20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘Atlantis: The Lost Empire’

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire is an adventure/fantasy story, something that had not been explored much in the Disney animated films prior. Releasing in 2001, this was one of the films that helped kick off the next era in Disney animation, sometimes referred to as the Post-Renaissance era. This was when the animators and story heads at Disney took their films in a different direction, moving away from the Broadway musical format of the 1990s. Instead, there was a bit of experimentation with story, concepts, and animation styles. Some of this worked- and some of it didn’t.

Read: 20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’

Despite this, there are several distinctly Disney tropes in Atlantis including a silly sidekick (Moliere), a romantic interest (Kida) and a villain who wants wealth and power (Rourke). One major thing that separates this from other Disney animated movies is the animation style. It reminds me a bit of Hercules, another film which marked a departure from the traditional “Disney style”.

Another unique thing about Atlantis is its deviation from the norms of male lead characters. It is refreshing to see a male lead that does not embody the traditional qualities of most of the male heroes that have come before. Instead of being the epitome of masculinity like Aladdin or Prince Eric, we get Milo Thatch. Milo is a scholarly character, bookish and intelligent, who unfortunately falls into many “nerd” stereotypes. Despite this, he is portrayed in a favorable light and is charmingly voiced by Michael J. Fox.

Though Atlantis has some good moments and features beautiful animation, I find it disappointing overall. Perhaps it is because I didn’t grow up with with the film, but nothing about it is memorable to me. Still, I do applaud Disney for trying something new and putting real care into the film including the creation of an entirely new language for the Atlanteans. That is dedication!

Live-action remake: It was announced in 2020 that a live-action remake for Atlantis is in development. Check out Skyler Shuler’s report here.

Sequel/Spin-off: The sequel, Atlantis: Milo’s Return, 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, they released this feature that packages three show segments into one film. 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.”

More details about Team Atlantis can be found here.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire in the theme parks: There was planned to be an Atlantis-themed attracted at Disneyland called Atlantis Expedition which was inspired by Submarine Voyage. Instead, we got Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. For more about that ride, check out Shawn William’s article here.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is available to stream on Disney+.

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