The Pagemaster combines real life with CG and traditional animation to create a wonderful adventure film that takes a boy who's afraid of the world and turn him into a swashbuckling adventure seeker.
This film may very well be one of the last films to use traditional animation (pen and paper, cell, etc.) and brought forth a spectacular team in order to pull it off. The live action comes from Macaulay Culkin (at the height of his career) and Christopher Lloyd so both are fantastic. The CG, while dated by todays standards, still looks quite good and was created from scratch having to create and program new materials in order to blend the animation with the live action. The traditional animation portions of the film brought forth animators who had worked on such films as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and An American Tail among others. Combined with the voice talents of the 2 live action stars, Frank Welker and everyone in Star Trek (Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart and Leonard Nimoy), The Pagemaster does a lot right.
Unfortunately the story, while having the right idea, is a little simple. The adventure pulls from some of the classic tales and for adults these should be easy to figure out (often the name is included in the dialogue somewhere) but for children, they might not understand the significance of each sequence. While this doesn't make the film bad, I do think having some knowledge of the stories helps the film. With no knowledge, this film turns into sequence after sequence of mini adventures where there never really is any sense of danger or difficulty.
There is a weird misplaced musical montage 3/4 of the way through the film. While I understand their desire to include a theme song that they can use to sell the film, it felt out of place considering the lack of songs through the rest of the film.
I would have liked The Pagemaster to have been a little longer and had it given more emphasis on danger and the evils Culkin's character had to face but as this is for kids and already took 3 years to make (traditional animation isn't quick) I understand the need to cut it short. Part Wizard of Oz, The Pagemaster is an often forgotten film that while not fantastic or very memorable, doesn't deserve to be forgotten.