(though Joyce did have some creative input on the adaptation).Follows the story of 12-year old orphan/child prodigy Lewis in his attempt to find a family, a journey that takes him 30 years into the future with the fast-talking Wilbur Robinson and in pursuit of the do-wrong, overgrown man-child Bowler Hat Guy and his evil, robotic bowler hat, hell bent on taking credit for Lewis's inventions.Has some serious problems with Time Travel logic and yeah, it makes us scratch our heads. Despite that, it's one of the better non-Pixar Disney films in recent years. Pixar and Disney were fusing while this movie was being made. As John Lasseter's first effort in touching Disney's animated films since becoming its chairman, he looked at it after it's first drafts were all completed and ordered 40% of it rewritten and reanimated. This could be a factor behind the film's positive critical reception as compared to its immediate predecessors.The film had music by Danny Elfman.There was also a console game that served as a midquel that mostly averted The Problem with Licensed Games. The game's plot expands Wilbur's efforts in trying to get the stolen time machine back from Bowler Hat Guy. When arriving at the Science Fair though, he accidentally alters the timeline drastically just by opening the door into a student named Stanley's face. As a result, Stanley and another student, Lizzy, become dueling super-villains, and Wilbur has to get his own time machine back from their forces in order to go back and fix things.
Actor Allusion: When Lewis asks Wilbur what his currently-absent father looks like, Wilbur lies and says "Tom Selleck" (made even funnier when the recently empty portrait of Cornelius has a real-life picture of Tom Selleck dropped in it). When Wilbur's father shows up at the end of the film, he looks nothing like Selleck, but he sure sounds like him... This is actually a kind of reverse Actor Allusion: the scene was written first, and gave the director the idea to offer Selleck the role.
Played straight with international releases, where the "Tom Selleck" line is replaced by whoever's playing Cornelius (the exceptions being the Brazilian and Dutch releases).
Adaptation Expansion: The book is essentially the middle part of the movie with the searching for grandpa's teeth and the dinner. Time travel had no part in the book! A few things actually got cut from the book like several family members, a pillow fight and slumber party. The book itself was expanded shortly before the movie came out with stuff like the dinosaur and some totally new material that didn't even get to the movie like an indoor Snowball Fight.
Adorable Evil Minions: Little Doris. To quote Bowler Hat Guy: "It's so cute!" ...For a spider-like robotic hat that can take control of animals' minds, that is.
Always Chaotic Evil: All the Helping Hats. It is possible that each one is an exact copy of, or under the control of, the evil Doris.
Arc Words: "Keep Moving Forward". Shown at the end to be a part of a quote by Walt Disney.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Carl lists the consequences of Wilbur leaving the garage door unshut - a time machine got stolen by Bowler Hat Guy, the time stream may now be altered irreparably, and someone took Carl's bike.
Department of Redundancy Department: Dr. Krunklehorn says "One of your students may invent the next integrated circuit, or microprocessor, or integrated circuit... Oh wait, I said that already!" in her introductory scene. Justified since she is sleep deprived and only awake due to her caffeine patches.
Determinator: Cornelius Robinson. As Wilbur lets Lewis know, he keeps inventing until something works, even if he fails spectacularly hundreds of times in the process. His motto isn't "Keep Moving Forward" for nothing.
Didn't Think This Through: Pretty much Bowler Hat Guy's main defining characteristic. The first time it's a CEO. The second time it's a talking frog. Not enough? The third time it's Tiny the Tyrannosaur innocently lampshading it, finally causing Bowler Hat Guy to have a minor Villainous Breakdown.
Tiny: "I have a big head and little arms! I'm just not sure how well this plan was thought through, Master." (Beat) "Master?"
(Cut to Bowler Hat Guy repeatedly faceplanting himself on the monitor.)
Epic Fail: Bowler Hat Guy's attempt to pass off Lewis's invention as his own to the InventCo Board of Directors doesn't go according to plan. For one thing, he has Doris hover outside the windows and act as the teleprompter, and when she has to hide to avoid being noticed, Bowler Hat Guy must claim that the sun is in his eyes, unintentionally causing the CEO to lower the blinds, leaving him without a teleprompter. Therefore his attempt to demonstrate the product doesn't go well at all because he doesn't know what does what, eventually resulting in him running the really comfy headphones all the way across the table to the CEO. When the timer runs out, the main part of the memory scanner falls off his end and Bowler Hat Guy and CEO end up wrapped together.
Bowler Hat Guy: So, where do I sign? [cuts to him being thrown out onto the street]
Evil Plan: Bowler Hat Guy wants to ruin Lewis' life because he's really Gob and believes Lewis ruined his life because Lewis' invention made him sleepy during a game which made him bitter and which turned off prospective parents.
Executive Meddling: In a good way. When Disney bought Pixar and John Lasseter took charge of Walt Disney Feature Animation as well, about a third of the movie was redone to improve on the story. However, the old guard almost revolted at it and openly expressed to the press that they hoped the film would bomb.
Jerk Jock: Averted with Goob, whose evolution into a villain is only due to his constant dwelling on a painful event and subsequent refusal to keep doing what he loves, implied to be baseball. Played somewhat straight with the gym teacher, but even he acknowledges Lewis' achievement in the end.
Lost Aesop: While "Keep Moving Forward" is clearly the moral here, it's not exactly clear if that's always a good idea.
Lying Finger Cross: Bowler Hat Guy does this after he offers to take Lewis back to find his mom if he repairs the Memory Scanner. Later, after Lewis repairs the Memory Scanner, Doris ties him up and Lewis says, "We had a deal!" and Bowler Hat Guy reveals his crossed fingers to Lewis, saying, "Crossies! Doesn't count!"
Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Bowler Hat Guy's entire motivation for his time-travelling villainy is to ruin Lewis' life and his future as genius inventor Cornelius Robinson.
Lewis: Will you quit that, please? I know you're not a pigeon!
Obsessed Are The Listmakers: Bowler Hat Guy loves checklists and is often seen ticking off items in his, such as "Steal time machine", "Ruin science fair", and "Get that [comic book swearing symbols] boy".
Only Six Faces: A lot of minor characters have similar character models and even a few main character models are reused with Art's appearing in Midtown University and Franny's model also serving as Lewis' mother.
Plot Twist: One of the more surprising ones of the last decade- Bowler Hat Guy is really Mike Yagoobian, the somewhat nice, low energy, short, slightly chubby kid Lewis shared a room with at the orphanage.
Posters Always Lie: The poster at the top of the page gave the impression that Lizzy was a member of the Robinson family in the future when she's actually just a classmate of Lewis in the present who is only on screen for under a minute in total.
Psychopathic Manchild: Bowler Hat Guy since he never let one childhood trauma go and thus kept a child-like mentality.
Retcon / Ret Gone: Bizarrely, an in-universe example. Near the end, Lewis is about to be attacked by the evil robot hat Doris—who was angry at being locked up as a failed invention after she turned out to be evil. Suddenly, Lewis glares at Doris and says, "I am never going to invent you." She looks momentarily shocked before vanishing from existence. That's right, weaponizedRetcon.
Ridiculously Fast Construction: There are Insta-Buildings in the future, skyscrapers that go from ground level to completion in literally a few seconds.
Symbol Swearing: One of the "to do" items on Bowler Hat Guy's list is literally "Get that [grawlixes] boy".
Talking to Himself: Ethan Sandler voices no less than seven characters, mostly among the Robinson family. Director Stephen Anderson is the Bowler Hat Guy, Grandpa Bud, and Cousin Tallulah. ...yes, a female Robinson family member has a male voice for no reason!
What Happened to the Mouse?: The second time machine seems to have been left in the present day. Nobody brings it up again, even after Cornelius notices that the time machines are missing from the garage.
While Rome Burns: It's small and easy to miss, but Lizzy can be seen smiling evilly as she watches the chaos that ensues when Lewis' invention malfunctions.
Wolverine Publicity: The female goth student in the poster above only has two lines in the film and appears for only about 10 seconds! Many of the Robinson family members were featured prominently in the promotional materials yet are basically background characters with no handle on the story.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In the alternate future created by Doris, Lewis views a video of how it got to be that way. One of them was of Goob/Bowler Hat Guy protesting to Doris that it (i.e. her taking over the world) wasn't what he wanted, he is then swarmed by a mass of smaller hats who (offscreen) either turn him into a mindless slave or... (more strongly implied) kill him. Luckily Lewis reverses everything, so that never gets a chance to happen.
Genre Shift: Main adventure is a Zelda-style game, with some quests including the Air Hockey/Breakout hybrid game of "Chargeball", the Super Monkey Ball like Protectosphere missions, and Dig Dug style puzzle missions.