Atlantis: The Lost Empire

View Date: June 16th, 2001

Cast (voices of):

Michael J. Fox Milo Thatch 
Jim Varney Cookie
Cree Summer Princess Kida
James Garner Commander Lyle T. Rourke 
Claudia Christian Helga Sinclair 
John Mahoney Preston B. Whitmore 
Corey Burton Gaetan Moliere ("The Mole") 
Phil Morris Dr. Joshua Sweet 
Leonard Nimoy King of Atlantis 
Don Novello Vincenzo Santorini 
Jacqueline Obradors Audrey Ramirez 
Florence Stanley Mrs.  Packard 

Written by: (screenplay) Tab Murphy and  Joss Whedon (story) Bryce Zabel and Jackie Zabel

Directed by: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Atlantis: The Lost Empire could be subtitled Disney’s finally grows up.  With their latest effort, the studio that paved the way for the recent batch of animated films, that have strayed from the typical cartoon faire and ventured into more serious ground, finally moves into that realm of competition.  This effort shows that they can venture away from the formulaic style that established them, and create a film with great animation, an effective story, intelligent dialogue and universal appeal.  There are scantily clad characters, both men and women, that would never have appeared in previous efforts, and the lack of a cutesy sidekick and any song and dance numbers, show that indeed the maturation of the groundbreakers has begun.  While Atlantis can’t help but have a few of the studios typical touches, the overall effect works and shows that the leader is definitely keeping up with the times. 

Milo Thatch (Fox) is a museum employee with a dream; a dream that was fostered by his father, an explorer who searched for, but never found, the lost city of Atlantis.  Thatch’s desire is finally fulfilled when an old friend of his fathers offers him the chance to join a search party on a journey to find Atlantis.  The expedition is headed by a gung-ho military man and made up of an ensemble crew of characters including a young Hispanic mechanic, a burly black doctor, an over anxious yet sensitive, Italian explosive expert and the closest thing to an annoying cute character, a French digger with an obsession for dirt.  Throw in a sarcastic radio operator and a backwoods cook, and you have what may the first ensemble cast in an animated film.  Once they arrive in Atlantis, the initial view of which is one of many stunning visuals, they meet the residents including Kida, a beautiful young Atlantian and her father, who are at first hesitant of the newcomers, but come to accept them, once they learn that Thatch is the possessor of a book from their past, and is the only one that can read their ancient language.  The story takes a turn, as expected, so that there can be a good guy/bad guy battle as conclusion, and of course there has to be an element of a love story, between Thatch and Kida, but all of these are forgivable in the grand scheme of the final product, which is definitely pleasant on the eyes. 

I had a bit of a hard time getting over Fox as Thatch, since his voice is so familiar and recognizable.  But after awhile, as is usually the case, the faces behind the voices become secondary to just enjoying the experience.  Garner, Mahoney, Nimoy, Summer, Varney, and some relative unknowns put a playful exuberance into the voicing of their characters, aided of course by a script that teeters on silliness at times, but never succumbs to it.

Ultimately, Atlantis shows that Disney will continue to have a say and set the standard by which movies of this type will be made.  It appeared that as DreamWorks animation department finally got their legs under them, that someone may actually be making a run at the kings, but with Atlantis, Disney has fired back with a watery, but powerful salvo.  They has always had the potential to do something like Atlantis, as they have been slowly weaning themselves away from their typical films, but one thing remains unchanged, the fact that they still, and always will, have the best animation department in the business.  While the initial views that I had of Atlantis seemed a bit shoddy, it turns out; they were just hiding their best for revelation in the film.  The underwater scenes with ship, and most panoramic shots of Atlantis, outside of the palace, as well as inside, are truly breathtaking and must be seen to be appreciated.  As animated films movie more towards realism, Disney shows that they may have been slow out of the gate, but will definitely have some say as this next century progresses. ($$$$ out of $$$$$)

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