The 2000s Sci-Fi Space Adventure Epic That Destroyed An Entire Studio

By Charlene Badasie | Published

Titan A.E. is an animated sci-fi action adventure directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. Released in 2000, it was a major project for Fox Animation Studios. But despite its ambitious scope and visual appeal, the film was a commercial failure, earning $36.8 million at the box office against a budget of almost $90 million. So, the studio closed its doors, and the movie became infamous as a result.

Titan A.E. Begins In 3028

Titan A.E. tells the story of a young man named Cale Tucker (Matt Damon) who is tasked with saving humanity after a hostile alien species destroys Earth.

The movie begins in 3028 when The Titan Project becomes the target of a hostile alien race called the Drej. Made of pure energy, the aliens fear that the ambitious Earthly undertaking will allow humans to challenge their power.

Leaving In The Titan

The Drej eventually launch a massive attack on Earth, forcing humans to evacuate the planet. Amid the chaos, Professor Sam Tucker (Ron Perlman) leaves his son Cale with his alien friend Tek (Tone Loc).

Before leaving in the Titan spaceship, Sam gives Cale a gold ring and tells him that as long as he wears it, there will be hope for humanity.

Over a decade later, Titan A.E. finds the surviving humans living as refugees without a home planet.

Meanwhile, Cale has become jaded and works in a space station salvage yard. Former military officer and trusted companion of Cale’s father, Joseph Korso (Bill Pullman), finds Cale and reveals that the whereabouts of the Titan are hidden in his ring. 

Becoming Fast Friends

Upon activating it, a holographic map opens. Korso asks Cale to accompany his crew to Valkyrie so they can search for the Titan together.

Cale agrees and becomes fast friends with pilot Akima Kunimoto (Drew Barrymore) and three alien crew members, including first mate Preed (Nathan Lane), weapons officer Stith (Janeane Garofalo), and scientist Gune (John Leguizamo).

Using Cale’s map, they reach the planet Sesharrim, where the Gaoul reveals the Titan’s location. But everything is not as it seems in Titan A.E., as the map often changes. The crew of the Valkyrie is also faced with various challenges, including a kidnapping and a shocking betrayal that takes the story to a new level.

Originally A Live-Action Plan

Originally planned as a live-action movie named “Planet Ice,” Titan A.E. was brought to life as an animated feature due to the high costs of the visuals.

Ben Edlund penned the initial script, with John August handling re-writes. With a budget of $55 million and 19 months to complete, much of the animation was computer-generated, with traditional animation used for the main characters.

Fox Animation Studios Closes

Despite various setbacks, like studio cutbacks and executive changes, the film was released in 2000.

However, the closure of Fox Animation Studios shortly after hindered its promotion and distribution. In fact, cutbacks at the studio during the making of Titan A.E. were largely responsible for the movie underperforming. It kind of all went wrong at once here.

Still, Titan A.E. made almost $9.4 million in its opening weekend, ranking fifth behind other popular films. However, its audience dropped by 60 percent the following weekend.

Streaming Titan A.E.

Titan A.E. received mixed reviews from critics and currently holds a 50 percent approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes alongside a 61 percent audience score.

The movie’s DVD release featured extras like commentary by the directors, deleted scenes, and a music video. Titan A.E. is available via various video-on-demand platforms such as Amazon Prime VideoApple TV+, and Google Play Store.