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The Movie Like Treasure Planet That Action Adventure Fans Need To See

Hindsight is a funny thing. Between 1999 and 2007, anyone you asked might tell you Disney Animation was in a slump (via TV Tropes): Their '90s streak of epic crowd-pleasing musicals had run its course, competition from DreamWorks and Pixar was becoming stiff, and traditional cel animation was rapidly losing ground to CGI. As a result, the House of Mouse faced a rare period in which it had to do without a reliable formula, instead letting writers and animators run wild to see what might stick. It was Disney's "Experimental Era," which some at the time dubbed a new Dark Age, full of unwieldy movies that couldn't possibly become beloved classics the way their forebears had.

Cut to 14 years later, and the Experimental Era is now widely seen as one of Disney's most fertile periods, if not outright romanticized in comparison to the more conventional efficiency of the studio's CGI renaissance. Almost every fan of Disney's animated canon is now able to name one of those "experimental" entries among their personal favorites. And one movie that has been particularly favored by that reappraisal is "Treasure Planet," the swashbuckling steampunk space opera that originally became the studio's biggest box-office dud of all time.

Nowadays, with the weight of being Disney's next big bet firmly in the past, "Treasure Planet" is rightfully celebrated for just how unique it feels, on both aesthetic and storytelling levels, from most big-budget Western animation. In fact, if you're a fan of "Treasure Planet" who's looking for a new animated movie to scratch the same itch, your best bet might be to look to Japan, and even further into the past.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is an underrated steampunk epic from Hayao Miyazaki

One of the things that made "Treasure Planet" so singular was its focus on exploration and wonder as a driving theme. In that way, along with the unusual tone perched right between whimsical fantasy and gritty sci-fi adventure, the movie owed greatly to the works of Hayao Miyazaki. For an example of that heritage, look no further than 1984's "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind," Miyazaki's second feature and the unofficial "first Studio Ghibli film."

Adapted by Miyazaki from his own 1982 manga about a post-apocalyptic future Earth and a princess trying to stop a war between two nations, the movie was technically made before Studio Ghibli was even founded — its success inspired the team behind it to band together and form their own new animation house, and the rest is history. As such, "Nausicaä" was the cornerstone for much of what we've come to love about Ghibli, and much of what would seemingly inspire "Treasure Planet'"s Ron Clements and John Musker. Miyazaki's fearless vision showed just how much animation could bring to the epic adventure genre, and the movie's look combined natural beauty and steampunk tech into a dazzling mishmash, much as "Treasure Planet" did with outer space and retrofuturist Victorian flair.

The similarities don't stop there, though. Like "Treasure Planet," "Nausicaä" is imbued with a deep sense of awe, with complex action set pieces set against the vast night sky for maximum grandeur, and a running fascination with the nooks and crannies of its own sprawling sci-fi world. It's a darker, more straightforwardly dramatic film, but as an action-adventure unafraid to go to strange, wondrous places, it scratches a similar itch.