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Atlantis: The Lost Empire Collector's Edition DVD Review

Atlantis: The Lost Empire movie poster Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Theatrical Release: June 15, 2001 / Running Time:95 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Voice Cast: Michael J. Fox (Milo James Thatch), Corey Burton (Gaetan 'The Mole' Moliere), Claudia Christian (Helga Katrina Sinclair), James Garner (Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke), John Mahoney (Preston B. Whitmire), Phil Morris (Dr. Joshua Strongbear Sweet), Leonard Nimoy (King Kashekim Nedakh), Don Novello (Vincenzo 'Vinny' Santorini), Jacqueline Obradors (Audrey Rocio Ramirez), Cree Summer (Princess Kida), Jim Varney (Cookie), David Ogden Stiers (Fenton Q. Harcourt)

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By Kelvin Cedeno

In an era where Disney sought hard to break the standard mold of their animated features came Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise (the duo responsible for Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, both of which made their DVD premieres the same year as Atlantis). Disney envisioned this to be a summer smash hit appealing to action fans. Unfortunately, the movie flopped.

Atlantis tells the story of Milo James Thatch, a linguist who has devoted his life to discovering the famed lost city of Atlantis. A friend of his deceased father's approaches him with the funding, crew, and submarine to carry out the expedition, using an ancient journal as a guide. Milo and the crew brace many perils on their journey, but they finally reach their destination. They find that Atlantis is still inhabited by citizens who survived the tidal wave that engulfed the city, and Milo is determined to find out exactly how they managed to live for thousands of years and to protect them from ruthless mercenaries.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire, as depicted in the animated Disney film of the same name.

The film is definitely one of the riskiest features to come from the studio and even earned Disney's 2nd PG rating (the first was The Black Cauldron). Its animation style is very blocky and reminiscent of a moving comic book. The overall story of the film is quite good, but the details hinder it from being as great as it could have been. Too many things happen unnaturally and suddenly that make Atlantis feel very contrived. Too many thread points are left unanswered, and when they are answered, the answer feels too slight. Atlantis features such a wide range of characters that it's hard to become endeared with anyone but Milo. Each character is his own unique person, but we are always observing them at a distance. Plus, they all remain quite cold for the majority of the film, and when they finally warm up, it seems a bit late for us to be warming up to them. Despite these problems, Atlantis isn't as horrible as its reputation claims. It's a generally solid film that should be taken more as popcorn film than the prestigious title of a Disney classic.

Buy Atlantis: The Lost Empire Collector's Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: January 29, 2002
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9)
THX-Certified
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99

VIDEO and AUDIO

Atlantis: The Lost Empire appears in a 2.35:1 (one of the few Disney features with this ratio) THX-certified transfer. Amazingly, no pan and scan version exists on this DVD. Disney (most of the time) gives their animated classics the very best in video quality, and this is no exception. It's as close to perfection as anyone could ask. Sharpness never wavers on being too soft or too enhanced, colors are bold without any noise or bleeding, and (being this is a direct top digital transfer), no print flaws are present.

Disney also (most of the time) gives their animated classics the very best in audio quality and just like the video, this is no exception. Atlantis has one of the most dynamic soundtracks to come from the studio. Explosions and other sound effects spread all though the surrounds without ever drowning out the vocals which remain clear. The score is nicely broad and enveloping and compliments the effects and dialogue perfectly.

Disc 1 Main Menu Gary Trousdale, Don Hahn, and Kirk Wise in Visual Commentary

BONUS MATERIALS

Atlantis: The Lost Empire appears in a 2-Disc Collector's Edition which is filled to the brim with material. On disc one we starts with an audio commentary by Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise as well as Producer Don Hahn.
As with their Beauty and the Beast track, the trio is great fun to listen to. They constantly are sharing a plethora of behind the scenes information but are light hearted and fun enough to keep this commentary from becoming too dry and stale.

The audio commentary can also be selected via the visual commentary. This presents the aforementioned commentary track with branched video segments popping up during the film where relevant. Thankfully, one has the option to view the video segments alone without the commentary track. The video segments included are "Deleted Scene: Plato the Rat," "Deleted Scene: Milo Meets Helga," "Hidden Joke: Trooper Waves at Camera," "Submarine Research Trip," "Production Progression," "Cave Research Trip," "Deleted Scene: Cookie Sings," "City of Atlantis Development," "Mike Mignola Gallery," "Crystal Chamber Development," and "Stone Giant Outtake." Via a "Play All" option, these pieces run 23 minutes together and all are presented with introductions by the directors and producer.

The final feature on disc one is "DisneyPedia: Atlantis: Fact of Fiction." Various video vignettes discuss the legend of Atlantis, theories, and other aspects of the fabled city. Presented here are "Atlantis," "Ancient Writings," "Submarines," "Archaeology," "Legends," and "Ancient Civlizations." Although aimed at children, this remains a very interesting feature none the less. Annoyingly, some buttons on the screen aren't highlighted when selected, so the viewer must be careful on how they direct the arrow keys on their remote.

Deleted Scene: Milo Meets Helga DisneyPedia: Fact or Fiction

Disc Two contains an overwhelming amount of features which are presented three different ways. "Explore" mode lets the viewer wade through the CGI menus (designed to be the interior of The Ulysses). "Tour" mode connects the majority of the featurettes into a whopping two hour documentary (features in this review with an asterisk can be found in this documentary). Finally, "Files" mode presents all of the features in a static list to make them more accessible.

History

"The Journey Begins" (9 minutes)* discusses how the idea to create the film originated and what their goals were for it. "Creating Mythology" (8 minutes)* shows the research the filmmakers did into incorporating various legends and myths about Atlantis into their own film. "The Shepherd's Journal" presents text pieces about the history of the journal as well as a gallery (31 stills) of designs for the journal, both exterior and interior. "How to Speak Atlantean" (2 minutes) is a featurette with linguist Marc Okrand who came up with the language exclusively for the film. Here he provides a basic tutorial on how to speak this original language.

Story and Editorial

"Finding the Story" (11 minutes)* tells about the challenges faced when coming up with story arc for the film. "Deleted Scenes" contains four excised sequences: "The Viking Prologue" (2 minutes), "The Squid Bats" (6 minutes), "The Lava Whales" (4 minutes), and "The Land Beast" (4 minutes). The first sequence is shown in completed animation (a rarity for an animated film's deleted scene) while the last three are shown in storyboard form. "Original Treatment" is a text feature which outlines the story as itwas originally thought out to be.

The Style Guide to Eyes The Original Treatment Creating Mythology

Art Direction

"Designing Atlantis" (11 minutes)* discusses the unique stylistic approach to set this feature apart visually from Disney's other features. "The Explorers' World" is divided into three galleries: "Washington, D.C." (25 stills), "The Mothership" (15 stills), and "Aboard the Ulysses" (26 stills). All three galleries present concept art pieces specific to their locale. "Atlantis" presents more concept art pieces divided by location: "The Road to Atlantis" (58 stills), "The City" (76 stills), "The King's Chamber" (8 stills), and "The Crystal Chamber" (32 stills).
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"Mike Mignola Designs" (56 stills) contains designs by comic book artist Mike Mignola whose style influenced the film's look (one of the few instances in Disney history where one artist's style is the basis for an entire feature's look). "Style Guide" (38 stills) is a guide used by the animators to mimic and stay true to Mike Mignola's style.

Animation Production

"The Characters" branches off into a submenu starting with "The Voices of Atlantis" (12 minutes)* a featurette on the various cast members who lent their voices to the film. "Creating the Characters" (26 minutes)* goes into great detail analyzing each character and the development they underwent throughout the course of production. "The Whitmore Expedition" contains subsections devoted to each character: "Milo," "Rourke," "Dr. Sweet", "Vinny," "Helga," "Audrey," "Packard," "Moliere," "Cookie," "Preston Whitmore," and "Miscellaneous Characters." Each character's section contains a Dossier File, a design gallery, and animation tests. "The Atlanteans" is identical in structure to "The Whitmore Expedition," only this time focusing on "Kida," "King Nedakh," and "Miscellaneous Atlanteans." The characters in this section (being Atlantean), do not have Dossier Files. Outside of "The Characters" submenu there is a "Setting the Scene" (12 minutes)* featurette on how the backgrounds and settings were created to compliment the characters and their situtations. "Layouts and Backgrounds" contains two galleries: "Color Script" (59 stills) and "Layouts and Backgrounds" (141 stills).

An "Atlantis"/"Monsters, Inc." doorhanger is displayed in the Publicity Gallery. Layouts and Backgrounds Gary Rydstrom appears in the Music and Sound Featurette.

Digital Production:

"Digital Production" (10 minutes)* discusses the use of CGI in the film and how it needed to blend with the animation convincingly. "Digital Production Tests" (6 minutes) shows various CGI tests done by the animators. "The Expedition Vehicles" is divided into galleries for each vehicle: "The Ulysses" (31 stills), "Sub-Pods" (17 stills), "Aqua-Evac" (12 stills), "The Digger" (19 stills), "The Convoy Vehicles" (66 stills), and "Miscellaneous Vehicles" (46 stills). Each gallery also contains 3-D turnarounds and "The Ulysses" contains a production progression reel. "The Atlantean Armada" (88 stills) is another gallery for the Atlantean vehicles and also contains 3-D turnarounds. "Vechicle Size Comparison" (1 minute) shows the CGI vehicles and people together to demonstrate how large each vehicle is in comparison to the person and each vehicle with each other. "Digital Characters" contains twogalleries, each with its own 3-D turnaround: "The Leviathan" (17 stills), and "Stone Giants" (24 stills). This section also contains "Digital Extras" (2 minutes) which has 3-D turnarounds for many of the CGI extras.

Music and Sound/Publicity

"Music and Sound" (9 minutes)* discusses both the film's foley sound effects and its score by James Newton Howard. "Publicity" contains four trailers (1 minute, 1 minute, 3 minutes, and 1 minute, respectively) as well as a "Print Campaign" gallery (17 stills).

Milo Thatch (far right) leads his "Atlantis"-bound crew: (left to right) Helga Sinclair, Preston Whitmire, Vinny Santorini, Audrey Ramirez, and Joshua Sweet.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Atlantis: The Lost Empire may not be one of Disney's greatest animated features, but it's a fine film if taken the light action romp that it is. The DVD, on the other hand, is one of Disney's most stellar releases with its pristine video and audio and seemingly endless array of supplements. In an excellent touch, all of the bonus material and menus are enhanced for widescreen televisions, making this a must-buy for any Disney fan, or DVD fan, for that matter.

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Other Reviews of Interest:
Recent Disney Animation: Treasure Planet Lilo & Stitch Brother Bear Dinosaur
Tarzan The Emperor's New Groove Alice in Wonderland The Lion King The Black Cauldron
Same Directors: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) Beauty and the Beast
In the Year 2001: Recess: School's Out Monsters, Inc. Max Keeble's Big Move The Princess Diaries
Castle in the Sky Ponyo Star Wars: The Clone Wars Planet 51 | Mike Mignola: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

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Reviewed April 1, 2004.