Treasure Planet

Movie: Directed by Ron Clements, Jon Musker.

Inciting Event: After Billy Bones crash lands outside the Ben Bow Inn—owned by Jim Hawkins’s mother—pirates arrive. Billy gives Jim a strange golden sphere, then dies. The pirates burn down the inn, and Jim, his mother, and their friend Dr. Doppler escape.

This is a delightful Inciting Event: clear, exciting, and a definite turning of the plot that still doesn’t quite shift the protagonist out of his Normal World into the Second Act.

First Plot Point: After learning the sphere is a map to the legendary Treasure Planet, Jim and Dr. Doppler hire a ship and leave port. Jim is assigned as cabin boy to the cyborg cook John Silver.

Note how all the story’s important characters (with the obvious exception of B.E.N., who comes in at the Midpoint) are introduced in the First Act prior to the First Plot Point.

First Pinch Point: When a star explodes and turns into a black hole, the entire ship is endangered. Jim proves his worth by saving Silver from falling from the mast. Unbeknownst to anyone else, the villainous sailor Mr. Scroop kills the first mate and blames it on Jim—reinforcing Jim’s belief in his own inability to do anything right.

Midpoint: Just as they come into sight of Treasure Planet, Jim overhears Silver talking with the other sailors and realizes they’re all pirates after the map. He, Dr. Doppler, and Captain Amelia escape and crash land on the planet.

The entire plot turns here, heating up for the second half. Although this new revelation about Silver’s true alignment within the conflict actually puts Jim in more of an externally reactive role than he played in the first half, what’s important is that he now understands the true nature of the conflict. Prior to the Midpoint, he was happily oblivious to his antagonists—Silver and the pirates. Now he knows who is facing and what he must do.

Second Pinch Point: Jim sneaks back to the ship to retrieve the map, but runs afoul of Mr. Scroop once again. He manages to escape—while Mr. Scroop spins off into space—only to return to the planet to be captured by the pirates. He refuses to unlock the map unless Silver takes him along on the hunt.

(Note the lovely symmetry in the pinch points, which both center around minor antagonist Mr. Scroop—who, incidentally, is far more evil and scary than Silver himself.)

Third Plot Point: After discovering Flint’s treasure in the planet’s core, Silver and Jim accidentally set off a booby trap that triggers the planet’s self-destruct. Jim rigs a skiff to fly himself and a load of the treasure out. He and Silver face off, with Silver finally choosing Jim over the treasure when he must save the boy’s life.

Climax: Because Silver was only a surface antagonist, it’s fitting that the final confrontation between Jim and Silver ends before the Climax. This allows the Climax to focus on Jim’s true conflict: his own self-worth and ability to “chart his own course.” He uses his solar-surfer skills to open Flint’s portal and allow everyone to escape the exploding planet.

Climactic Moment: The ship emerges safely just in front of Jim’s home port.

Resolution: Jim lets Silver escape, and Silver gives him enough treasure to rebuild the Ben Bow Inn. Dr. Doppler and Captain Amelia marry and have children. Jim graduates from the Interstellar Academy.

Notes: This is an absolutely beautifully plotted adventure story that presents realized and dimensional characters, without a single wasted beat or scene.

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