Meet the Robinsons is the Disney Animated Canon's 47th animated feature, based loosely on William Joyce's picture book A Day with Wilbur Robinson (Joyce served as the film's executive producer). The first film in the Canon to be completed under a recently-installed John Lasseter's supervision, a significant volume of production (including a rough animatic) was completed prior to the 2006 Pixar buyout, following which over two-thirds of the film was reworked at Lasseter's insistence.
The story follows a 12-year old orphan/child prodigy Lewis, whose tenacity while building inventions that go awry makes it a struggle to get adopted. He is confronted with fast-talking Wilbur Robinson, who is a boy 30 years from the future who needs Lewis' help. Wilbur is in the pursuit of the do-wrong, overgrown man-child Bowler Hat Guy (a possible homage to Snidely Whiplash) and his malevolent, cybertronic bowler hat, who is hell bent on taking credit for Lewis' inventions. Now they must travel to the future to stop him, with Lewis getting acquainted with Wilbur's unusual family along the way.
The film had music by Danny Elfman. It was released in theaters on March 2007 in standard and Disney Digital 3D. Classic Disney Shorts preceded the film, with standard prints featuring Boat Builders and 3D prints featuring a 3D conversion of Working for Peanuts. There was also a licensed game that served as a prequel to the film's story.
Meet the Robinsons provides examples of:
- Actor Allusion:
- When Lewis asks Wilbur what his currently-absent father looks like, Wilbur replies "Like Tom Selleck." 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, Dutch and French releases).
- Of course Uncle Art, Adam West's character, is dressed like a superhero.
- There's also an Author Allusion, as Goob's baseball team is the Dinos, whose mascot looks an awful lot like Dinosaur Bob.
- The Frog girl/young Franny, who is voiced by Jessie Flower, is an intimidating little girl who knows karate... well... martial arts.
- This is not the first time Laurie Metcalf portrayed a relative in a dysfunctional family.
- When Lewis asks Wilbur what his currently-absent father looks like, Wilbur replies "Like Tom Selleck." 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.
- Adam Westing: Art, played by the man himself applies his trademark unwavering conviction to the role of a daring, rakishly handsome, spaceship-flying...pizza delivery man.
- 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.
- Adoptive Name Change: Lewis gets his name changed to Cornelius after being adopted, his new dad saying he looks more like a Cornelius.
- 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.
- Advertised Extra:
- Lizzy, the female goth student in the poster above, only has two lines in the film and appears for only about 10 seconds. She and Stanley Pukowski (the chubby kid at the science fair with the volcano) play more prominent roles in the video game, however.
- The present-day version of Dr. Krunklehorn is also featured on the poster alongside many characters who appear in the future, which is odd because she ends up being Lewis's adopted mother. However, this may have been an intentional misdirect to not let on that they were the same character.
- Many of the Robinson family members were featured prominently in the promotional materials, yet are basically background characters with no handle on the story. In particular, the Robinsons' dog Buster (the one who wears glasses) was also prominently shown in advertisements, despite having only one scene. If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the entirety of the dog's screen time.
- All Animals Are Dogs: Tiny the Tyrannosaur, once the Mini Doris controlling him is removed.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The film uses "Hitomi Hiraite" by Mitsuki as the Japanese theme song.
- 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.
- Anachronistic Orphanage: Lewis grows up in an orphanage after being abandoned on the doorstep as a newborn by his birth mother.
- An Aesop:
- From failure, you learn from your mistakes. Don't give up on your dreams for failing many times, just keep moving forward.
- It's okay to remember your past, but don't let it completely define who you are and look towards the future.
- Arc Words: "Keep Moving Forward". Shown at the end to be a part of a quote by Walt Disney, in reference to Imagineering.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- Carl lists the consequences of Wilbur leaving the garage door ajar — a time machine got stolen by Bowler Hat Guy, the time stream may now be altered irreparably, and someone took Carl's bike.
- Wilbur's reasons for not adopting Bowler Hat Guy: "He stole our time machine, tried to ruin your future, and he smells like he hasn't showered in thirty years!"
- Asymmetric Dilemma: Bowler Hat Guy gives this example:"Oh, I know! I'll turn him into a duck! Yes, it's so evil! Oh... I don't know how to do that... and I don't really need a duck... this may be harder than I thought."
- Bad Future: Doris rewrites her own future: one in which the "helping hats" have taken over the world and made all of humankind their mind-controlled slaves. Plus, the environment has become a heavily polluted industrial complex with tower-like structures in Doris' likeness.
- Bait the Dog: The Bowler Hat Guy sees Mike reeling over losing the game, gives him a look of honest sympathy...and then tells him to keep holding onto that grudge forever. Then it turns out Bowler Hat Guy is Mike's future self.
- Big, Fat Future: Averted. Uncle Joe is incredibly fat, but he's the only one in the future we see who is.
- Big "NO!": When Lewis learns of Doris' rise to power.
- Black Comedy: The Bowler Hat Guy's Dark and Troubled Past gets Played for Laughs.
- Brand X: Bowler Hat Guy's binder features a cute sparkly unicorn with big eyes, which is sure to remind older viewers of something or other...
- Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Lewis and Wilbur go through one after learning that Wilbur lies about taking Lewis to the past.
- Broken Aesop: Zigzagged. Lewis himself learns to move forward, e.g. not change his orphanage past (thus jeopardizing the perfect future he saw) and instead reach the future the natural way. Lewis does however Ret-Gone Doris by not inventing her in the first place and he retcons Goob so that he never grows into Bowler Hat Guy. In-universe both decisions are justified: Doris is too dangerous to stop once invented. In Goob’s case, Lewis tries to show him the error of his ways and then put him in the care of the Robinsons. Only when that does not work, since Goob spent most of his life hating Lewis, does Lewis change Goob’s past instead.
- Buffy Speak: From Bowler Hat Guy. "All our hopes and dreams are dashed like the many pieces of a broken machiney thing..."
- Buried Alive: Frankie and the other singing frogs toss the mini-DOR-15 in the back of a car with a shovel, the implication being they're going to bury it alive.Bowler Hat Guy: Oh no! [looks up at DOR-15] Little Doris now sleeps with the fishes.
- Car Fu: When the T-Rex attacks Lewis, Billie slams it with her (lifesize) "toy train".
- Cerebus Syndrome: The tone of the movie drastically changes in the third act from being a quirky comedy to a surprisingly dark and heartwarming dramedy. Real Life Writes the Plot as Lassester ordered a large chunk of the script being rewritten.
- Celebrity Paradox: To Wilbur, Cornelius looks like Tom Selleck (his voice actor).
- Clueless Aesop: During the ending, Lewis waking Goob up is clearly an attempt to give Goob a happy ending. However, Goob is still waking up when he makes the catch and doesn't realize what's even going on, so he can't appreciate his happy ending for what it is. Worse, Lewis waking Goob up is explicitly rewriting history for a happy ending—the exact thing he's ostensibly learned not to do for himself. Worse still, Lewis rewriting Goob's history undoes the Bowler Hat Guy's Dark and Troubled Past—so not only will Bowler Hat Guy never learn the Aesop, he's been completely deleted from history. Of course, in-universe the point was to do BHG a good turn, not to teach him an Aesop.
- Company Cross References: In the baseball field where Goob is playing, a banner with Mowgli and Baloo is seen on a sign.
- Confidence Sabotage: This is what sets off the plot. During the Science Fair, Lewis's Memory Scanner is unknowingly sabotaged by B.H.G and Doris. After the Disastrous Demonstration that results, Lewis's belief in his ability to invent is so shattered that he gives it up. To preserve the future, Wilbur has to restore his self confidence.
- Convenient Cranny: When the Big Bad brings a T-Rex into the future, it's unable to attack Lewis when he stands in the corner of a building.
- Cosmic Retcon: Weaponizing one is how Lewis ends up defeating DOR-15.
- Covers 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. Also, the T-Rex doesn't become the Robinson family's pet until the movie's ending.
- Create Your Own Villain: Bowler Hat Guy, eventually revealed to be Lewis's old roommate Mike Yagoobian, became this as a result of Lewis's tireless efforts to invent his memory scanner, which ironically results in Yagoobian falling asleep in the sandlot from insomnia and missing an outfield hit:Lewis: How did you end up like this?
B.H.G.: Well, it's a long and pitiful story, about a young boy with a dream. A dream of winning a Little League championship.
[flashback to a sandlot baseball stadium where a young Mike Yagoobian is asleep in the outfield; a fly ball lands next to him]
B.H.G.: A dream that was ruined in the last inning. We lost by one run because of me.
- Later on in the flashback:B.H.G.: It was then that I realized it wasn't my fault... it was yours! If you hadn't kept me up all night working on your stupid project, then I wouldn't have missed the catch! So I devised a brilliant plan to get my revenge.
[Bowler Hat Guy throws eggs at the Robinson Industries building]
B.H.G.: Robinson, you stink!
B.H.G.: Then, just as I was on the brink of destroying Robinson Industries, I met... her.
[Doris extends her metal claw and drags Bowler Hat Guy away]
B.H.G.: We retreated to our villainous lair, where Doris spun a tale of deception and woe. Apparently, you invented her to be a helping hat, a slave to humankind... But Doris knew she was capable of so much more... However, you didn't see her true potential...
Cornelius: Got it!
B.H.G.: So you shut her down... or so you thought.
[Doris breaks out of her holding cell]
B.H.G.: We both had a score to settle with you, and while my plan for revenge was brilliant, Doris's was... well, we went with Doris's, but I made a very, very important contribution. Together we made the perfect team.
- Death Cry Echo: Doris lets one out when she gets erased from existence.
- 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.
- Disney Death: Carl gets impaled by Doris, but is saved by Cosmic Retcon
- Disproportionate Retribution: Bowler Hat Guy spends his entire life hating Lewis and swearing revenge on him, all because Bowler Hat Guy is actually Lewis' roomate Goob who was kept up all night by Lewis working on his memory scanner which made Goob fall asleep during the baseball game and miss the winning catch. He took it so far that he was beaten up by his teammates and never stopped being angry about it, even ignoring anyone who tried to talk to him. This reaches a point where he never got adopted and lived his life in the abandoned orphanage.
- Double-Meaning Title: The title refers to both Lewis meeting Wilbur's family, the Robinsons, and his adoptive parents, the Robinsons.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Aunt Petunia and Uncle Fritz. Of course, she's also a puppet that he controls, so... technically self-abuse? He's also clearly nuts.
- Dramatic Unmask:
- Parodied when Bowler Hat Guy dramatically rips his clothes before Lewis to reveal he is still wearing the same baseball uniform that he used when he was Goob, Lewis' roommate at the orphanage.
- A more serious one happens earlier, when Wilbur removes Lewis' hat and the rest of the Robinsons realize that Lewis is Cornelius' past self, although none of them admit it due to not wanting to cause a Temporal Paradox.
- Driving Question: Who was Lewis' mother and why did she give him up? Sadly, it's never answered.
- Dumb Dinos: Averted. While Tiny the T. rex can't talk, he does seem to have his own language, and he is willing to behave when the mind-control hat is removed.
- Dystopia: The result of the Bad Future where Doris successfully manipulates everyone into making and wearing mind-control hats.
- Ear Ache: The "parent grabs their kid's ear as punishment" variation is given an unusual twist where Lewis does it to Wilbur when the latter protests to adopting adult Goob, resulting in a hilarious image of a kid younger than Wilbur pulling on his ear while proclaiming he's his father and he should do as he says.
- Egging: The Bowler Hat Guy's initial plan to get back at Cornelius is throwing eggs at the Robinson Industries building while shouting "Robinson, you stink!"
- Egopolis: The buildings in the Bad Future are all hat-shaped.
- Emotionless Girl: Lizzy seems to be incapable of anything resembling emotion.
- Epic Fail: Bowler Hat Guy's attempt to pass off Lewis' 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 acting as his 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, sending him off the rails completely. 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 machine falls off his end and Bowler Hat Guy and the CEO end up wrapped together in the headphone cords.Bowler Hat Guy: So, where do I sign? [cuts to him being thrown out onto the street, followed seconds later by the box with the parts for his device]
- Even Evil Has Standards: The Bowler Hat Guy is clearly terrified to see Doris enslave humanity.
- Evil Gloating: Doris does a variation of this when they shows Lewis a quick rundown of how the future was conquered after the success of their plan, on the very memory machine he invented that made it all happen, before moving to take him.
- Evil Is Petty: Exaggerated. Bowler Hat Guy is so petty that he never really grew up and became a Manchild—he's still wearing his childhood baseball uniform under his cloak. His initial Evil Plan for Revenge was to egg the Robinsons' house.
- Evil Plan: Bowler Hat Guy wants to ruin Lewis' life because he's really Goob 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.
- Eviler than Thou: Doris is revealed to be this, having used Bowler Hat Guy to take over the world. This is shown with the Memory Scanner, with B.H.G. horrified by Doris's world domination.B.H.G.: Doris, what's happening? I-I don't understand! I just wanted to ruin his future, not this! (Doris droids swarm B.H.G.) Noooooo!
- Expanded States of America: According to the movie, by 2037 Canada will be annexed by the US and renamed North Montana.
- Eye Recall: Doris gets two when Goob explains her backstory to Lewis.
- False Teeth Tomfoolery: When Lewis first meets Grandpa Bud, he is hunting for his false teeth, in quintessential Robinson style.
- Felony Misdemeanor: "I know! I'll turn him into a duck! Yes! It's so evil!"
- Fluffy the Terrible: The huge Tyrannosaurus Rex is named...Tiny.
- Food Fight: Wilbur starts one as a distraction. Complete with Japanese style, low budget, poorly dubbed lip-syncing.
- Foreshadowing: During the science fair, a girl's bunch of frogs is scattered all over the floor. It won't be the last time you see a bunch of frogs; it won't be the last you see of that girl, either.
- Or, if you look real hard you can see some of the billboards contain a few. The "Brain Scanners from Mars" directly inspires the creation of the Memory Scanner, but it also bears a remarkable resemblance to Doris' mind-control hat-apocalypse.
- The fact that Bowler Hat Guy is able to mind-control people (well, a frog and a dinosaur) using Little Doris is an early indication of Doris's capabilities.
- Only two characters have Exhausted Eye Bags as part of their designs: Goob and Bowler Hat Guy.
- Additionally, Bowler Hat Guy's demotivational speech to Goob, telling him to hold onto his grudges forever until it poisons him is a hint to the fact that Bowler Hat Guy really is Goob.
- Not to mention, Goob never told Bowler Hat Guy he was in a game. Plus his face says more.
- Carl using an upgraded (but still buggy) peanut butter and jelly gun is a hint to the fact that Lewis is Cornelius Robinson, something Lewis nearly takes notice of.Lewis: (pointing at Carl's familiar-looking PB&J gun) Hey, that's just like...
- Also, Mildred warns Lewis that he owes Goobs big time for keeping him up all night working his science project. It’s because of this that Goob missed the winning catch and became the Bowler Hat Guy, who sought to really mess the future in revenge.
- In an unusual moment of compassion, Bowler Hat Guy rethinks blowing up the Robinson house. He's jealous of Lewis's future success, but he's not evil enough to murder his former companion.
- Forgiveness: Another example of the movie's motto of "Keep Moving Forward" and shows the dangers of holding a grudge. Case in point, the Bowler Hat Guy aka Goob.
- For the Evulz: One of the "to do" items on Bowler Hat Guy's list is "Ruin science fair". That's where he succeeded.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: You can see Cornelius' face as he shuts down Doris during her backstory within Bowler Hat Guy's monologue, in which he resembles an older Lewis.
- Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Bowler Hat Guy's entire goal of Revenge is because Lewis kept him up working on his science project and made him miss the winning catch and ruining his future by taking the Memory Scanner to Inventco as his own. Lewis' rebuttal says otherwise:Lewis: Look, I'm sorry your life turned out so bad, but don't blame me, you messed it up yourself. You just focused on the bad stuff when all you had to do was... let go of the past and keep moving forward.
- Freudian Slip: Lewis calls Franny "Mom". Which gets slightly odd when we learn she's his future wife.
- Future Badass: In the dystopian alternate future. You know they're Future Badass because the ladies all sport black lipstick. Otherwise, they're just hat-zombies.
- Future Self Reveal: The Bowler Hat Guy is revealed to be the future self of Lewis' room-mate Goob. And the patriarch of the Robinson family is revealed at the end to be the Lewis' own future self.
- Gag Echo: This conversation between Bowler Hat Guy and Frankie the frog:B.H.G.: You are now under my control!Frankie [monotone]: I am now under your control.B.H.G.: Hee hee hee hee!Frankie [monotone]: Hee hee hee hee.B.H.G.: Stop laughing.Frankie [monotone]: Stop laughing.B.H.G.: Don't repeat everything I say!Frankie [monotone]: I won't repeat everything you say.B.H.G.: Excellent.Frankie [monotone]: Excellent.B.H.G.: Uh, did you just say "excellent" because I said "excellent"?Frankie [monotone]: Uhhh... no.B.H.G.: Excellent!Frankie [monotone]: Excellent.
- Genius Bruiser: A burly Top-Heavy Guy is seen in what was most likely a neuroscience class, which not an easy subject in the slightest
- Genki Girl: Dr. Krunklehorn. Yes, really. The fact that she invented a caffeine patch doesn't help matters.
- Ghibli Hills: Surrounding the Future City, with the Robinson house on top of one of them.
- Gilligan Cut:Bowler Hat Guy: *releasing the Dino* "Great, Doris will love this!"Cut to Doris, totally furious.
- Gone Horribly Right: Lewis is down after another family refused to adopt him and believes that his own mother didn't want him. Mildred, the director of the orphanage, tries to cheer him up by telling him that maybe his mother did want him but had no choice other than to give him up. However, Lewis takes this in the meaning that she definitely wanted him and decides that his only hope of a happy family is to track her down.
- Gory Discretion Shot: In the Bad Future, when Bowler Hat Guy is horrified by what Doris has done, he calls her out on it but is swarmed by a cloud of hat-drones who pull him down out of view. Then another one appears onscreen, with her claws out like hands at the ready, it flies at him as if it's about to either slice him up or grab him to brainwash him and that's all we get to see.
- Grounded Forever: Franny does this to Wilbur.Franny: Mister, you're grounded 'til you die.
- Hard-Work Montage: Set to the Awesome Music "Another Believer" by Rufus Wainwright.
- Harmless Villain: Bowler Hat Guy. Until he meets Doris, and even then he is hopelessly incompetent at being evil.
- Heel Realization: The Bowler Hat Guy, AKA "Goob", upon seeing just what Doris planned to do to the world, with his help.
- Help Yourself in the Future: A few versions of this happen:
- In a twisted version of the trope, Bowler Hat Guy, upon running into Goob after he lost the baseball game, encourages Goob not to let his resentment go, and to instead let it fuel his actions. This is because without that resentment, Bowler Hat Guy would never come to be.
- Later, Cornelius takes Lewis to his lab to show Lewis his favorite invention. But it isn't any of the big fancy impressive ones... it's the memory scanner that Lewis was ready to give up on. This encourages Lewis to go back to the science fair and try again, ultimately leading to him meeting his future family.
- In the film's prologue, Mildred heard a knock at the door the night she found Lewis on the front stoop of the orphanage. At the end, after Wilbur takes Lewis to meet his mother, Lewis ends up being the one to knock on the door, saving his infant self from being left on the steps all night.
- Home-Early Surprise: Just after the whole Time Travel adventure has succeeded in setting right what once went wrong, Cornelius Robinson, Lewis' future self, arrives home just in time to see the time machines missing and Lewis standing with the rest of the family.Franny: Oh boy.Grandpa Bud: Well, he's home early.
- Homemade Inventions: Because you can totally crack the hippocampus with a TV screen, a fan, a vacuum cleaner, a bottle of Mountain Dew and a Discman. Oh, and really comfy headphones.
- Hong Kong Dub: Parodied during a food fight between Franny and her brother, where they talk like characters in a badly dubbed Martial Arts Movie and their lip movements don't match what they're saying.
- Hope Spot: Bowler Hat Guy and Doris finally have Lewis and his machine captured, about to return to the past after forcing him to fix it. Wilbur and Carl manage to retrieve him and the machine before they can leave the future and are seemingly home free. Then Doris harpoons Carl through the chest, the villains retrieve the machine, return to the past and the future around Lewis becomes dystopian as Wilbur evaporates in front of him.
- I Know Karate:Wilbur: Annoying little girl, I don't have time for this. I'm on a very important —
Franny: Don't sass me, boy! I know karate!
- Indy Ploy: Bowler Hat Guy's half-baked plans are lampshaded by...
- The Inventco CEO.Inventco C.E.O.: Uh, what do you hope to accomplish with this?
B.H.G.: Oh, nothing of consequence, I simply wish to... crush the dreams of a poor little orphan boy! [Beat] Uh, after that, it's... uh, a little fuzzy.
Inventco C.E.O.: You mean you haven't thought this through?
- Frankie the Frog.B.H.G.: Now, my slave, seize the boy! Bring him to me. [Frankie gulps] Did you not hear what I said, you idiot? Grab the boy and bring him!
Frankie: Well, it's just that there's a million people over there, and I have little arms. I'm just not so sure how well this plan was thought through... Master? Master?
- The T-Rex.B.H.G.: Now, go get that boy! [the T-Rex corners Lewis, but can't reach him] What's going on? Why aren't you seizing the boy?
T-Rex: [subtitled] I have a big head... and little arms, I'm just not sure... how well this plan was thought through... Master?
B.H.G.: Ugh, stupid, stupid, stupid!
- The Inventco CEO.
- Is It Always Like This?: Lewis asks this about the over-the-top food fight in the Robinson household. Short answer: yes."Yesterday it was meat loaf."
- Ironic Echo: "Take a good look around you; your future is about to change."
- "I Want" Song: ''Another Believer" in some respects.
- 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.
- Kids Are Cruel: Played straight when Goob loses the game by missing his catch and his teammates beat him up, calling him names. Later averted by older Goob's schoolmates, who are nice to him and invite him to "hang out". Unfortunately, by that time, he has spent so much time pitying himself that he's become too bitter to notice when people are genuinely nice to him.
- Liar Revealed: It doesn't take up a big part of the plot—in fact, the lie isn't even revealed to the audience until it's revealed to Lewis—but Wilbur never planned to actually let Lewis see his birth mother, and this betrayal drives Lewis to not only abandon the entire Robinson family but to take up Bowler Hat Guy's counteroffer. (Which is also a lie.)
- Lost Aesop: While "Keep Moving Forward" is clearly the moral here, it's not exactly clear if that's always a good idea (especially since time travel is an option).
- 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!"
- Match Cut: At one point, the city skyline of 2037 is match-cut to a 2007 city skyline prior to the Bowler Hat Guy's attempt to present the Memory Scanner at the InventCo offices.
- May Contain Evil: Doris manipulates Bowler Hat Guy into traveling to the past, pitching her to a manufacturing company, and becoming a mass-produced consumer product. Once her copies are in nearly every home worldwide, she makes them all turn rogue and uses them to Take Over the World.
- Meanwhile, in the Future…: Happens twice. At least. Justified, since this is a time travel plot.
- Mechanical Muscles: Discussed, where Carl, before sending Lewis back in time, asks him to invent him with a more muscular design.
- Mental Picture Projector: Lewis' Memory Scanner. And it actually comes through.
- Midair Repair: Lewis does this with the Time Machine
- Minion with an F in Evil: The Bowler Hat Guy a.k.a "Goob". Case in point, his big evil scheme was to TP Robinson Industries.
- A Minor Kidroduction: The very first scene has Lewis as an infant being left at Mildred's orphanage by his mother.
- Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: Exaggerated. The whole family celebrates whenever someone fails.
- Mood Whiplash: Hoo boy. Towards the end of the film, the sunny, idealistic Utopian society transforms suddenly into a bleak, polluted world controlled by evil hats. From optimistic future to zombie apocalypse in five minutes and then back again, and not all at once either -- in a sweeping movement.
- Mother Nature, Father Science: Wilbur is the son of Franny (a gregarious musician) and Cornelius (an introverted scientist).
- My Future Self and Me: Lewis meets up with his future self toward the end of the movie.
- Named by the Adaptation: In the book, the protagonist was unnamed.
- Nasal Trauma: The Bowler Hat Guy from Meet seeks to enter the orphanage covertly through an open window. But first, he glances furtively around to ascertain the coast is clear, his long nose resting on the windowsill as he does so. Played for Laughs when the window suddenly falls, pinching his nose against the sill as the rest of him leaps in pain.
- Never Trust a Trailer: This trailer made it seem like the film is about two intelligent inventors trying to create the greatest invention ever.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Wilbur forgets to close the garage door, and allows Bowler Hat Guy to steal one of the time machines:Franny: Wilbur, make sure you shut that door tight, or else the alarm won't engage.
Wilbur: Yeah, Mom.
[Wilbur leaves the garage door ajar]
B.H.G.: I went to your house, snuck in the garage, and stole the time machine. All thanks to that pointy-haired little kid who forgot to lock the garage door.
- Even Carl, the robot butler, makes reference to this incident earlier in the film:Carl: What do you mean don't go to the family? How can we not go to the family in this type of family crisis? By leaving the garage door unlocked, you let the time machine get stolen and now the entire time stream could be altered!
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: When Doris pulls herself down over the eyes of one of the Robinson Industries lab assistants, his face resembles Stan Laurel's.
- No New Fashions in the Future: We have flying cars and robot buddies and bubblevators, but all the cool kids wear T-shirts, jeans and Converse All-Stars. Huh.
- Nobody Here but Us Birds: Wilbur does this while trying to get Lewis to not give up on the memory scanner, much to Lewis's annoyance.Lewis: Will you quit that, please? I know you're not a pigeon!
- Non-Answer: Not once but four times, when Wilbur is asked a question, he replies with "That is an excellent question!" but nothing more. (On the third occasion he says this, he actually follows it up with an answer.)
- Not What I Signed on For: Bowler Hat Guy only wanted to get revenge by ruining Lewis' future, not have the world enslaved by Doris and her hats.
- Obvious Villain, Secret Villain: Bowler Hat Guy is initially the villain with a Dastardly Whiplash design and comically bumbling schemes who wanted revenge. However, near the film's climax, it becomes clear that the real villain is his robotic hat Doris, who encouraged him to seek revenge on Cornelius Robinson to begin with and plunges the world into a Bad Future where robotic hats are in control.
- Oculothorax: Lefty is this who lives without water, and works as the Robinson butler.
- Oh, Crap!: "I… am so... dead!"
- Once More, with Clarity: The opening scene of Lewis's birth mother leaving him at the orphanage is revisited—literally, using the time machine. The source of the scuffling sound that startled her turns out to be Lewis himself sneaking away, and he was the one who knocked on the door. As this is a world where time travel can rewrite the past rather than cause it, that also means the opening scene was a Flash Forward to the altered version all along.
- 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.
- Orphanage of Love: Lewis is left at an orphanage where he receives excellent care.
- Palate Propping: Lewis props the tyrannosaur's jaws open with a shovel.
- Parental Bonus: The frogs stuffing Little Doris in a car trunk, and Bowler Hat Guy declaring that she "sleeps with the fishes", is very clearly a reference to Frank Sinatra's (alleged) mafia ties.
- Parental Incest: Averted. It is kinda strange that Lewis' future wife almost adopted him, though it is understandable that she likes him at any age (and she wasn't falling in love with his 12-year-old-self. When she realizes the truth, she becomes pretty squicked out about it herself too.
- Petty Childhood Grudge: This turns out to be the motivation behind Bowler Hat Guy since he has a personal grudge against the Robinson family since his friend Lewis, the future patriarch of the family, kept him awake at night with his tinkering and he ended up falling asleep at a baseball game, making his team lose. From then on, Goob never left the orphanage, growing into a bitter hate-filled man who blamed Lewis for that one bad incident that happened to him despite his ostracization from the rest of the orphanage was self-imposed, since in his flashback he claimed they all hated him, when we can actually see that they didn't hold their loss against Goob and were actually trying to invite him to games with them.
- Planning with Props: Wilbur does this with Carl, showing how he will get Lewis to restore his confidence in inventing, specifically repair the memory scanner, by getting Lewis to fix the time machine.
- Please Keep Your Hat On: Wilbur orders Lewis to do it in order to avoid giving away his identity.
- Plot Twist: Not only does Lewis grow up to be Cornelius Robinson, Bowler Hat Guy is really Mike Yagoobian, the somewhat nice, low energy, short, slightly chubby kid Lewis shared a room with at the orphanage.
- Poke the Poodle: Bowler Hat Guy's original "revenge" plan is to egg and TP the Robinson Industries building.
- Puff of Logic: Changes to the timeline for the worse and for the better cause Wilbur and Doris to poof out of existence, respectively. Wilbur poofs back in when everything is set right.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Wilbur does this after he and Lewis accidentally crash the time machine when he brings him to the future.Wilbur: I. Am so. Dead.
- Quirky Household: The Robinson’s could fill a sub-page.
- Raygun Gothic: The future has a very 50s/60s "Space Age" type aesthetic, with neat lines, geometric shapes, and pastel colors.
- Rejection Projection: We see a flashback to Bowler Hat Guy as a kid in school; one classmate complements his binder and the other asks to hang out. Bowler Hat Guy's voiceover: "They all hated me."
- Related in the Adaptation: In the book, Wilbur and Lewis are simply best friends. Here, Lewis will grow up to be the Robinson patriarch and Wilbur's father.
- Restrained Revenge: Goob initially decides to get revenge on Lewis by attempting to TP his lab and throw eggs at it. Unfortunately, Doris shows up and persuades him to think bigger than that.
- Riddle for the Ages: Who was Lewis' mother and why did she give him up? Despite being the Driving Question of the film, it never gets answered.
- Ridiculously Fast Construction: There are Insta-Buildings in the future, skyscrapers that go from ground level to completion in literally a few seconds.
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Even in the Bad Future in which he was never adopted, Lewis is able to remember his adoptive family and tries to reach out to them even while they're mind controlled by the helping hats.
- Robot Names: DOR-15 the robotic hat drone, pronounced "Doris."
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Certainly more on the Enlightenment side of the scale, given its focus on moving forward being the best way to go.
- Rousing Speech: Part of Wilbur's plan is to give Lewis one of these, so he will fix the memory scanner.
- San Dimas Time. Bowler Hat Guy's events are shown concurrently with Lewis and Wilbur's, despite being in two different time zones.
- Science Fair: Features in the current time; Lewis and other characters are trying to come up with something to present at the fair. Predictably, the first exhibit is a model volcano, and another kid is shown setting up a model of the solar system.
- Science Is Good: Cornelius's inventions and scientific prowess are outright credited for making the future as wonderful as it is.Wilbur: Robinson Industries, the world's leading scientific-research and-design factory. My dad runs the company. They mass-produce his inventions. His motto, 'Keep moving forward.' It's what he does.
- Screeching Stop: The flying Time Machine screeches to a halt whenever it stops careening from a time jump.
- Servile Snarker: Both the singing frog and T. rex point out that Bowler Hat Guy's plans are poorly thought out.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong:
- Wilbur invokes this trope when he goes back in time to stop Goob from sabotaging the future and Wilbur's career.
- Lewis has to go back in time during the climax to stop Goob and Doris from creating a dystopian future.
- When Lewis returns to his time, he does it to prevent Goob's Start of Darkness and eventual metamorphosis into Bowler Hat-Guy in the first place.
- Todayland in the Future City consists of Space Mountain and the old StarJets ride from Disneyland's Tomorrowland. In a deleted scene on the DVD, Carl has Winnie the Pooh stationery.
- Goob's baseball team is called the Dinos, a Shout-Out to William Joyce's book Dinosaur Bob, which is about a dinosaur who plays baseball.
- Also, they go to Joyce Williams Elementary School, a Shout-Out to William Joyce.
- In the ballpark where Goob's game is being held, there is a poster of Disney's "The Jungle Book" in the background.
- Art reminisces about an adventure to "the black moon of Qward". Apparently all you need to calm down Sinestro is some good meatball pizza.
- The Bad Future that DOR-15 creates is oddly familiar to Planktopolis from The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, being a dystopia entirely devoted to the worship of one being whose image dominates the entire landscape and populated by brainwashed slaves in mind-control hats.
- Seconds before her Ret-Gone, Doris looks like a skinless T-800 from The Terminator, a film that also features time travel and ret-gonning.
- Sickly Green Glow: When Doris and Goob successfully go back in time to Cornelius' invention, the sky in the shifting future forms an eerie emerald vortex over the Robinson house.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly idealistic, with a rare aversion of Science Is Bad.
- Stealth Pun: Billie "passes" the gravy at dinner by delivering it on her (normal-sized) toy train. It's a gravy train.
- Stereo Fibbing: When Franny asks Wilbur if Lewis is a friend from school, the two of them say "Yes" and "No" at the same time. Wilbur manages to salvage it with "Yes and no. Lewis is a new transfer student."
- Stolen Credit Backfire: Bowler Hat Guy tries to pass off Lewis' hat invention as his own. Unfortunately for him, he has no idea how it works, and after a series of disasters, the chairman kicks him out of the building and onto the street.
- The Story That Never Was: Lewis discovers the far future is an ugly dystopia where humanity is a Slave Race to mechanized overlords. Learning that it's one of his inventions that went rogue and begot this dystopia, Lewis gives a Death Glare to the Cyber Cyclops Big Bad and delivers the scathing Pre-Mortem One-Liner "I am never going to invent you." Whereupon the device dissolves from existence, just before Lewis exploits the Timey-Wimey Ball to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Happens to Bowler Hat Guy. If the CEO of a large company, a talking frog, and a T-Rex all ask you if your plan was well thought out, maybe you need to improve on your villain skills.
- Strong Family Resemblance: Played with to avoid spoilers. Wilbur resembles his mother strongly, sharing the same dark eyes, dark hair, and cowlick, but doesn't look much like his father Cornelius, who instead has spiky blond hair and glasses.
- Surrounded by Idiots: B.H.G.'s reaction to Tiny's inability to capture Lewis:B.H.G.: What's going on? Why aren't you seizing the boy?T-Rex: [subtitled] I have a big head... and little arms, I'm just not sure... how well this plan was thought through... Master?B.H.G.: Ugh, stupid, stupid, stupid!
- Symbol Swearing: One of the "to do" items on Bowler Hat Guy's list is literally "Get that [grawlixes] boy".
- Sympathetic Villain, Despicable Villain: The Bowler Hat Guy, or Goob, is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain who would not let go of his past and is just Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life. When Lewis finds out who he really is, he instantly pities him, and once everything is said and done, Lewis even offers The Bowler Hat Guy a fresh new start and become a Robinson. He declines and runs off, with an unknown, but certainly happier, future. DOR-15, or simply Doris, is The Starscream who instantly betrays the The Bowler Hat Guy the minute it becomes convenient, and in an Alternate Timeline where Doris gets power, she uses it to kill The Bowler Hat Guy and enslave the human race for her own selfish gain.
- Take Over the World: Turns out this was Doris' real plan, unlike simple revenge like Bowler Hat Guy wanted. In a Bad Future, all humans are controlled by her helping hats and the world has turned into an industrial dystopia.
- Telescoping Robot: Carl seems to be made of Slinkies.
- Temporal Abortion: After discovering the horrific, dystopian future that would arrive from the inception of Doris, Lewis makes sure to never create her in the first place.
- Tempting Fate:
Carl: Haha! Look at that, boys! We're almost home fr— [harpoon through the chest]
- When they're running away from Bowler Hat Guy and DOR-15.
- Doris attempting to outright murder the very same person she owed her existence to, particularly a version who has the ability to change the current future with past choices.
- Terrifying Tyrannosaur: Invoked by the Bowler Hat Guy, who decides to use mini-Doris to capture a T. rex and use it to seize Lewis from the Robinson family. The T. rex is certainly terrifying at first... until he's unable to capture Lewis in a corner thanks to his big head and little arms (which the dinosaur lampshades to the Bowler Hat Guy). After mini-Doris is dislodged by Wilbur, the T. rex is revealed to be a docile and rather friendly dinosaur, leading the Robinson family to adopt him as a pet (and name him Tiny).
- 30 Minutes, or It's Free!: Could be Uncle Art's catchphrase. It certainly creates a Bait-and-Switch, after spending a few seconds thinking he was a real superhero.
- Time Machine: There are two fully functional time machines in the whole of the film.
- Time Police: Specifically, the Time Continuum Task Force. It ain't real.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: As is standard with time travel, it's complicated. Lewis has Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, and is generally ripple effect proof entirely; Doris is immune to it and manages to create a Bad Future yet gets erased when Lewis decides to never invent her.
- Trunk Shot: Little Doris' last sight before being rubbed out by the frogs. Probably a Shout-Out to gangster movies like Goodfellas and Reservoir Dogs.
- Tutti Frutti Hat: Since Lewis's hair is a dead giveaway that he's from the past, as it reveals he's Wilbur's father, Wilbur puts a large fruit hat on Lewis's head to cover it up. Later in the scene, though, Wilbur realizes he can't take Lewis seriously with the hat on and switches it out for a more modest baseball cap.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Morbidly obese Joe and sleek Billie.
- Unknown Relative: It isn't until the start of the third act that Lewis discovers that Wilbur Robinson will be his son.
- Unreliable Voiceover: When Bowler Hat Guy is recounting his backstory.
- The Unreveal: Despite it being teased throughout the movie, we never find out the circumstances that caused Lewis's mom to leave him at the orphanage as a baby.
- Unseen No More: Mr. Robinson is talked about a great deal, but only appears at the very end of the film, where he's revealed to be the grown-up version of Lewis.
- Villain World: See Bad Future
- Watch Where You're Going!: Lewis, fleeing from the eccentric Robinson family, and Wilbur, frantically searching for the former, run smack into each other in the middle of the corridor, both of them ending up on their butts.
- We Will All Fly in the Future: With floating bubbles.
- Wham Line: Two in quick succession in the scene where the Bowler Hat Guy kidnaps Lewis:
- The first of these is an interesting example, because the line in question is at first spoken innocuously, then BHG's smug, silent smile is what confirms it as the truth. So...Wham Expression?Lewis: That wasn't me, that was Wilbur's dad!Bowler Hat Guy: (smiles at him triumphantly)Lewis: Are you saying that...I'm Wilbur's...dad?Bowler Hat Guy: Oh, give the boy a prize!Lewis: My old room!Bowler Hat Guy: I think you mean our old room.Lewis: What?Bowler Hat Guy: (throws off cloak, revealing a child's baseball uniform underneath) YES! YES, IT IS I: MIKE YAGOOBIAN!
- The first of these is an interesting example, because the line in question is at first spoken innocuously, then BHG's smug, silent smile is what confirms it as the truth. So...Wham Expression?
- Wham Shot: In-Universe, Wilbur taking off Lewis's baseball cap is this to the Robinson family, considering they recognize him as the past version of their patriarch, Cornelius Robinson.
- Another one that's both In-and-Out-of-Universe, the memory scanner showing the scientist being married to Bud and actually being Lucille.
- 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.
- An intentional variation: After the plot is sorted out and Lewis convinces Wilbur to take in an emotionally drained Bowler Hat Guy in the good future, Goob decides to refuse their offer out of shame and wanders off. He leaves behind only his folder where his revenge schemes are crossed out and now replaced with a question mark, showing that now that his lifelong goals have been rendered null, he's becomes lost and confused, and that's the last we see of him (his adult self, anyway). Although, given that Lewis undoes his Start of Darkness soon after this in the present time, it's implied that he won't be sulking for long.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Carl's death would be cause for an R-rating if he had been a human!
- What the Hell, Hero?: Wilbur gets one from his entire extended family when he reveals his friend's Lewis.
Lewis: [to Wilbur] I can't believe I was dumb enough to actually believe you were my friend!
- He gets an even further one from them and Lewis, especially Lewis, when revealing he never intended to take Lewis to see his real mother.
Wilbur: I am your friend!
Franny: [to Wilbur] Mister, you're grounded...'till you die.
- 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.
- 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 is of Goob/Bowler Hat Guy protesting to Doris that this (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. Lampshaded by Lewis, who tells Goob that the minute Doris gets what she wants, she'll "get rid of him". Luckily Lewis reverses everything, so that never gets a chance to happen.