This week, we watched Atlantis: Milo’s Return, a sequel to Disney’s 41st animated feature, Atlantis: The Lost Empire. That film was released during a period of experimentation within the Walt Disney Animation and marks their first outing into science fiction. Atlantis: The Lost Empire was a film that I never watched a kid, even though I watched other movies released during this period such as The Emperor’s New Groove and Treasure Planet. I finally got around to seeing it as an adult and I must say that I find it to be a lost treasure (get it?), often overshadowed by crowd-pleasers such as Lilo & Stitch.
Atlantis: Milo’s Return, however, is a bit of a dud. Like several other DisneyToon entries, this sequel was originally intended to be a television series, but the show never aired due to the poor box office performance of the film. Instead, we were left with this feature that packages three segments into one film. It picks up where the film left off; Milo living with Kida in Atlantis and everyone else back in the main world. However, there are problems on the mainland and so the crew comes to Atlantis to bring both Milo and Kida to help. This premise alone is hardly believable, considering the feats of traveling between worlds, but for kids, it’s fine. Speaking of Atlantis, I kept thinking that something with “Atlantis” in its title sure didn’t include much of it. In fact, probably about 15 minutes of the 80-minute movie actually takes place in Atlantis itself. What remains are these segments that surprisingly take place in our world. Though they are loosely connected to account for a feature, I imagine these segments would have worked better on their own. Even the original title for the show- Team Atlantis– fits better than the subtitle “Milo’s Return.”
The best thing about this film, and one of the highlights of the original, are the characters. Distinct and unique, their idiosyncracies save the film from what could easily have been terrible. The humor and charm of these characters make it fun to watch, with almost all of the voice actors returning. The most notable actor who didn’t return was Michael J. Fox as Milo, but James Arnold Taylor holds his own and is not at all distracting in the role. The other character who has been recast was Cookie, played by Jim Varney in the original and is best known for his performance as Slinky in the first two Toy Story films. Sadly, Varney passed away before the original film was even released and the new actor, Steve Barr, does a great job.
Much like the original, this film places a lot of focus on the supernatural aspects of the worlds it creates. The big difference, though, is that this is a lot more cartoonish. The first movie contained a lot of breathtaking animation, whereas this film looks and feels more like an episode of Scooby-Doo. Though it doesn’t work in the format of a film, this could have had potential as a television series, particularly for sci-fi and fantasy fans. Marvel fans are in for a treat as well near the end of the film. It is a shame that this franchise died the way it did. The original is loved by many despite its box office performance and I would have loved to have seen it continue in one form or another. Sadly, this average sequel is all that came after the first. However, I encourage Atlantis fans to give it a watch, only to see the potential of a television series that never saw the light of day.
Next week, we will be watching The Lion King 1 1/2. Happy watching!