fast-talking banter - are also his greatest assets. They enable Wilbur to stay one step ahead of his adversaries. Knowing that Lewis holds the key to the future, Wilbur whisks him away in his time machine where the two battle a ferocious dinosaur, mind-controlled frogs and evil villains all in an effort to save the world as Wilbur knows it.
CORNELIUS ROBINSON is Wilbur's father and is known as the "founder of the future." He is an amazing inventor and the beloved owner of Robinson Industries.
FRANNY ROBINSON is Wilbur's effervescent mother who has discovered a way to teach frogs how to sing and play big band music.
CARL is the suave Robinson family robot, serving the family's every need with wit and charm. In addition, he has the unfortunate job of constantly getting Wilbur out of trouble. Carl also has a way with the ladies, and by ladies, we mean the dishwasher, the coffee maker and the teapot.
GRANDPA BUD may seem weird to the outside world but inside the Robinson house, he just views life a little differently … and likes to wear his clothes backward while constantly searching for his teeth.
GRANDMA LUCILLE can really "bake those cookies," according to Grandpa Bud, but that's just his way of saying she loves to disco dance. In truth, Grandma Lucille is as far from a typical cookie-baking grandma as you can get.
UNCLE ART is a heroic-looking intergalactic pizza deliveryman who takes his work very seriously. His mission in life, as he pilots his spacecraft through the solar system, is to deliver the perfect pizza within minutes anywhere in the galaxy.
AUNT BILLIE has been obsessed with toy trains since she was a little kid. Now that she's all grown up, she still plays with toy trains. Only now they're life-sized and travel all through the
UNCLE GASTON likes to shoot himself out of a cannon and race Aunt Billie's train.
UNCLE FRITZ and AUNT PETUNIA have a strange marriage. She's very cranky and endlessly tongue-lashes Uncle Fritz. She is also a hand puppet.
UNCLE JOE likes to workout by watching exercise shows on TV, all from the comfort of his recliner.
COUSIN LASZLO paints murals as he flies around in his propeller helmet.
COUSIN TALLULAH is a fashionista who wears a skyscraper hat.
LEFTY is a one-eyed purple octopus and the family butler.
UNCLE SPIKE and UNCLE DIMITRI live in the ceramic pots on the front porch. They are sort of the Robinsons' human alarm system. Touch their pots and they scream.
A FANTASTIC, FUTURISTIC FAMILY ROBINSON: ABOUT THE ORIGINS
"The theme of our film encapsulated into one phrase is this: keep moving forward," says Steve Anderson, the director of MEET THE ROBINSONS, who has spent the last several years building the spectacular future world in which the Robinson family carries out their wildest, weirdest and most whimsical dreams to the hilt. "Through meeting the incredible Robinson family, our orphaned hero Lewis learns to live for the future, to live for where you are going next and for all the things you can do, instead of getting stuck on the things that didn't work in the past."
Anderson -- who cut his teeth in the Disney story department on such hand-drawn hits as "Brother Bear" and "The Emperor's New Groove" -- and his team have invested blood, sweat and vast terabytes into bringing this ambitious digital project to fruition. But for Anderson there was a singular motivation: he long ago fell madly in love with the characters of MEET THE ROBINSONS, characters so fresh and original he felt they would add a whole new dimension to Disney's legacy of memorable storytelling. From orphanage caretakers to singing frogs, from eccentric grandparents to morphing robots, from boyish heroes to an evil bowler hat, Anderson loved that this story dared to cover the full territory between the ridiculous and the sublimely emotional. The fact that the story also explores a not-so-distant future jam-packed with the joy of sleek bubble vehicles, ingenious travel tubes and havoc-wreaking time machines only added to the irresistible creative appeal.
"What I love about the Robinsons is that they're adults but they live life with all the zest, fervor and uninhibited playfulness of kids," Anderson continues. "The Robinsons believe that if you have a dream, you should just go for it. So if you want to wear your clothes backwards - why not? If you want to shoot yourself out of a cannon - fantastic! They're very funny because their reactions are so unpredictable, but they are also an inspiration because they live their lives in ways you would never expect and do things no one else does."
Lewis' remarkable journey to meet the Robinsons is nearly derailed, however, by a range of threats, from time-traveling dinosaurs to an alternate Evil Future filled with greed and grime, and the biggest threat of all - that Lewis might give up on his dream of finding a family and making a better world. This driving theme truly hit home hard for Anderson, who was himself adopted as an infant.
"It was the weirdest experience for me when I received the script, because I was instantly fused to it. I immediately understood this boy and all his questions about where he came from and why he was abandoned," Anderson recalls. "I felt so fortunate to be given material that I could connect to so deeply. I knew from the beginning that this would be so much more than just a crazy time-travel story for me. It was always my focus to make Lewis' quest for love and hope the emotional core of the story and to really deepen that throughout."
The evolution of MEET THE ROBINSONS began with the astonishing world of William Joyce's illustrated book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, which presented a portrait of a family unlike any other - a family of madcap inventors and dreamers who considered having family robots, a singing frog band and an octopus for a butler completely normal. Though the book offered a very simple story, the real draw was the world it created, filled with all kinds of hilarious and surprising details that riveted readers of all ages.
Disney had originally acquired A Day with Wilbur Robinson in order to make a live-action feature - that is, until the Feature Animation department discovered the story and its prime potential to mesh with the unbridled, unlimited imaginative powers of today's animated filmmaking. The script turned the story of this free-wheeling family into something entirely fresh: a time-travel adventure which takes place all in one incredible day, a day that gives the orphan Lewis plenty of unexpected reasons to believe in a fantastic future on which he almost gave up.
"Anderson was intrigued by the initial script - and by how it forged a rare picture of a future that truly lives up to the concept. "I was drawn to the idea that Lewis travels to a future you almost never see, one that's prosperous, creative and optimistic," says Anderson. "He gets to see that the possibility is there for the future to be beautiful and brilliant and a vision of real hope."
"THE EXPERIMENT": DEVELOPING THE ROBINSONS AND THEIR WORLD
Steve Anderson would now get a chance to turn that vision of the future into an amazing animated universe. To kick off the project, Walt Disney Feature Animation asked the fledgling director to try something so unprecedented they simply called it "The Experiment." Explains Anderson, "The Experiment was this - to take the script and story-board the whole thing from A to Z. You have to understand that this was previously unheard of at Disney. Usually, you would board the first act of a film and then get some notes and then move on to the second act and go through the same process. But in just six months, we boarded the entire thing in one go, said our entire piece, and put it up on reels. It was a huge mountain to climb but our story crew had no fear in achieving it." Soon, the Robinsons and all the whimsical characters who surround them began to come to life. The team carefully started to craft the first layers of quirks, oddities and humor-filled personalities that would ultimately add up to the Robinson's world - and make them not only fun but relatable, loving and full of heart. Indeed, Anderson got so into the process of developing the characters that he ended up performing the voices for three of them, including the bumbling Bowler Hat Guy, the delightfully unusual Grandpa Bud and the fashionable Cousin Tallulah.
Anderson worked closely at this stage with the film's Head of Story, Don Hall, another Disney veteran. Right from the start, Hall's enthusiasm for the project was bubbling over. "I've never seen another movie like this. It's a completely unique experience," he says. "There are many familiar elements from Disney movies in that it's about families and adventure and hope - but they way they're all thrown into the mix together is completely new and different."
Hall explains how the wildly creative process of conjuring the storyboards for MEET THE ROBINSONS worked. "Steve, the story guys and I were basically the first strike team, trying out a billion different ideas," he says. "What we really wanted to do was make sure each of the characters would bring their own unforgettable comic point of view. Every single one has a distinctive personality and look that we spent a lot of time thinking about, playing with and perfecting."
After six months, "The Experiment" came to a close and the proof was, as they say, in the pudding. "When we showed the storyboards on reels to the entire animation team it was a scary moment but the response was overwhelming," recalls Anderson. "In my entire career at Disney I'd never heard of such a swell of support for a story. People really made their voices heard, saying, 'You have got to make this movie.' We were tickled to see that so many people at Disney now loved these characters as much as we did."
Anderson credits the fact that he allowed the free spirit of the Robinsons to permeate the entire creative process - encouraging everyone involved to push past all known boundaries. Also collaborating with Anderson on this mission was the film's producer, Dorothy McKim, who would help shepherd the project from page to storyboard to digital imagery of the future as it's never been seen before. Like Anderson, McKim found that meeting the Robinsons for the first time was an exhilarating experience. "MEET THE ROBINSONS is comedy but it's got so much soul," she says. "Lewis and the Robinsons are all inventors, so everything they do is inventive, which made for an incredibly creative process."
McKim especially liked the fact that this is also one animated tale with a mix of fun, action and adventure, as well as a number of surprise twists. "Unlike traditional Disney movies of the past, there are a few major 'gotchas' in MEET THE ROBINSONS, such as secret identities and surprises from the future," she muses.
MEET THE ROBINSONS later met up with further inspiration, this time from the new Chief Creative Officer for Disney and Pixar Studios, animation pioneer John Lasseter. "John has set the bar in animated storytelling," says Dorothy McKim, "and his input helped make a great movie even greater. He helped to bring even more heart and comedy to the movie."
For Steve Anderson, that mix of heart and comedy puts MEET THE ROBINSONS squarely inside the grand Disney tradition, even as it forges a brave new digital future. "The strength of Disney movies has always been the characters - that's what they've given the world," he says. "Audiences fall in love with the good guys and the bad guys because they all connect. MEET THE ROBINSONS has these same kinds of characters. They're fun, they're unpredictable, but they also have an aspect that is very emotional and human. I think that's what audiences expect from Walt Disney, that you're going to laugh, you might cry and you're definitely going to care about these characters. For me, I love these characters like they're my own family and can't wait to have audiences meet them."
A FUTURE LIKE NO OTHER: FORGING THE FILM'S WILD DESIGN
As MEET THE ROBINSONS jets off into an electrifying sci-fi vision of an out-of-this-world future, the filmmakers faced the exciting challenge of making that future an animated reality. In coming up with an overall artistic vision for the film, director Steve Anderson wove together many influences: "It all started with the beautiful images and great characters from William Joyce's book, then with the equally creative script, then with all the great ideas that came out of the storyboarding process followed by the incredible contributions of our design team," he explains. "Every step of the way, the creativity just kept flowing and we just kept pushing forward. What came out of it all is an incredible array of designs that have a real child-like point-of-view. They realize a lot of childhood dreams. I mean who wouldn't want to float around in bubbles flying through the air or who wouldn't want to wear a propeller hat or have a family robot who can do all kinds of cool things? This is a world I think anybody would love to visit."
Anderson and the design team began by forging distinct design rules for each of the three different time periods of the story: The Present, The Good Future and The Evil Future. The director explains: "We knew that we needed the future where Lewis meets the Robinsons to stand out in bold contrast with where Lewis is right now, so the present is filled only with boxy, rectangular shapes and lots of sharp angles and edges, whereas the Robinsons' future is all curves and circles, inspired by the very soft, rounded and comforting images in William Joyce's book. And, contrasting with both of these, the Evil Future is very, very bad indeed."
In coming up with a driving aesthetic, Anderson and his team were especially inspired by the Futurism seen in the industrial design movement of the 1930s and 40s. "We all loved the optimism and the complete and total commitment to creating something greater that you see in those images," Anderson explains. "We took a lot of our cues from that and from the curving forms of the 1930s architectural style known as Streamline Moderne -- so this exciting future also has a kind of fun, Retro feel to it. This really resonates with the theme of the story, because we were constantly looking back to the past to build the picture of the future."
Equally influential on the design was the forward-thinking vision of Walt Disney himself. The film even pays homage to Walt Disney's own take on the future, "Tomorrowland," with its fun twist of "Todayland."
The visually invigorating mix of Retro and Futuristic also extended to the film's non-stop assemblage of inventions - ranging from the Lewis' rag-tag Memory Scanner pieced together out of a mélange of scrap parts and Peanut Butter and Jelly Making Machine of the present world to the moving sidewalks, monorails, travel tubes and insta-skyscrapers of the Robinsons' futuristic world.
To create the film's endlessly innovative sets and props, Anderson worked closely with art director Robh Ruppel, who previously served as production designer on the traditionally animated "Brother Bear." Ruppel, who began his career as an industrial design major at Art Center College in Pasadena (where he has also served as a teacher), had a blast taking off into the future with digital tools at his disposal. "Robh really took every element of the film's design to another level," says Anderson.
Ruppel knew immediately that MEET THE ROBINSONS would be the creative challenge of a lifetime. "There are so many different looks and elements and palettes to this story," he muses. "No matter where you are in the story, there's always something visually exciting going on."
Ruppel and Anderson agreed right off the bat that one of the most visually interesting elements of the present had to be Lewis himself. "Lewis doesn't really belong in the present world, so he's the brightest thing in it," notes Ruppel. "He's red, yellow and blue and he's always clashing with the world around him until he arrives in the future, where he fits right in. His world at the orphanage is a little claustrophobic, very patterned and boxed-in a little too tight, but the future is wide open, full of blue skies and a clean, unobstructed view. The shapes move from squares and rectangles to sleek, rounded shapes. The palette also completely shifts from the present to the future - from muted to sharp and bright."
When it came to forging the city of the future in which the Robinsons live, the designer took cues from William Joyce's book, as well as from a number of influential 1930s and 40s designers including: Raymond Loewy, the "father of industrial design" whose work spanned from cars to spacecraft and who lived by his own famous MAYA principle - meaning "Most Advanced Yet Acceptable"; Harold Van Doren, who brought skyscraper shapes and lustrous, streamlined design to such everyday objects as bicycles and radios; and the prolific Henry Dreyfuss, whose forward-thinking designs ranged from the first-ever answering machine to the Hoover vacuum cleaner.
"We were very influenced by retro-futuristic shapes in creating the future city and all the Robinsons' household inventions," Ruppel explains, "but we updated them by using newer materials, like what Apple does, with lots of anodized, iridescent finishes."
As for some of his favorite sets, Ruppel has trouble choosing, but picks three: the Robinsons' garage, Cornelius' laboratory and the Evil Future. "The Robinsons' garage is a like a 1950s car showroom, all sleek and with that bank of lights keeping things very bright," says Ruppel. "And I love Cornelius' laboratory because it's filled with so much whimsy. But the Evil Future is also awesome because its really pushes the edge more than usual in a Disney film. It's based very much on Doris' dark vision of the future, so all the architecture is centered on the theme of bowler hat shapes. But it's also one giant, grungy, polluted, petroleum bowl."
For Ruppel, one of the biggest challenges was lighting this complicated digital world, especially since the story takes place all in one day, from sunrise to sundown, with constantly progressing light conditions. "It's a bit like working in the dark when you're lighting with virtual tools," he notes. "It's something you take for granted on a live action film but it's a very challenging process in digital animation and I'm really pleased with how well the lighting turned out."
The integrated vision of the entire design was gratifying to Steve Anderson. He cites the Memory Scanner as one of his favorite props. "It feels like something a child would invent. It's very organic and made up of found objects and it's really got that great Retro feeling," he says. "The Memory Scanner is also especially close to my heart because of its emotional resonances and all that it means to Lewis."
Another of Anderson's favorite designs blurs the line between prop and character - the wicked bowler hat, Doris. "Doris was an idea that came along when we were looking for a reason for Bowler Hat Guy to always be wearing a bowler hat," he notes. "Then we hit upon the fun idea of a 'hench hat' who is also an invention that went very wrong. Like all of the other design elements in the film, Doris has an organic reason for being how she is. Form follows function in our designs which helps to give everything that cool factor."
THE CAST MEETS THE ROBINSONS: CRAFTING THE CHARACTERS
THE ROBINSONS MUSIC: DANNY ELFMAN, RUFUS WAINWRIGHT AND ROB THOMAS JOIN THE FUN
ANIMATING THE ROBINSONS: THE CHARACTERS COME TO LIFE IN THE COMPUTER
MEET THE ROBINSONS IN DISNEY DIGITAL 3D: LEAPING FURTHER FORWARD INTO THE ENTERTAINMENT FUTURE
FUN FACTS AND FIGURES ABOUT MEET THE ROBINSONS
READ MORE ABOUT THE DIRECTOR, WRITER, COMPOSER, AND MUSIC
Interview with Producer Dorothy McKim, a Disney veteran