Movie - 1996, G, 99 minutes, Disney; IMDb entry
Genre - Family, Adventure, Comedy, Musical
Cast - Tim Curry, Jennifer Saunders, Kevin Bishop, Billy Connolly, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson
Director - Brian Henson
DVD - 1.33:1 pan & scan, Dolby Digital 5.1, (English), subtitles - English; single-sided, double-layered disc; $14.99 SRP, Released 6/4/02; Repriced 9/2/03

In November 2005, Disney re-released to DVD Muppet Treasure Island and three other Muppet films in honor of Kermit's 50th Anniversary. The remastered reissues of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island included 16x9-enhanced widescreen transfers for the first time on the format. You can read our reviews of those DVDs here:
Muppet Treasure Island: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (Buy)
The Muppet Christmas Carol: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (Buy)
The Muppet Movie: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (Buy)
The Great Muppet Caper: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (Buy)

Movie - Of the six Muppet movies, Muppet Treasure Island falls into the bottom half in terms of quality. But even a mediocre Muppet movie is more entertaining than most family films, and Treasure Island is definitely a lot of fun. One of two Muppet movies released by Disney in the 1990s, Treasure Island, like 1992's Muppet Christmas Carol (which is coming to DVD in October), is based on a famous work of literature and does not feature any celebrity cameos. What Treasure Island does feature, though, is a engaging mixture of comedy, music, and adventure, as the cast of Jim Henson's creations take on various roles in Robert Louis Stevenson's tale. While Treasure Island is certainly not as memorable as Muppet Movie or Christmas Carol, it does pack 99 minutes of goofy entertainment, plus a strong performance by Tim Curry as Long John Silver.

Video - Last summer, Columbia/TriStar released the first three Muppet films onto DVD for the first time. The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan were all given double-sided releases with both Widescreen and Pan & Scan formats on the same disc. The Columbia/TriStar discs were rather short on extras (featuring brief "Muppetisms" interstitials for the most part), but at least they provided the movies in their original widescreen aspect ratio. Disney's DVD presentation of Muppet Treasure Island would have been superior to Columbia's, if not for the fact that Disney has only included a pan & scan version of the movie on this DVD. The pan & scan of Muppet Treasure Island results in a loss of 30% of the picture and there are a number of problematic framing issues as a result. Disney's laserdisc for this movie was in widescreen, but the DVD is not, because some people (the decision-making ones) believed that the only people who would buy Muppet Treasure Island on DVD are the ones who don't like seeing movies the way they were made. Needless to say, this was an extremely poor decision, especially when one considers the large adult appeal that the Muppets have, including the audience that grew up on the TV show and movies from the 1970s. Disney has clearly taken effort to putting together a nice DVD presentation, but it's in vein, since they're sure to lose a lot of sales by people who aren't going to pay for a DVD that cuts up the movie. Disney has assumed that (1) children do not want to watch movies in widescreen and (2) children are the only ones who enjoy the Muppet movies and . Both are faulty assumptions (unless Muppets Treasure Island expects children to get the "On the Waterfront" reference). The fullscreen video transfer is pretty lacking also, with a lot of grain, and lack of detail throughout. The video is missing the sharpness that would be present in an anamorphic widescreen transfer, and it's truly a shame that this movie, with its frame-packing muppet madness and delightful ocean visuals, cannot be seen the way it was carefully framed to be.

Audio - On the other hand, the audio is a rather solid effort. The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and it is a full-sounding mix. The upbeat score is well-mixed for surrounding effects. The musical numbers are, as one might expect, a bit loud, but even loud to the point where you'll have to turn down the volume and then turn it back up to hear the non-song sequences. Overall, though, this 5.1 track is as filled with life as the Muppets productions are, and it is rather undermined by both the lack of a widescreen main feature and the disappointing video quality.

Extras - It is very clear that Disney put effort into this DVD presentation from the very start of the menus. The menu screens are in 16:9 widescreen, and Rizzo and Gonzo are your hosts to the DVD. The menus are really well done; no scenes from the movie, just hilarious newly created introductions from the rat and the whatever about the DVD, set to the music of the movie. Leave the menu screens on without selecting anything and see what Rizzo and Gonzo have to say. These are a lot more fun than most menus, though on repeated viewings, selecting the Bonus Features screen, for example, could be a bit of a drag, but you can skip through the menu transitions if you wish. It would have been nice if the movie was anamorphic widescreen like the menu, which is simply cropped to fit 4x3 television screens, as most menus are.

As for the actual extras now, there is a 22-minute making -of featurette, "The Tale of the Story Behind the Tail". This featurette keeps the fun tone of the Muppets and remains hilariously entertaining and informative throughout. The one problem is that clips from the movie have all the visual information of the widescreen frame, but are stretched to fill the 4x3 screen and result in all the characters looking thin. You might think you're suffering from Cabin Fever yourself. That aside, this featurette is definitely a notch above the brief fluff piece, as it lends insight into the long script writing and revising process the movie underwent, the challenges of working with puppets with clips of the puppeteers in action (for the most part missing on the 4 Columbia/TriStar DVDs), and the development of songs in the movie.

Clocking in at just under 6 minutes is the Treasure Island Sing-Along, which features another new introduction from Gonzo and Rizzo and two songs, "Sailing for Adventure" and "Cabin Fever", with captions allowing you to, as you might have guessed, sing along.

Last, but certainly not least is the "Hidden Treasure Audio Commentary" with director Brian Henson and Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz) and Rizzo (Steve Whitmire). This audio commentary maintains the spirit of fun that we associate with the Muppets and director Henson adds insightful information regarding the making of the film. This audio commentary is a bit different from most audio commentaries, in that throughout various parts of the movie, you are taken to Hidden Treasure clips. These are little interesting tidbits on the making of the movie, that run on average, about a minute long. There are 11 altogether, and you can skip through the commentary, if you would just like to access the bonus video clips. Between the presence of two Muppet characters on the audio track and the treasure bonus clips, this commentary is certainly a lot more entertaining than most.

Missing from the DVD is the original theatrical trailer. Disney unfortunately seems to be leaving original trailers off a good number of its recent DVD releases, which is a shame. No sneak peek trailers either.

Closing Thoughts - It's great that Disney was able to put together a really nice DVD presentation for Muppet Treasure Island, from the menus to the enjoyable featurette and commentary. But, the most important part of the DVD, the movie itself, was given shoddy treatment, and by releasing this entertaining family/adventure/comedy in pan & scan only, Disney is sure ticking off a lot of Muppet fans and turning off would-be customers. Despite containing a fun, entertaining film, and some truly winning extras, I cannot recommend this DVD wholeheartedly, because Disney has not released the film in its original widescreen aspect ratio. It's really terrible that Disney (to paraphrase Roger Ebert) is showing their films in the wrong aspect ratio to placate the uninformed instead of in the right aspect ratio to reward the knowledgeable. Let's just hope that when the superior Muppet Christmas Carol finally makes its DVD debut this October 8 that Disney takes the best elements of this release (the fun extras and menu design) and incorporates them with the movie presented in widescreen.
Click here to purchase this DVD

In November 2005, Disney re-released to DVD Muppet Treasure Island and three other Muppet films in honor of Kermit's 50th Anniversary. The remastered reissues of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island included 16x9-enhanced widescreen transfers for the first time on the format. You can read our reviews of those DVDs here:
The Muppet Christmas Carol: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (Buy)
Muppet Treasure Island: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (Buy)
The Muppet Movie: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (Buy)
The Great Muppet Caper: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition (Buy)

The Ultimate Guide to Disney DVD Home
Complete Recent Live Action
List