Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

1914: Milo Thatch, grandson of the great Thaddeus Thatch works in the boiler room of a museum. He knows that Atlantis was real, and he can get there if he has the mysterious Shephards journal, which can guide him to Atlantis. But he needs someone to fund a voyage. His employer thinks he's dotty, and refuses to fund any crazy idea. He returns home to his apartment and finds a woman there. She takes him to Preston B. Whitmore, an old friend of his Grandfathers. He gives him the shepherds journal, a submarine and a 5 star crew. They travel through the Atlantic ocean, face a large lobster called the Leviathan, and finally get to Atlantis. But does the Atlantis crew have a lust for discovery, or something else? [imdb]
A lot of people give Atlantis: The Lost Empire a lot of grief. I've heard people complain about the lack of music, animal sidekicks, and just about every other standard Disney animated film convention you can think of... But Atlantis isn't a standard "once upon a time" fantasy movie. It's an adventure movie, through and through.

In every commentary, interview and behind-the-scenes clip you can find, the film makers repeat again and again that this is an "Adventureland" movie... not a "Fantasyland" movie... and those are both integral parts of the Disney experience. In fact, it's almost hard to fathom that they had never made an "adventure" animated movie up until this one.

Drawing inspiration from many of the 60's era Disney live-action movies such as Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Atlantis sends our cast of characters on a mission to find (of course) the lost city of Atlantis.

A lot of standards were actually cut from the movie, including pirates, vikings, a few mythical monsters, and the aforementioned animal sidekick... but what we end up with is a rather amazing and well-made film with a lot going for it.

There's a strong vocal cast, including Michael J. Fox, James Garner, and a final performance by the late Jim Varney. The art style was drawn from darker comic books (graphic novels) even going so far as to involve the maker of the Hellboy comics in the general creation of the movie. Yet one of the most impressive features of Atlantis has to be the seemless integration of 3D computer animation with hand-drawn 2D animation.

Many of the backgrounds during action sequences or vast landscapes were rendered digitally, hand-painted to maintain some resemblance to the classic Disney style, and then merged in with the hand-drawn characters, creating a gorgeous style utilizing nearly every department in the studio.

I watched the 2-disc special edition which has a vast amount of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a whole load of art galleries. I can't think of anything really missing... There's a commentary, little documentary, deleted scenes... It's a pretty nice package of information.

Anyways, if you're a hater of this movie, I'd suggest giving it another go. I honestly can't complain about it at all. (Which is rare for me.)