The film begins with an explosion and a massive wave washing over the island of Atlantis. Giant, robotic sentries defend the city, but the Atlantean queen is drawn into a glowing blue beam projected from the "Heart of Atlantis," a huge gem which powers the city's defenses. She leaves behind a young daughter, Princess Kida, as the city disappears beneath the ocean waves.
Thousands of years later, Milo Thatch is an aspiring, kindhearted, and dreaming linguist and explorer, although his employers, the staff of the Smithsonian Institution, has little use for him other than keeping the boilers running. Milo believes that his research has revealed the location of The Shepherd's Journal, a Viking manuscript that allegedly reveals the way to Atlantis. His dreams are to prove to the world, that his grandfather, Thaddeus Thatch, really did discover a clue that could lead to the discovery of one of the greatest mysteries of all. Most of all, his dreams are to have something to believe in. After his proposal is rejected, a mysterious woman, Helga Sinclair, invites Milo to see her employer and takes him to Preston B. Whitmore, an eccentric millionaire who, owing a debt to Milo's grandfather, has funded a successful effort to find the journal; now that it is in hand, he recruits Milo to read the book and lead an expedition to Atlantis.
Milo sets out with a crew headed up by Commander Lyle Rourke, a military man who led the expedition to recover the journal, Helga, and a crew of oddballs. Among the crew are Vinnie Santorini, the crew's Italian demolitions expert, Gaetan 'Mole' Molière, the borderline crazy geology specialist, Dr. Joshua Sweet, the ship's medical officer, Audrey Ramirez, the tomboyish mechanic, Jedidiah 'Cookie' Farnsworth, the ship's Western redneck cook, and Wilhelmina Packard, the elderly communications expert. They set out in the Ulysses, a massive submarine. As the team approaches Atlantis, the Ulysses is attacked and destroyed by the Leviathan, a huge robotic defender of Atlantis. Milo, Rourke, and a small complement of crewmembers escape in small sub-pods and a cargo hauler and, reaching an underground cavern described in the Shepherd's Journal, continue ahead on foot and vehicle. They are tracked all the while by some Atlanteans.
Reaching Atlantis, the crew are greeted by Kida, now a young woman, although "young" is relative to her appearance only, as she is now many thousands of years old. Kida brings the group to meet her aging father, King Kashekim Nedakh, who wants them to leave as soon as they are able, since their presence cannot mean any good. Atlantis has fallen into ruins since disappearing into the earth, and Kida enlists Milo's help in deciphering the runes throughout the city, the Atlantean written language having been unknown to the people for centuries. Milo helps her discover the nature of the Heart of Atlantis, but can't tell how it works, since a page of the Shepherd's Journal is missing.
Rourke turns out to have the missing page and betrays Milo, he and Helga having known about the Heart all the while. Rourke turns the tables by forcing Milo and Kida to help him find the Heart of Atlantis so that he can take it back to the surface and make a fortune from its sale. He first thinks King Nedakh knows all about it, so he manages to beat him. Once found, the Heart merges with Kida, causing her to fall into a trance as her body becomes a glowing blue crystal. Rourke locks up Kida and prepares to leave for the caves. Before departing, he punches Milo and mocks him, breaking his beloved grandfather's picture, and tears of sorrow, heartbreak, and despair well up in Milo's eyes. But just before they leave, Vinnie, Audrey, Sweet, Mole, Cookie, and Packard have a dramatic change of heart, and go back to help Milo up. Rourke leaves, and prevents the crew from following him by blowing up the bridge. Later, in the palace, King Nedakh tells Milo all about the Heart of Atlantis, explaining why the crystal has a mind of its own and why Atlantis went underwater. Before his death, the King gives his crystal to Milo and tells him to save Atlantis and Kida. Milo is reluctant as first, pointing out that every bad thing on this mission happened because of him, but with courage and support from Sweet, he rallies the crew and the Atlanteans to stop Rourke and manages to restart several Atlantean vehicles to create an aerial fighting force to challenge the villains.
In the ensuing battle, Rourke is destroyed, Helga is killed, and Kida is liberated, but a volcanic eruption ensues. The city's total destruction is imminent until Milo and Kida are able to restore the city's systems to full power which include restarting the sentinels who again rise to protect Atlantis. The Atlanteans thank the visitors who helped save Atlantis and give them a huge treasure. The surviving crew, now insanely wealthy, returns to Whitmore's mansion to rehearse their cover story to hide the existence of Atlantis, while Milo stays to help Kida rebuild the Atlantean empire and made a memorial of the King and let join within the Heart of Atlantis.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire did not do well at the box office, making approximately $85 million in its United States theatrical run, well below its production cost of $120 million and nowhere near the animation high-water mark of $312 million set by 1994's The Lion King. It can be seen as part of a series of early-2000s Disney disappointments, a stretch that includes The Emperor's New Groove, Treasure Planet, and Home on the Range, and of a series of animated action-adventure movies that failed to connect with audiences, such as Titan A.E., Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and the aforementioned Treasure Planet.
Praise and criticismEdit
The film has a dramatic opening sequence depicting the fall of Atlantis, a first act that establishes the story, bold dialogue, and an interesting visual look in part from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. It also won some praise for daring to break away from the comfort of Disney's animated musicals that dominated the 1990s by trying a serious, action-adventure story.
That said, critics generally disliked the film. Critics noted the one-dimensional characterizations in the too-large cast of supporting characters, the remoteness of Milo, a lack of audience involvement, a deus ex machina climax, and a general lifelessness that accompanies the by-the-book trudging from one set piece to the next following the destruction of the Ulysses.
Some of the movie's internal logic has been found lacking as well. The Atlanteans, with multi-millennia life-spans, forget their own written language, yet they are able to speak Latin and modern languages like French and English when meeting Milo and his team, due to connections to the linguistic roots.
Those who are familiar with Plato's Atlantis and the original Greek legend were disappointed to see that most of it was not included in the movie. These traditional elements include Neptune worship, Atlas, titans, nymphs, Orichalcum, canals, medicine, wealth, and war versus the Athenians. Also, all of the things that people popularly associate with Atlantis today — mermaids, Neptune, etc. — were also not present.
Overview, production notes and sequelEdit
Atlantis is notable as one of the few animated films shot in the anamorphic widescreen process. To prevent having to purchase and implement larger animation desks, longer animation paper, and so forth, the production team resorted to working within a smaller frame on the same paper and equipment used for the standard aspect ratio Disney films.
Some viewers have noted similarities between the Milo character and motion picture language consultant Dr. Marc Okrand, who developed the Atlantean language for this movie (Okrand has said that animator John Pomeroy sketched him, claiming not to know what a linguist looked or behaved like). Additionally, an interesting aspect of the film is that very few of the characters are under the age of 30, a rare component for a Disney animated feature. Also, Atlantis is the first animated Disney feature to have a black character, Dr. Joshua Sweet, in the roster of main characters.
The film was originally supposed to provide a springboard for an animated television series titled Team Atlantis, which would have detailed the further adventures of the characters from the film. However, due to the film's failure at the box office, the series was scrapped. On May 20, 2003, Disney released a direct-to-video sequel called Atlantis: Milo's Return, which consisted mostly of stories originally produced for the aborted series.
- Milo James Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) — A cartographer and linguist, and 12th (current) King of Atlantis.
- Kidagakash "Kida" Nedakh (voiced by Cree Summer) — The 8,500-year-old princess of Atlantis and (current) Queen Matriarch Savior of Atlantis.
- Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke (voiced by James Garner) — An army commander and expedition leader.
- Gaetan "Mole" Moliére (voiced by Corey Burton) — A French geologist.
- Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini (voiced by Don Novello) — An Italian demolitions expert.
- Dr. Joshua Strongbear Sweet (voiced by Phil Morris) — An African-American medical officer.
- Lieutenant Helga Katrina Sinclair (voiced by Claudia Christian) — Rourke's second-in-command.
- Audrey Rocio Ramirez (voiced by Jacqueline Obradors) — A young Hispanic mechanic.
- King Kashekim Nedakh (voiced by Leonard Nimoy) — Princess Kida's father and 11th King of Atlantis.
- Preston B. Whitmore (voiced by John Mahoney) — An eccentric millionaire and an old friend of Milo's grandfather.
- Wilhelmina Bertha Packard (voiced by Florence Stanley) — A communications expert.
- Jedidiah Allardyce "Cookie" Farnsworth (voiced by Jim Varney) — A cook.
- Fenton Q. Harcourt (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) — Milo's boss at the Smithsonian Institution.
Quotations (in Atlantean)Edit
- Atlantean Pilot #1: "NEE-puk! GWEE-sit TEE-rid MEH-gid-leh-men!" ("You fool! You've destroyed us all!")
- Atlantean Pilot #2: "Shoam KOO-leh-beh-toat! LOO-den-tem WEE-luhg KAH-behr-seh-kem!" ("It's gaining! We have to warn the city!")
- Atlantean Pilot #2 (cont'd): "Nahl YOH-deh-neh-toat!" ("Too late! AAAAAAAGHHH!")
- Additional Pilots: "GWEE-sit khoab-DEH-sheh-toat! SOH-lesh-tem MOO-tih-lihm-kem!" ("We're doomed! All is lost!")
- Princess Kida: "MAH-tihm!" ("Mother!")
- Princess Kida: "Deh-GEEM, TAH-neb-toap. Way-DAH-go-sen NEH-bet behr-NOH-tib-mick." ("Greetings, Your Highness. I have brought the visitors.")
- King Kashekim Nedakh: "MOAKH TAH-mar GWEE-sin puhn-NEB-leh-nen KEE-duh-toap. WEEL-tem neb GAH-moh-seh-toat deg DOO-weh-ren TEE-rid." ("You know the law, Kida. No outsiders may see the city and live.")
- Princess Kida: "TAHB-toap, LOO-den NEH-bet kwahm GEH-soo BOH-geh-kem deg YAH-seh-ken GEH-soo-goan-tokh." ("Father, these people may be able to help us.")
- King Kashekim Nedakh: "GWEES DOH-sep-tem SOH-bin kwahm AH-lih-teh-kem." ("We do not need their help.")
- Princess Kida: "Uhd TAHB-toap..." ("But Father...")
- King Kashekim Nedakh: "Puh-SEEL-leh-toat. TAH-ges DOH-tesh-tem neb YOO-teh-poan-kem." ("That is enough. We will discuss this later.")
- Princess Kida: "MOH-khit GWEH-noag-loh-nick!" ("I will kill you for that!")
- Princess Kida: "NEE-shen-toap AHD-luhn-tih-suhg, KEH-loab-tem GAHB-rihn KAH-roak-lih-mihk bet gihm DEH-moat-tem net GEH-tuh-noh-sen-tem behr-NOAT-lih-mihk bet KAH-gihb LEH-wihd-yoakh." ("Spirits of Atlantis, forgive me for defiling your chambers and bringing intruders into the land.")
- Princess Kida: "SOH-lesh MAH-toh-noat, MY-loh THATCH-toap. Kwahm TEH-red-seh-nen." ("All will be well, Milo Thatch. Be not afraid.")
- The flying craft in the movie are remarkably similar to the Vimana, ancient aircraft appearing in texts of ancient India, the concept of which was rumored to have been adapted by the Atlanteans into their own craft.
- Eason Chan and Karen Mok provided the voice of Milo and Kida respectively in the Cantonese version of the film.
- In the shot of the Ulysses going down into the depths of the ocean, one of the crewmen is seen waving to the camera. He is visible for a few frames, right after Milo goes out of camera range.
- 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.
- 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."
- The written Atlantean language is to be read left to right, drop down a line, and read right to left, continuing this cycle. It was done to create a flowing, water-like movement reminiscent of the Atlantean culture. This style, called boustrophedon, was also how Ancient Greek was written.
- Vinnie's last name, "Santorini," is also the current name of an ancient chain of volcanic islands in the Mediterranean that erupted with many times the force of Mount Vesuvius (and predated it by many centuries), devastated the Minoan civilization, and may have been an origin of the Atlantean legend. This might also explain Vinnie's profound obsession with explosives.
- At the tattoo parlor in the Atlantean city, there is a sign that says "EAT FISH."
- The spiral "Atlantis" symbol can be found hidden in many places in the movie, particularly because it is supposed to substitute for the letter "A."
- The Leviathan Graveyard contains ships from every Disney movie, a fact seemingly noted by Milo.
- One of the Gargoyles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is in Preston Whitmore's library.
- This was the first Disney animated feature to receive a PG rating since The Black Cauldron, 16 years earlier (although The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Dinosaur were rated PG, they are not usually put in the canon of Disney animated features).
- This would start a series of several Disney animated features rated PG, including Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, and Home on the Range. Ironically, The Princess Diaries which released that year was rated G, something rare in a live-action film at the time (most of the Disney live-action films at that time were almost always rated PG). Unfortunately, none of these PG-rated Disney animated features (except for Lilo & Stitch) turn out to be successful.
- When Helga is hitting the ground, there is not blood and gore visible in Disney movies. It most likely that Blood and gore were censored that it would disturbing for young children.
- The teaser trailer was attached to Dinosaur on May 2000 in theatres and the scene shows the Vikings were edited out in the movie.
- The alternate scene is Helga is consumed by lava and burned to death May upset young children so it would be removed so it was very scared for Disney movies.
- The Ulysses is reminiscent of the Nautilus from the 1954 version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
- In Preston B. Whitmore's office, there are coelacanths swimming in the tank behind him, but coelacanths were not officially discovered until 1938, while the film is set in 1914.
- This was Disney's first 70 mm film since The Black Cauldron.
- According to the writings of philosopher Plato dating back to 360 B.C., "...in a single day and night of misfortune, the island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea."
- The filmmakers turned to real-life linguistics expert Marc Okrand to create an original readable, speakable language for the film. Using a 29-letter alphabet, Okrand made up hundreds of Atlantean words for the actors to speak.
- To prepare for the production, the filmmakers visited museums to study World War I-era clothing and machinery, and toured old army installations to look at submarines and tanks. They also traveled 800 feet underground in New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns to observe the subterranean trails that would serve as the model for the approach to Atlantis in the film.
- When it came to creating the look of the city of Atlantis, the filmmakers wanted to avoid the common conception of "Greek columns under the sea somewhere," says art director Dave Goetz. Instead, they modeled their Atlantis on the architecture of ancient civilizations in China, South America, and the Middle East.
- More recently, the Doge's Elite Guards unit from the 2006 real-time strategy computer game Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends seem to be modeled after the soldiers from the Ulysses' crew, though it is unknown whether Big Huge Games intended to model the unit after them.
- Jim Varney (the voice of 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 car that Helga drives to Whitmore's mansion is nearly identical to the one Cruella De Vil drives in One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
- The Atlantean King bears a striking resemblance to Yensid, the sorcerer in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" from Fantasia.
- Originally, the final battle was to be only on land, but the creators 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.
- Lloyd Bridges was originally cast as Preston Whitmore, but he died shortly after production began.
- Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Davenport, and Kurt Russell were considered for the role of Commander Rourke.
- Whitmore crosses his fingers behind his back during the launch of the Ulysses, denoting that he is not fully confident of this.
- Despite being a princess, Kida is not considered one of the official Disney Princesses. This is most likely due to the lack of commercial success of the film.
- Atlantis in art, literature and popular culture
- Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire at the Internet Movie Database
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire at Rotten Tomatoes
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire at Metacritic
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire at Box Office Mojo