The script comes from such genre luminaries as Ben Edlund, creator of the The Tick comic-book and later animated The Tick (1994-6) and live-action The Tick (2001-2) tv series, which is the funniest superhero spoof ever made; subsequent Tim Burton writer John August; and Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer phenomenon, as well as an excellent space opera of his own, the tv series Firefly (2002-3) and its film spinoff Serenity (2005), as well as as director of the Marvel Comics adaptation The Avengers (2012). The trio use the space opera tropes the youthful hero who inherits an artefact of destiny, the planet-hopping quest, the romance, the turncoats, the mottly supporting crew of aliens in a better and much more mythical way than George Lucas did in The Phantom Menace.
Titan A.E. comes from Don Bluth, a former animator at Disney. In the late 1970s, Don Bluth quit Disney, disappointed at the then current managements abandonment of the classic Disney animation tradition. Bluth then launched a valiant attempt to recapture the classic Disney tradition with the superb The Secret of N.I.M.H. (1982). However, N.I.M.H. was a failure at the box-office and Bluth sacrificed higher artistic ambitions and plodded on the next decade-and-a-half with likeably middle-of-the-road fare such as An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988) and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989). By the early 1990s, Bluths work had fallen into an utter insipidity with the likes of Rock-a-Doodle (1991), Thumbelina (1994), A Troll in Central Park (1994), The Pebble and the Penguin (1995) and Bartok the Magnificent (1999). By the mid-1990s, Disney had made a spectacular return to classical style and Don Bluth ironically found himself in employ by other studios seeking to capitalise on the trend. During this period, Bluth produced Anastasia (1997) and then Titan A.E., easily his best films since N.I.M.H..
A bigger budget has allowed Don Bluth to create some dazzling vistas of 3D animation the opening vision of Earths destruction or the end shot pulling back from a couple on the planets surface to ships arriving in orbit are awe-inspiring in scale. The action sequences the escape from the diner and space station, including a seat-edge leap from a damaged spaceship without a spacesuit shot with the fluidity of an action movie, are exhilarating. The set-pieces with the heroes being pursued around explosive hydrogen balloon plants on the planet Secharim or the climactic scenes with two spaceships hiding from one another in a planetary ring of giant ice shards are breathtaking, easily able to rival the pod race sequence in The Phantom Menace for imagination and exhilaration. Don Bluth even throws in a dazzlingly beautiful sequence with the spaceship ducking in and around coloured cloud masses pursued by luminous light angels for no other reason than the sheer beauty of the sequence.
The plot is on the generic side and shortcuts on telling us one or two vital details like exactly why the Drej want to eliminate humanity as opposed to any one of the other alien species that litter the film but Titan A.E. is otherwise a beautiful and intelligent space opera. What is perhaps saddest about Titan A.E. is its failure to make any dent at the box-office in the 2000 summer season. Indeed, with a $70 million budget, the film was such a big flop that it caused the closure of 20th Century Foxs animation division and Don Bluth to quit filmmaking for developing videogames. Maybe it is simply that there is no audience for intelligent animation pitched for adults rather than children. A shame.