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Atlantis: The Lost Empire (June 3, 2001)

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DVD Review


Milo J. Thatch is certain that Atlantis exists. He receives the Shepherd’s Journal and knows that he can find it. With the help of a wealthy entrepeneur and a ship load of help, he does his best to do so.



WORKING TITLE: Atlantis: 2000
GENRE: Adventure (Animated)
TAGLINE: Atlantis is Wating…
SETTING: Atlantis

  • USA 3 June 2001 (premiere)
  • USA 8 June 2001 (Los Angeles, California)
  • USA 8 June 2001 (New York City, New York)
  • Singapore 14 June 2001
  • Guatemala 15 June 2001
  • USA 15 June 2001
  • Malaysia 21 June 2001
  • Colombia 22 June 2001
  • Venezuela 27 June 2001
  • Brazil 29 June 2001
  • Philippines 4 July 2001
  • Chile 5 July 2001
  • Israel 5 July 2001
  • Mexico 6 July 2001
  • Argentina 10 July 2001 (premiere)
  • Argentina 12 July 2001
  • Hong Kong 12 July 2001
  • Peru 12 July 2001
  • South Korea 14 July 2001
  • Panama 20 July 2001
  • Netherlands 13 September 2001 (Film by the Sea Film Festival)
  • New Zealand 13 September 2001
  • Australia 20 September 2001
  • UK 19 October 2001
  • Norway 21 October 2001 (Bergen International Film Festival)
  • Japan 4 November 2001 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
  • Czech Republic 8 November 2001
  • Denmark 9 November 2001 (Danish dubbed version)
  • Norway 9 November 2001
  • Sweden 9 November 2001
  • Netherlands 15 November 2001
  • Slovenia 15 November 2001
  • Poland 23 November 2001
  • Spain 23 November 2001
  • Belgium 28 November 2001
  • France 28 November 2001
  • Hungary 29 November 2001
  • Germany 6 December 2001
  • Italy 6 December 2001
  • Switzerland 6 December 2001 (German speaking region)
  • Bulgaria 7 December 2001
  • Greece 7 December 2001
  • Japan 8 December 2001
  • Estonia 14 December 2001
  • Iceland 21 December 2001
  • Russia 21 December 2001
  • Egypt 23 January 2002
  • Turkey 8 February 2002

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes; 1 hour 40 minutes
SNEAK PREVIEW (JUNE 10, 2001) GROSS: $329,011 (on 2 screens)
TOTAL GROSS USA: $84,052,762


WRITER: Tab Murphy
DIRECTOR: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
PRODUCER: Don Hahn, Kendra Holland
EDITOR: Ellen Keneshea
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mike Mignola, David Goetz
ORIGINAL MUSIC BY: James Newton Howard
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Walt Disney Productions
DISTRIBUTOR: Bunea Vista Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures



Milo James Thatch….Michael J. Fox
Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke…James Garner
Princess ‘Kida’ Kidagakash…Cree Summer
Vincenzo ‘Vinnie’ Santorini…Don Novello
Helga Katrina Sinclair…Claudia Christian
Doctor Johsua Strongbear Sweet…Phil Morris
Audrey Rocio Ramirez…Jacqueline Obradors
Wilhelmina Bertha Packard…Florence Stanley
Preston B. Whitmore…John Mahoney
‘Cookie’ Farnsworth…Jim Varney
King Kashekim Nedakh…Leonard Nimoy
Gaetan ‘Mole’ Moliere…Corey Burton
Fenton Q. Harcourt…David Ogden Stiers
Additional Voices…Jim Cummings, Pat Fraley


Where the Dream Takes You…James Newton Howard, Dianne Warren…Mya
Atlantis 2002…Unknown…No Angels and Donovan (For the German release of the movie)



The Annie Awards, 2001

NOMINEE: Marlon West
CATEGORY: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Effects in an Animated Feature
RESULTS: NominatedNOMINEE: James Newton Howard

CATEGORY: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Musical Score in an Animated Feature
RESULTS: NominatedNOMINEE: David Goetz

CATEGORY: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Production Design in an Animated Feature
RESULTS: NominatedNOMINEE: Chris Ure

CATEGORY: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Storyboarding in an Animated Feature
RESULTS: NominatedNOMINEE: Florence Stanley

CATEGORY: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer
RESULTS: Nominated

NOMINEE: Leonard Nimoy
CATEGORY: Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Male Performer
RESULTS: Nominated

Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards (AKA The Golden Reel Awards), 2002

NOMINEE: Sound Department
CATEGORY: Best Sound Editing for an Animated Film, Foreign or Domestic

The Online Film Critics Awards, 2002

NOMINEE: Atlantis: The Lost Empire
CATEGORY: Best Animated Feature Film
RESULTS: Nominated

The World Soundtrack Awards, 2001

NOMINEE: James Newton Howard & Dianne Warren
CATEGORY: Best Original Song Written for Film: “Where the Dream Takes You”
RESULTS: Nominated

The Young Artist Awards, 2002

NOMINEE: Atlantis: The Lost Empire
CATEGORY: Best Family Feature Film: Animation
RESULTS: Nominated



Sequels and Spin-Offs

Followed by Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003) (Straight to Video) – This was actually the first three episodes of a planned TV series titled “The Voyage to Atlantis: The Lost Empire”

Video Game: Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Different Versions – AKA Censorship

On TV airings, scenes of Mrs. Packard smoking are cut.


Carrots. Why is there always carrots? I didn’t even eat carrots.

–Milo J. Thatch

The men need the four basic food groups.

I got your four basic food groups: Beans, Bacon, Whiskey and Lard.

–Helga Sinclair and Cookie

Hey, you dropped your d-dy-dy-dynamite. Heh heh. What all have you got in there?

Oh, eh, gunpowder, nitroglycerin, notepads, fuses, wicks, glue and paper clips. Big ones. You know, just, uh, office supplies.

–Milo J. Thatch and Vinnie Santorini


  • Michael J. Fox was offered the lead voice-over parts from both Atlantis: The Lost Empire and 20th Century Fox’s Titan A.E. Reportedly, he let his son Sam decide which film he would do.
  • Jim Varney (Cookie) died just before finishing the film. The “I ain’t so good at speechifying” line near the end is the only line not spoken by Varney. Steve Barr did the voice for that scene.
  • The Leviathan Graveyard contains ships from every Disney movie that had a ship.
  • One of the Gargoyles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) is in Whitmore’s library.
  • Marc Okrand, who created the Atlantean language, also created the Vulcan and Klingon languages for the “Star Trek” series.
  • Originally, the final battle was to be only on land. The creators had decided put the action in the air to create a more dramatic sequence.
  • When the surface-dwellers first meet the Atlanteans, the Atlanteans address them in French, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, German, Greek, Chinese, and Taiwanese. Milo speaks to them in Atlantean, Latin and French.
  • At the tattoo parlor in the Atlantean city, there is a sign that says “EAT FISH”.
  • First Disney animated film since The Black Cauldron (1985) to be given a “PG” rating by the MPAA.
  • One of the character names, Santorini, is also the name of an ancient volcano in the Mediterranean that erupted with many times the force of Mt. Vesuvius (and predated it by many centuries), devastated an early civilization, and may have been an origin of the Atlantean legend.
  • Because the movie was planned out as an action/adventure, the production crew wore T-shirts to work that read “ATLANTIS – Fewer songs, more explosions”.
  • After Milo gets seasick on the first ship, his line, “Carrots? Why are there always carrots? I didn’t even eat carrots!” was ad-libbed by Michael J. Fox.
  • Lloyd Bridges was originally cast as Whitmore, but he died shortly after production began.

Goofs: Factual Errors

When Milo is rehearsing his proposal in the museum basement, he rubs against the chalkboard and wipes the map he drew onto his clothes. He then stands in front of the chalkboard and the chalk map on his clothes matches the missing part of the map, when in fact it should be a mirror image.

Goof: Continuity

In the beginning where Milo is leaving the basement to go up for his meeting, he picks up all his maps, and has them under one arm, but then when he picks up the picture of his grandfather, his hands are completely free, arms empty.

When the travelers first arrive at Atlantis, they all step in front of the large “digger” machine to get a better look at the city. Then we see a wide shot of the city and travelers and the digger is nowhere to be found.

Entertainment References (Link to IMDB)

Film Reviews

Thursday June 21, 2001: Flak Magazine – Andy Ross

Competition has always been a driving force behind increased quality. For Disney’s feature-length animation department, this was once only hypothetical, but is quickly becoming a scary reality. Dreamworks’s Prince of Egypt, though imperfect, was not a miss, but a warning shot in the war to innovate techniques and expand audiences. After prodding, Disney shot back with the visually invigorating Tarzan and the retooled-for-laughs The Emperor’s New Groove. But they must have seen that Happy Meal-friendly sidekicks and Oscar-friendly, aging-white-pop-star songs were a drag upon both those movies. And so, stripped of those distractions, Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire hits theaters with a much more direct blow.To say that Atlantis is a counter-strike to Dreamworks’s Shrek is a misread on the part of many entertainment journalists. Shrek’s fairy tale targets the audience of children and their parents that Disney has sown and nurtured since The Little Mermaid. Now, however, Disney has sidestepped that former audience in favor of adolescents and twentysomethings with Atlantis. Parents who take small children might be upset at the crying stemming from Atlantis’ well-earned PG rating — by my count, 191 sailors die in dozens of explosions. This seriousness of tone, along with strikingly similar themes of exploration and betrayal, suggests the movie is a response to the sci-fi themes and polished look of Fox’s Titan A.E.. True, Atlantis would have been in production for two to three years before Titan A.E. came out, but remember the Aesop’s fable of Antz and A Bug’s Life.Atlantis’ plot is a solid one, and to give away any more than the previews do would be a disservice. A young linguist/cartographer joins an underwater expedition to find the lost city, continuing the path his grandfather began. Along the way is a series of adventures, during wheich he befriends both the ragtag crew and, upon finding Atlantis, a beautiful native. However droll this may sound, by the climax, as the hero cries, “We’re going to rescue the princess, we’re going to save Atlantis, or we’re going to die trying!” the words have the poignancy created by the rest of the film to carry the audience along with him.

The excellent voice casting is key to this emotional force. In its “making of” documentary for The Jungle Book, Disney admits discovering that recognizable star voices serve as a shortcut for creating recognizable characters — Phil Harris made Baloo sound immediately approachable yet wise, and King Louie might as well have been the real Louis Prima. Since then, animated movies have cast big stars not only for their name recognition but also to save precious character development time. Michael J. Fox, with his slightly cracking voice and tendency to over-inflect, instantly makes Atlantis’s hero, Milo Thatch, the underdog of his Back to the Future days. Joining him, James Garner and Leonard Nimoy, with their characters of the expedition’s captain and the Atlantian king, stand as pillars; wise with experience, yet dangerous. Don Novello and Jim Varney (in his final performance) make their new comic roles recall their old ones — respectively, Father Guido Sarducci and Ernest P. Worrell.

These characters deliver lines that impress with their literacy. The movie goes a little overboard with its repeated use of Plato’s discussion of Atlantis, but makes up for it with the more obscure reference to the biblical liviathan. A wonderfully subtle cameo of coelacanths in the giant fish tank of the expedition’s financier also showcases this intelligence. Most interesting, however, are the lines left unexplained to younger audiences. Not only are subtitles used for Atlantian speech, but the screenwriting is unafraid to let a line like “P. T. Barnum was right” pass without further explanation. These touches would be refreshing to see in any film, let alone an animated one.

And what an animated movie it is. As its ad campaign suggests, the movie’s striking visuals carry it. The animation is stylized yet sweeping, and while this can be impressive to the point of distraction, the movie is clearly animated with intent to amaze. Mostly it works, with its scenes of swarming fireflies or spinning, glowing masks. But sometimes the innovative techniques detract from the narrative. Perhaps the over-the-shoulder flying shots pioneered for Tarzan will become so commonplace that they will blend in better with a story. Now, however, they just seem like the heir to the “I’m barreling straight at you while I outrun this explosion!” scene.

What’s truly impressive, however, is the movie’s art direction, which is a wonderful amalgamation of others’ work. (In fact, the influence of other animation is too much for some to ignore. Atlantis borrows most heavily from the “Dinotopia” books by James Gurney. The mechanized sea-creature vehicles and the layout of the discovered city both seem to directly refer to those works. The Leviathan moves predatorily through the water like its counterparts in The Matrix. Upon first introduction, the Atlantians skirt across the screen, knived and masked in similar fashion to Princess Mononoke. And the perfect final touch is the influence of Mike Mignola, artist and scribe of the “Hellboy” comics. As a production designer for the film, he supplied both his wonderful angular designs and his grasp of mythic iconography to the city and its inhabitants.

If indeed Atlantis is a response to Titan A.E., it certainly has returned a solid hit. The animation is just as good, if not better, for its spectacle. The art design pulls together great ideas from varied sources. The voice casting is dead-on. The writing is convincing and reaches for a literate (in both senses of the term) audience. If, as some have said, Atlantis is Disney’s contention for the newly-added Academy Award for feature-length animation, it should soundly beat out the only pleasant Shrek. As they give their acceptance speech, however, they have a lot of thank yous to give other animators.

Monday June 18, 2001: Ain’t it Cool News – Harry Knowles

ATLANTIS reminds me of THE BLACK CAULDRON in a lot of ways. It succeeds better as a film, but is still a confused movie wanting to be too many things to too many people to be great at any one thing.I applaud Disney’s attempt to leave the musical comedy fable as their sole source of animated storytelling, but in this… their first venture into straight adventure… though TARZAN was a toe in the water. However, they still don’t exhibit faith in committing to the genre.Now, I’m well aware of the controversy over the character designs and concepts for the film allegedly being ripped off from a couple of different anime films, but since I’ve never seen either of the films in question, I am not going to comment on it. When I asked Robogeek about it, who had seen all the material in question, he basically said there were similarities, but basically it was bullshit.

My problem is that the character designs in the film are largely uninvolving and erratic. The cook and the communications lady and the old coot that financed the expedition… well, they’re all from an entirely different film. The Mole is from yet another style animated film. The Hispanic mechanic… from a Hernandez Brothers comix. All the other characters, they are stylistically similar in terms of rules of animation. They look ‘of the same universe’.

The problem that these jarring stylistic characters bring is that you feel knocked out of the story. Basically they are telling us an adventure story… Now imagine in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK or GUNS OF NAVARONE if suddenly you had a character played totally for laughs by Martin Short or Gilbert Gottfried. Or in GUNS OF NAVARONE’s sake… imagine if suddenly the David Niven character had been played by JERRY LEWIS.

All of a sudden these epic films would be unbalanced and unhinged.

So why did Disney do it? Because they felt that they may have been losing the under 6 audience. Well…. I saw this film in an afternoon Saturday screening here in Austin with an audience made up of parents and their children…. All ages. Sitting next to me was a little boy about age 6 and on the other side of his mother was a girl age 4 or so. The moments in the film that held them in utter silence? The action and adventure. During those scenes occasionally I’d here, “Whoa,” uttered under their breath… Believe it or not, they seemed to be tossing in their seats a bit when the cook or mole were on screen. These kids were interested, as was I, in the story of Milo, his co-adventurers and the Atlanteans. However, the story was continually interrupted with unnecessary below the bar humor that left much to be desired.

Did I like the film, yes… Did I love it, no. Overall the story was missing a punch and focus. It was definitely many times better than several of the recent Disney efforts… and had they had faith in the straight up adventure the film could have been great… but instead of using their time to further develop the characters and the story, they decided to be distracted by GAGS and LOW HUMOR, which was… like several of the characters… from another film all together.

What is great about the film? That is was adventure fantasy… that characters died, that characters were not PC, that the story took some risks… but it just didn’t follow through all the way.

Next time I highly recommend that Disney get stronger base material to work with… a work of Burroughs, Alex Raymond, Jules Verne, Conan Doyle, Ray Bradbury or one of the like and base a full on adventure on a great literary adventure story of scale and tell it straight…

However, I fear that the corporate environment at Disney is such that doing something new without the familiar is something that can’t be done. Why? Too many in the executive branch of Disney Animation can see only that which has worked before, and whenever something new is tried, they fall back… rely on that which they know. Comedy and gags. Children can be kept in rapt attention by adventure. Don’t believe it? Fine. Someone, somewhere one day will… and that movie is the one I’m waiting to see.

ATLANTIS is miles better than TOMB RAIDER and it is a tragedy that so many at Disney will lose their jobs because the marketing on ATLANTIS was lackluster and that the studio built no buzz in advance. Hopefully, we will see more in this direction… but right now Disney is where they were when BLACK CAULDRON was released… between directions… adhering to the past and striving for the future… First you must let go and boldly explore new territory with freshness. Which is what I was hoping was going to be done here.

This was a fun film that missed being great by quite a margin… but is a stepping stone to something new and great for this company… if they pursue it.

Friday June 8, 2001:

IN SHORT: A Verne-tastic visual spectacular with, we think, a nod to King Kirby. [Rated PG for action violence. 100 minutes]It used to be that just the thought of a great adventure, mixed with intimations of danger and thrills, was enough to make a great adventure. That you could make grander and/or scarier images in your own head was one of the reasons that great adventure writers like Jules Verne succeeded. They laid out the path and your brain filled in the pictures. Big screen movies have been trying to match that ever since and, the bigger the computers get, the bigger the live action effects get.Why all that when we’re writing about an animated film? It’s because pictures is pictures and the animation produced for this flick is among the best looking ‘toons we’ve seen come out of the Disney starting blocks. That shouldn’t have surprised us. Atlantis is helmed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise , who last launched The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like Hunchback, there’s an annoying supporting character that exists for the kidlets. Nothing that gets in the way of enjoying the movie.

We’re stuck in a quandary here, folks. Telling you all the really good stuff would spoil the thrill of the adventure … and the only thing that didn’t work well for us is going to make it sound like we didn’t like Atlantis, which is not the case. To be concise, Atlantis is about as family friendly as you can get, without being impossible for the adults to sit through or too cerebral for the kidlets.

As we all “know,” the continent of Atlantis was an island that lay, before the Great Flood, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Men have searched for its ruins for years and now — now being 1914 — the bold adventurer Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) is determined to pick up where his grandfather left off. That is, if his superiors at the museum where he works as an expert in dead languages will finance his plans. His superiors would prefer that he stick to his work and continue to fix the boiler, when it breaks.

Enter gazillionaire Preston B. Whitmore ( John Mahoney ), who traveled with Milo’s grandfather and provides the key — an ancient book called the Shepherd’s Journal — and the financing to begin the search. Commander Rourke ( James Garner ) is the military man in charge and the intrepid crew includes his right hand enforcer Helga ( Claudia Christian ), munitions man Vinny Santorini ( Don Novello ), medical whiz Dr. Sweet ( Phil Morris ), Cookie the Cook ( Jim Varney ), excavator extraordinaire Gaetan “Mole” Moliere ( Corey Burton ), and chief mechanic Audrey Ramirez (Jacqueline Obradors). Their ship carries of hundreds of extra workers and tons of heavy duty drilling and truck-type equipment, all perfectly disposable when it comes to facing the terrors and hazards of the deep. All, for the most part, kept offscreen so you won’t have to explain what happened to them to any kids you’ll bring. You’ll know. One for the grownups. It’s a perfectly good balancing act. One which is hard to do when you need to balance adult viewing expectations with the need to keep the kidlets happy.

That story moves quickly along as our explorers track the trail to what they expect to be the ruins of Atlantis. We’ll leave out the obstacles they face on that journey just to note that when the ruins are found, they are not ruins at all. There’s a living, cloistered society that hasn’t had “human” contact in several millennia still alive, led by a King ( Leonard Nimoy ) who would prefer to see his visitors killed on the spot. Saving their lives is the Princess Kida ( Cree Summer ), for reasons of her own. As for the plot twist that comes next, again one for the adults, that is something you may have to explain to the bigger kidlets. Said twist passes quickly amidst a barrage of artistic special effects. That’s the problem with trying to create in pictures something that is beyond the scope of imagination, in this case the technology of a civilization that was thousands of years advanced when it vanished from the face of the earth. Atlantis goes heavy on the pictures which will keep the tots enthralled. Heck, we love animation. We loved looking at the pictures but the grownup brain didn’t get snagged by what should have been the wonder of it all.

That didn’t stop us from going back to watch it again.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Atlantis, he would have paid . . .


On that second view, in an ending we won’t give away, we thought to ourselves how much the visuals looked liked something Jack Kirby did at about the time he was creating his “Fourth World”. It’s a strictly visual impression and one which means nothing if you don’t know the world of comics and toons. We don’t know if the nod is deliberate or not, but the pix look Kirby-esque enough to make us think it is so.

Monday June 18, 2001: – Eugene Kopman

Disney has done it again. I don’t know how, but they made another great, animated adventure. This is not a typical Disney summer movie; for one, it’s not a musical. The only song in the movie comes during the credits and is performed by Mya.Now the story: Plato, in 360 B.C., said, “in a single day and night of misfortune the island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea.” Milo Thatch (voice by Michael J. Fox), a specialist in ancient and modern languages, dreams of finding it. Milo believes that the only was to find Atlantis is to acquire a journal that actually had all the maps and details to Atlantis. After many unsuccessful proposals to fund his expedition by a museum, an old friend of his grandfather’s, Preston P. Whitmore (John Mahoney), recruits Milo to head up the expedition to Atlantis. To Milo’s surprise, Whitmore gives him the journal, which was actually found a long time ago by Milo’s grandfather. Whitmore also supplies Milo with the finest crew around, including Commander Lyle T. Rourke (James Garner), explosives expert Vinny Santorini (Don Novello – a.k.a. Father Guido Sarducci), “Cookie” Farnsworth (Jim Varney), and telephone operator Wilhelmina Packard (Florence Stanley) — a character who in my opinion got the biggest laughs in the film.Milo leads everyone to Atlantis, but in the process, they lose their main ship and a lot of men to a sea creature in a beautifully animated scene. Atlantis is also beautifully imagined as put on paper. It is, pretty much, heaven. Milo and the gang meet Princess Kida (Cree Summer), who shows them the island and introduces them to her father, King Kashekim Nedakh (Leonard Nimoy), who doesn’t want visitors, but let’s them stay one night. Milo and Kida strike a romance and Kida tells Milo that Atlantis is dying because it’s losing it power. By myth, Atlantis possessed this power source that let the Atlantians have a stronger civilization then any other countries of the time. Milo promises to help Kida save Atlantis.

But wait, who is the villain? If you are familiar with Disney movies, you know, there is a villain. For example, The Lion King had Scar; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs had the Queen/Witch. In Atlantis, the story does not reveal the villain until more than half-way through the movie. It is also a nice twist in the story — that is why I am not saying another word.

Atlantis is a beautiful film for both kids and adults, standing up there with Disney’s Tarzan, which I thought was very close to the greatness of The Lion King. Atlantis is a beautifully animated movie with a very good story line and great voice-over work. I guess this summer’s best films so far are not live action; along with Shrek, Atlantis is my choice for a summer movie at this point.

Note: Another bone to pick the ratings committee. This movie does not deserve a PG rating. Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, another very good one, had much violence and sexual innuendo, but got a G. The movie had a song about lust, for God’s sake. I am actually anti-ratings, but if you have a system, stick to it. Give an R to What’s the Worst the Could Happen? and Little Nicky, they deserved it, but Atlantis getting a PG is just wrong.

Saturday June 16, 2001: CNN – Paul Clinton

Design wonderful, script pedestrian
Review: ‘Atlantis’ a place that’s nothing special(CNN) — Blending digital with traditional hand-drawn effects, “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” is an action-filled adventure flick that will undoubtedly appeal to younger audiences. However, it doesn’t ascend to the lofty heights achieved by other Disney classics, where the film enchants adults as much as it does children.”Atlantis” certainly has a pedigree. It was created by the team of producer Don Hahn and directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, who made “Beauty and the Beast” (1991) and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996). The cast of voices is also terrific, including those of Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Leonard Nimoy, David Ogden Stiers, John Mahoney, the late actor and comedian Jim Varney, and veteran voice-over actress Cree Summer.But even with all that, “Atlantis” never soars.The story was inspired by the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis. The time is 1914. At the center of the story is a bespectacled naive museum cartographer/linguistics expert, Milo Thatch (Fox). He’s convinced, based on stories from his eccentric grandfather, that Atlantis actually existed, and he is determined to prove it. With the help of a reclusive billionaire (Mahoney), Thatch embarks on his search in the company of Commander Rourke (Garner) and his band of mercurial misfits.

Traveling in Ulysses, a state-of-the-art — for the time — submarine, Thatch is armed with a long-lost journal that gives clues to the location of the fabled place. Along the way, Thatch and his gang battle a gigantic mechanical lobster — yes, a lobster — before finally reaching their goal.

But instead of discovering empty ancient ruins, Thatch and company find a lost city where the inhabitants have stayed alive for centuries surviving with the help of powerful (and healing) crystals. Of course, in this city there is a princess (Summer). And of course, Thatch falls in love with her.

But suddenly, Rourke and his men turn on Thatch and attempt to steal the powerful crystals — and the princess. Yadda, yadda, yadda — the battle between good and evil begins.

“Atlantis” is the first pairing of Disney with animator Mike Mignola (“Hellboy,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”). His flat graphic style, blended with Disney’s traditional animation, is being called “Dis-nola” by the studio. Mignola likes bold designs and works well with shadows and silhouettes, and all his characters have very angular faces. Everything in the film has a vaguely Southeast Asian feel to it, from the city to the costumes to the landscape. The animators really have created a whole new world.

Even a language was designed for the people of Atlantis. Linguistics expert Marc Okland, who also made up the Vulcan language for “Star Trek,” came up with the Atlantean vocabulary and a corresponding 29-letter alphabet.

The studio calls the blending of Mike Mignola’s flat graphic style with Disney’s tradional animation “Dis-nola”

Yes, Disney’s attention to detail continues to be amazing. But the script by Tab Murphy (“Tarzan,” 1999) is predictable and pedestrian, with only occasionally witty dialogue sprinkled here and there.

“Atlantis” is good, and kids will love it, but it doesn’t achieve greatness. It’s beginning to look like the exit of Jeffrey Katzenberg — who left Disney to form DreamWorks with Steven Speilberg and David Geffen — was the loss of more then just a mere “suit.” DreamWorks’ latest animated film, “Shrek” — Katzenberg’s baby — contains the type of imaginative material that allows a movie to become magic for the whole family. “Atlantis” doesn’t.

“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” opens nationwide Friday and is rated PG.

Saturday June 16, 2001: CNN – Jamie Allen

Journey to ‘Atlantis’ ‘a roller coaster ride’ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Don Hahn, the producer of the new Disney animated adventure “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and an artistic force at the studio for two decades, admits that in a world of technological advances, the secret to making a good animated film comes down to one simple element: the ability to tell a good story.He realized this when he was executive producer on “The Emperor’s New Groove” (2000). He’d come home from work and pitch the ever-changing story line to his young daughter, who’s now 9.

“Every night I’d come home and say, ‘OK, try this: There’s this prince that’s turned into a llama and he’s this vain, spoiled guy,'” recalled Hahn during a recent “Atlantis” publicity tour in Atlanta. “And she’d say, ‘Oh, that’s good.’ And the next night, after the story would change, I’d say, ‘OK, now the llama is kind of like this.'”

Hahn finds nothing out of the ordinary with basing productions costing millions of dollars on his daughter’s varying opinions.

“That’s all we’re doing anyway” when we’re making movies, he said. “You’re setting a child on your knee and reading them a story. ‘Atlantis’ happens to be a big roller coaster ride of a story.”

‘A broad-based adventure’

“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” is also a trip into the past and the future. It’s based just before the first World War, and it follows a linguist named Milo (voiced by Michael J. Fox) and an archeological team as they dig their way to the lost city of Atlantis, a society that’s not only still alive, but still possessing technology that dwarfs anything seen today, thousand of years after myths and scientific hypothesis tells us it sank into the sea.

When the “Atlantis” archeological team reveals its true plans — to steal the Atlantis power source and leave them for dead — Milo must come to the rescue. There’s also a love interest for Milo — Princess Kida, voiced by Cree Summer.

“We just wanted to make it a broad-based adventure film that everyone could enjoy,” said Kirk Wise, co-director of “Atlantis.”

While many popular animated films these days use computer animation — DreamWork’s “Shrek,” in fact, has been a top grosser this summer — “Atlantis” uses old-school animation to bring the characters to life.

It’s a painstaking process, and depending on whom you talk to, the experience of the creators is completely different. The producer, the director, and the animator have completely differently version of the creation of “Atlantis.”

“You stay at a little cubicle day after day, month after month, year after year,” says John Pomeroy, the lead animator on the project and the one in charge of Milo.

‘Exhausted and bruised’

It took four years to make “Atlantis,” but it was worth the hard work and wait, said Pomeroy.

“Our reward is when we get to sit in the halls of the dark theater amongst a crowd and watch a direct reaction of our work.”

Meanwhile, Wise spends an energetic day at the front of the battle lines.

“On Mondays, for instance, you’d find me with a red Radio Flyer outside my office, stacked about four feet high with scenes I had to hand out to animators,” explained Wise. “And the line of animators stretches out into the hallway. And they would come in individually, and we would open up the scene and look at the layout and start talking about the acting and the choreography and the blocking of the shot.

“Nine times out of ten, if you opened my door on any given day you might find me standing on a table and jumping off and rolling onto the floor to illustrate how Milo should be thrown from the truck when it explodes.

“By noon, I would be exhausted and bruised,” he said.

And Hahn says his producing duties take on psychotherapy responsibilities.

“It’s 350 egos and people who have tremendous artistic drive and aspiration and passion,” he said. “And you have to herd those calves into a little niche. That’s what I do all day long.”

‘An insane occupation’

The work environment is intense, but it’s also a fun time at Disney’s studios. Hahn tells of the animator who arrived to work one day with his Cadillac covered with Q-tips. And then there was the time another worker dressed up as a gorilla to pass out candy.

And then there are the recording sessions, working with actors like Fox and James Garner and Leonard Nimoy, who also voice characters in the movie.

Hahn praised Fox in his lead role.

“Michael is a great actor with a lot of range and could not only give us a lot of warmth and heroism, but could give us a lot of comedy, because he was a great improviser,” said Hahn.

Now, it’s up to summer movie audiences to decide for themselves. Hahn, Wise and Pomeroy aren’t sure what Disney project they’ll work on next. But they’re certain of one thing: They work in a rewarding profession.

“I love the fact that I’m making a movie that’s going to make my nephew’s eyes bug out,” said Wise. “And considering I started this movie when he was four — I said to myself, when this movie is done, he’s going to be the perfect age.”

“Trying to make a movie one frame at a time is an insane occupation,” said Hahn. “But I think I have the best job in the world.”

Saturday June 16, 2001: Toronto Sun – LIZ BRAUN

Atlantis rises!
Disney animated adventure is the best in yearsDisney’s annual animated extravaganza is usually one summer movie the whole family can look forward to, and this year’s entry, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, is by far the best such film in years.Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise and produced by Don Hahn — the same team that created Beauty & The Beast — Atlantis is a fantastic, old-school adventure filled with danger, mystery, exotic beasts and locales and big events. And jokes.Michael J. Fox voices the lead character, Milo James Thatch, an earnest cartographer and linguist who toils away in a museum. He is convinced he has located the lost continent of Atlantis, a fabled land alleged to have sunk beneath the sea thousands of years ago.Milo gets funding for his exploration. With the money comes a team of experts, and together they set off to find Atlantis.

Well. Their adventure takes them underwater, past a bizarre mechanical monster crustacean, through eerie underground spaces and finally to Atlantis. Peril and risk — and jokes — are their constant companions.

Atlantis proves to be inhabited and beautiful.

Alas, Milo’s excitement quickly gives way to the terrors of betrayal. There are chases, fights, monsters, a beautiful and fascinating civilization to ponder, tidal waves, volcanoes, fireflies that actually set fire, a princess and a wise old king, crystal power, fantastic vehicles, a rather appealing rumination on the higher powers, and heaps of all the other eye-popping, high energy stuff that children love in a movie.

Along with Michael J. Fox, the characters are voiced by the late Jim Varney, who plays the crusty old cook; James Garner, who is the commander of the expedition; Leonard Nimoy as the king; Cree Summer as the princess, and, as head of most laughs, Don Novello as a demented exposions expert. Also in the vocal cast are Florence Stanley, Corey Burton, Claudia Christian, Phil Morris, Jacqueline Obradors, John Mahoney and David Ogden Stiers, and kudos all around.

Along with the usual cast of thousands of artists, animators, effects creators, 2D and 3D blenders and gawd-and-Sheridan-College-only-knows-who-else, Atlantis owes some of its general visual verve to the work of comic book artist Mike Mignola. The film has a distinctive look and great visual splendor and excitement. And it was shot in CinemaScope, which is very cool. Entirely lacking in catchy songs sung by warbly divas, free of sappy moments, and energized throughout in an oddly ’50s-style adventure sort of way, Atlantis is a sure bet for kids at the movies. Frankly, we’re lining up right now. (More on: Atlantis: The Lost Empire ).

Monday June 11, 2001: Toronto Sun – Bruce Kirkland

Disney sets course for Adventureland in animated flickHOLLYWOOD — The idea of an animated movie about the fabled lost city civilization of Atlantis has been kicking around the Disney cartoon arena for a decade.Nothing much was done until a bunch of the boys got together at a Mexican restaurant near the studios in Burbank and, over the chimichanga appetizer course and between burps, kickstarted the idea into action.

When it came time to sell the idea to Michael Eisner, Disney’s head honcho, and to Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew and the animation department’s independent guru, producer Don Hahn put it over in unique fashion by using a few Disneyland attractions as references.

According to Hahn now, this was his “boneheaded” pitch: “We’ve been to Fantasyland a lot. We’ve done a lot of fairytale musicals and been through the castle at the end of Main Street a few times. Let’s go down to the end of Main Street and turn left, because there’s this whole place there called Adventureland. Let’s make an Adventureland movie!”

The pitch worked. On Friday, Atlantis: The Lost Empire opens across North America as a big-screen animated adventure, the first of its kind for the studio.

Atlantis is animated in an intricate combination of computer-generated images and traditional hand-drawn cel animation — all in rare (for animation) anamorphic widescreen. It’s a gamble.

“Because we’ve done so many (movies with) fuzzy sidekicks and people breaking into songs, this is a big departure,” Hahn says. “So that represents a certain amount of risk and trepidation. Animation itself is not a genre. It’s a medium where you can do a lot of different genres.

“So the first question is, ‘Why animate that?’ And it’s a valid point these days. Ten years ago, you could have argued that animation does these things well — creatures, special effects — and live action doesn’t.

“Now, all those lines are grey and kind of blurred because, arguably, The Mummy Returns is an animated movie. In the end, you have to come back to storyline and character and come back to a level of fantasy in our movies that we think is interesting.”

In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, producer Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Trousdale — this trio was also responsible for Disney’s Beauty And The Beast and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame — give us a story set in 1914 that starts with a humble New York museum worker who aspires to be a famous archeologist like his grandfather.

Because he holds some of the keys to the secrets of Atlantis, he is recruited by a philanthropist to join an expedition searching for the legendary lost empire. As the expedition enters the bowels of the Earth, there are monsters and mythic creatures and battles and double-crosses and heroic acts and selfless moves and romance in the air.

Hahn says the spark was a passage in Jules Verne’s Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. “There was a part of that book where they passed through a dusty ruin that was Atlantis on the way to the centre of the Earth. We thought, well, why not just pluck that out and make that the nut of our movie?”

The voices behind the characters include Michael J. Fox as the young hero Milo, James Garner, Leonard Nimoy, Don Novello (famous as Father Guido Sarducci on Saturday Night Live), the late Jim Varney (in his last role), John Mahoney, David Ogden Stiers, Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), Phil Morris, Corey Burton and Cree Summer as the Atlantean princess-warrior Kida.

“To be part of a Disney classic, are you kidding?” Burton teases when asked if he is juiced about playing the half-black, half-Native American doctor on the expedition. “It’s the ultimate achievement. That we can continue to entertain long after we’ve gone is wonderful to me.”

Adds Christian: “To walk down that aisle of Toys R Us and see your little figure there — wow! It is very prestigious.”

“They’re watching the nuances, watching the way your face moves when you phrase words,” Fox says in a prepared video interview (he was unable to do print interviews). “So it’s really cool when you’re watching the animation and, while the character doesn’t necessarily look like me, he would move in ways I move. It’s a spooky feeling. You kind of feel that they’ve got your soul.”

John Pomeroy, the supervising animator in charge of Fox’s character, explains the process: “We try to take everything that makes up Michael J. Fox, his gestures, his attitude. We take this information as animators and we fuse it into the animation, trying to create a character that is believable for you, that is convincing for you, that will captivate you. Because we as filmmakers and artists want to engage you in that willing suspension of disbelief.”

Another key was the creation of a near-seamless blend of computer-generated images and hand-drawn images, according to co-directors Wise and Trousdale.

“Our contribution artistically,” says Wise, “was to make sure those two worlds merged so that the CG elements didn’t leap out at the audience and holler, ‘I’m computer generated!’ We wanted those two worlds to blend seamlessly. I think we get pretty close on Atlantis, the closest we have ever gotten.”

The filmmakers were not satisfied with that process on Beauty And The Beast, Trousdale says. “When you go into that ballroom, you know you’re in Computerland. Everyone’s dancing around and they’re falling in love and everybody’s happy so you don’t care that much. But it’s still pretty clear that you’re in Computerland, and suddenly you’re back in Cartoonland. We wanted to not have that division this time.”

There is also a strong moral message at the heart of Atlantis, as there is in all Disney animation.

“There is always a thematic centre,” says Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney’s animation studio. “There is an agenda about how to be true to yourself, to honour yourself, respect your parents, search for the truth, that the light always emerges, that good always triumphs over evil and that sacrifice is important.

Schumacher believes the story ends with Milo’s true heroism shining through.

“Not only did he do the right thing, stick to his guns, convert all these people to his side, heroically save the day in a very Star Wars kind of move, but then he protects the place in a kind of noble move. I think that’s beautiful. That’s what it’s about.”

Thursday June 7, 2001: Entertainment Weekly – Owen Gleiberman

Genre: AnimationThe hero of Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a terrifyingly enthusiastic young museum scholar named Milo who wears giant circular specs and talks (in the voice of Michael J. Fox) with a breakneck alacrity you rarely hear outside of cartoons. On a submarine voyage to find the mythical city of Atlantis, Milo is accompanied by a crew of ”colorful” assistants who babble on in the same tone of tireless jovial zeal; we might be watching ”20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” starring the cast of ”Scooby-Doo.” The sub reaches Atlantis, a series of ruins in paradise, but with its pristine cliffs and forests and waterfalls, the place just looks like the world’s most ancient biosphere.Has my eye, seduced by the devious and tactile delights of ”Shrek,” already evolved in tandem with the technological leaps in computer animation? Or is ”Atlantis” simply a Disney dud? A bit of both, perhaps. But it does feel as if the studio’s animators are huffing and puffing to create new marvels out of an arsenal of image tropes — water flowing, lava erupting, earth cracking, a mystical crystal glowing — that we long ago gawked at and digested.”Atlantis,” with its gee-whiz formulaic characters, is the essence of craft without dream, but the movie, in a strange way, is more personal than the artists who made it realize. Its real lost empire might almost be the day that hand drawn animation in the conventionally Colorform Disney style could still saturate us with wonder.

Friday May 18, 2001: Ain’t It Cool News – Project Rage (All bad spelling and grammar is by Project Rage)

For years people have been coming up to me. “Oooh! (insert 90’s animated Disney movie here) that has music, singing, I just hate when they sing.” Well here’s a movie for you. ATLANTIS. Disney’s first animated adventure film. Now last year there was Dinosaur, with no musical elements, but had that annoying “love monkey”. This year we have a tight little adventure film with no annoying-cute-talk-able-animal-sidekicks. This is the film Mulan and Tarzan should have been.This is adventure.Jules Verne vehicles, guns, death, hot scantily clothed ladies, Kick-ass-rock-giants, Horny-Peter-lorre-character, subtitles, and massive chase scenes, just doesn’t sound like your normal Disney film. It isn’t. I know your probably saying, Dude.. take lithium and get out more often. But really it’s great. The only film I can compare it to is Titan AE. That was a fun film barely anyone saw.

Michael J Fox’s character was annoying, but he’suppose to be.

The Commander: voiced by James Gardner, delightfully ruff even with animated muscle sag. Cool.

The saggy Operator lady: Dry and hilarious.

The Demolitionist: Great voice by Father Sardecio(sp) (I usually hate this actor) one of the delights in this film.

Mole-iere: the cute character kinda like the Lorre-ish guy in Titan AE also. Creepy in an “M” sort of way.

The doctor and engineer: excellent.

HELGA: I put her letters in caps, cause she is way cool! She’s in her own movie. She’s a 40’s Laura croft. She is unfortunately used the least. But is way cool.

Kida: great love interest, I think the animators really loved animating her. Lot’s of curves.

Old Atlantian: voiced by Leonard Nemoy, liked his work more in Transformers.

Jim Varney’s character was great. Too bad no more Jim Varney. (One blessing is, no more Ernest movies.)

Visual: Filmed in 2:35:1. This is rarely,rarely used for Disney films, usually it’s the T.V. video babysitter friendly 1:85:1. Some Cgi, but rarely noticeable, I wished the water was Cgi, especially when it covered the city in the beginning. Just me being picky. Also I felt the shadow and fx dept. was playing it safe for some of the movie. I wanted it darker.

Sound: Excellent sound. In SDDS 6, DTS, SRD-EX. Lots of bass, The beginning kinda freaked me out. There was a lot of surround and great seperation.

The score by James Newton Howard, was tremendous. After his great work in Unbreakable, Dinosaur, and Vertical Limit (lousy movie), he is in his own personal golden age. A perfect buy for any score lovers. I could’ve done without the credit’s song, kinda like Mummy returns.

Is this film for kids? Hell yes! It’s truly a family film, like Indy or today’s Mummy. Everyone can go see it, and see something different. I’m looking forward for more adventure this summer. Hopefully Tomb raider delivers also.

Go see it.

I am Project Rage

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