Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The expedition crew stand together as a mysterious woman is floating in the background surrounded by stone effigies while emitting brilliant white beams of light from a crystal necklace.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gary Trousdale
Kirk Wise
Produced by Don Hahn
Screenplay by Tab Murphy
David Reynolds (uncredited)
Story by Tab Murphy
Kirk Wise
Gary Trousdale
Bryce Zabel
Jackie Zabel
Joss Whedon
Starring See Cast
Music by James Newton Howard
Editing by Ellen Keneshea
Studio Walt Disney Feature Animation
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Buena Vista Distribution
Release date(s) June 3, 2001 (2001-06-03) (Premiere)
June 15, 2001 (2001-06-15) (USA)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $100 million[1]
Box office $186,053,725[2]

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a 2001 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation. Written by Tab Murphy, directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and produced by Don Hahn, it is the first science fiction film in the Disney animated features canon and the 41st overall. The film features an ensemble cast with the voice talents of Michael J. Fox, Cree Summer, James Garner, Claudia Christian, Corey Burton, Don Novello, Phil Morris, Jacqueline Obradors, Leonard Nimoy, John Mahoney, Florence Stanley, and Jim Varney in his final role. Set in 1914, the film tells the story of a young linguist who gains possession of a sacred book which he believes will guide him and an expedition crew to the lost city of Atlantis.

Development for the film began after the directors and producer finished The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). Instead of doing another musical, the team decided to do an action-adventure film inspired by the writings of Jules Verne. The film was noted for using the simple artistic style of Mike Mignola and as another attempt by Disney to produce an animated feature without musical numbers. At the time of its release, the film had made use of more computer-generated imagery (CGI) than any of Disney's previous animated films and remains one of the few to have been shot in anamorphic format. Linguist Marc Okrand created a language specifically for the film, while James Newton Howard, composer for Disney's 2000 animated feature Dinosaur, returned to score Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The film was released at a time when the market interest for animated films was shifting away from traditional animation and more toward films which were produced in full CGI.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire had its premiere at the El Capitan Theatre on June 3, 2001, and a general release on June 15, 2001. Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, the film performed modestly at the box office and received mixed reviews from critics. With a budget of $100 million, the film earned $186 million in box office revenue worldwide, of which $84 million was earned in the United States and Canada. Some critics praised it as a unique departure from typical Disney animated features at the time, while others felt the unclear target audience and the absence of songs hurt its premise. Due to the film's poorer than expected performance at the box office, Disney quietly canceled both a spin-off TV series and an underwater attraction for the Disneyland theme park. The film was nominated for several awards, including seven Annie Awards, and won "Best Sound Editing" at the 2002 Golden Reel Awards. The film was released on VHS and DVD on January 29, 2002 and a direct-to-video sequel was released in 2003. Atlantis is considered to be a "cult favorite" because of Mignola's unique artistic style.[3]



The film begins with an explosion and a massive tidal wave approaching the island of Atlantis. The queen is drawn into a glowing blue beam projected from the "Heart of Atlantis," a huge crystal hovering above the city which activates a shield that protects the innermost portion of the city. She leaves behind a young daughter, princess Kida (Cree Summer), as the city disappears beneath the ocean.

In 1914 (several thousand years later), Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox), a cartographer and linguist at the Smithsonian Institution, believes that his research has revealed the location of "The Shepherd's Journal", an ancient manuscript that allegedly reveals the way to Atlantis. After his proposal to seek out the journal is rejected, a mysterious woman named Helga (Claudia Christian) invites him to see her employer. She takes him to eccentric millionaire Preston B. Whitmore (John Mahoney), who has funded a successful effort to find and retrieve the journal to repay his debt to Milo's deceased grandfather. Whitmore recruits Milo to decipher it and lead an expedition to find Atlantis.

The expedition departs with a crew of specialists and mercenaries led by Commander Rourke (James Garner), who also led the expedition to recover the journal. The crew includes Vinnie (Don Novello), the demolition expert; Mole (Corey Burton), the geology specialist; Dr. Joshua Sweet (Phil Morris), the ship's medical officer; Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors), a mechanic; and Cookie (Jim Varney), the ship's cook. They set out in the Ulysses, a massive submarine, which is later attacked and destroyed by the robotic guardian of the entrance to Atlantis. Milo, Rourke, and a small complement of crew escape in small sub-pods, and reach an underground cavern described in the journal.

After traveling through a network of caves and a dormant volcano, the team discovers the city of Atlantis. They are greeted by Kida, who despite her age looks like a young woman, brings the group to meet her aging father. The King (Leonard Nimoy), who wants them to leave since their presence cannot mean any good, allows the explorers to stay one night to recoup and leave by morning. Milo discovers that Atlantis has fallen into ruins since disappearing into the earth, and Kida enlists Milo's help in deciphering the Atlantean written language, having been unknown and forgotten by the Atlanteans for centuries. Through translating ancient underwater murals, he helps her discover the nature of the "Heart of Atlantis" crystal, and finds that it gave the Atlanteans all of their power and longevity through the crystals worn around their necks. He is surprised that the crystal is not mentioned within the journal but discovers that there is also a missing page.

Rourke turns out to have the missing page and he and the crew betray Milo with the intention of taking the crystal back to the surface to sell for a profit. Rourke mortally wounds the king in an effort to find the crystal's location and discovers it hidden beneath the king's throne room. Once found, the crystal detects an evil presence and merges itself with Kida as it did her mother. Rourke and the mercenaries lock Kida into a protective chamber and prepare to leave the city, but just before they leave Milo's friends have a dramatic change of heart, and go back to help Milo knowing that the crystal is what was keeping the Atlanteans alive. Later, in the palace, the King explains to Milo that the crystal had a consciousness of its own, and will seek out a royal host whenever the city is in danger. As he dies, he gives his crystal to Milo and tells him to save Atlantis and Kida. With encouragement from Dr. Sweet, Milo rallies the crew and the Atlanteans to pursue and stop Rourke.

In the ensuing battle within the dormant volcano, Rourke, Helga, and the mercenaries are all killed, but the volcano becomes active and an eruption ensues. The city's total destruction is imminent until Kida, in her crystal form, rises above the city to create a protective barrier. The lava breaks away to show now a newly restored Atlantis, with the crystal returning Kida into Milo's arms. The surviving crew returns to the surface, promising to Whitmore that they will keep the discovery of Atlantis a secret. Milo, having fallen in love with Kida, stays behind to help her rebuild the lost empire.


A penciled production sketch showing a man (Milo) on the left embracing a woman (Kida) on the right. A horizontal line is visible on the bottom of the page depicting a reference line for the CinemaScope frame of the drawing.
Early production sketch of Milo and Kida.
  • Michael J. Fox as Milo James Thatch, a linguist and cartographer who is recruited for the expedition to decipher the "Shepherd's Journal". Kirk Wise, a director, stated that they chose Fox for the role because they felt he gave his characters his own personality and made them "more believable" on-screen. Fox stated that voice-acting was much easier than his past experience with live-action because he did not have to worry about what he looked like in front of a camera when he was delivering his lines.[4] The directors stated that Fox was also offered a role for Titan A.E. and he allowed his son to choose which film he would work on, which was Atlantis.[5] Viewers have noted similarities between Milo and the film's language consultant Dr. Marc Okrand, who developed the Atlantean language for the film. Okrand stated that Milo's supervising animator, John Pomeroy, sketched him, claiming not to know what a linguist looked or behaved like.[6] Pomeroy himself said that Milo "is the closest I've come to animating a self portrait!"[7]
  • Cree Summer as Princess Kidagakash "Kida" Nedakh, the princess of Atlantis. Kida's supervising animator Randy Haycock, stated that Summer was very "intimidating" when he first met her and that inspired him as to how he wanted Kida to act and look on-screen when she first meets Milo.[8]
  • James Garner as Lyle Tiberius Rourke, commander of the mercenaries hired for the Atlantis expedition. Kirk Wise stated that they chose Garner for the role because of his history with war-movies, westerns, and action-movies and that it "fits him like a glove." When asked if he would be interested in the role, Garner simply replied, "I'd do it in a heartbeat."[9]
  • Claudia Christian as Lieutenant Helga Katrina Sinclair, Rourke's second-in-command. Christian described her character as "sensual" and "striking". She was relieved when she finally saw what her character looked like and joked "I'd hate to, you know, go through all this and find out my character is a toad".[10]
  • Corey Burton as Gaetan "Mole" Moliére, a 39-year-old French geologist who often behaves like a mole. Burton mentioned that finding his performance of Mole was an act of letting Mole "leap out" of him by making funny voices while trying to "throw myself into the scene and feel like I'm in this make-believe world."[11]
  • Don Novello as Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini, an Italian demolition expert. Kirk Wise and Vinny's supervising animator Russ Edmonds, both noted Novello's unique ability of improvisation. Edmonds stated, "[Novello] would look at the sheet, and he would read the line that was written once, and he would never read it again! And we never used a written line, it was improvs, the whole movie."[12]
  • Phil Morris as Doctor Joshua Strongbear Sweet, an African-American/Native American medic. Sweet's supervising animator Ron Husband, stated that one of the challenges was animating Sweet with Morris' quick and rapid delivery of his lines, while still keeping him believable. Morris stated that his character was very extreme with "no middle ground" and mentioned, "When he was happy, he was really happy, and when he's solemn, he's real solemn."[13]
  • Jacqueline Obradors as Audrey Rocio Ramirez, a teenage female Puerto Rican mechanic, and the youngest member of the expedition. Obradors stated that voice-acting for her character made her "feel like a little kid again" and that she was always longing for her sessions to last longer.[14]
  • Leonard Nimoy as King Kashekim Nedakh, the king of Atlantis and Kida's father. Michael Cedeno, supervising animator for King Nedakh, was astounded at Nimoy's voice talent stating that he had "so much rich character" with his performance. As he spoke his lines, Cadeno said the crew would sit there and watch him in astonishment.[15]
  • John Mahoney as Preston B. Whitmore, a millionaire who funds the expedition to Atlantis. Lloyd Bridges was originally cast and recorded as Whitmore, but died before he could complete the role. Mahoney's zest and vigor led to Whitmore's personality being reworked for the film.[16] Mahoney stated that doing voice-work was "freeing" and allowed him to be "big" and "outrageous" with his character.[17]
  • Florence Stanley as Wilhelmina Bertha Packard, an elderly and sarcastic radio operator. Stanley felt that Packard was very "cynical" and "very secure" and said, "...she does her job and when she is not busy she does anything she wants"[18]
  • David Ogden Stiers as Fenton Q. Harcourt, Milo's former employer at the Smithsonian who does not believe in the existence of Atlantis.
  • Jim Varney as Jebidiah Allerdyce "Cookie" Farnsworth, a Western-styled chef. Varney died of lung cancer in February 2000 before production ended, and the film was dedicated to his memory. Producer Don Hahn was saddened that Varney never got to see the finished film, but mentioned that Varney was shown small clips of his character's performance throughout his sessions and said, "He loved it." Shawn Keller, supervising animator for Cookie stated, "It was kind of a sad fact that [Varney] knew that he was not going to be able to see this film before he passed away. He did a bang-up job doing the voice-work knowing the fact the he was never gonna see his last performance."[19]



A picture of a partially illuminated underground cave with a jagged rock ceiling and a walking-bridge extended into the cavern.
The production team visited New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns to get an understanding of the underground caves which would be presented in the film.

The idea for the film came about in October 1996 when Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, Don Hahn, and Tab Murphy lunched together at a Mexican restaurant in Burbank, California shortly after completing The Hunchback of Notre Dame.[20] The producer and the directors wanted to keep the The Hunchback of Notre Dame crew together for another film which would explore an "Adventureland" setting.[21] The directors drew inspiration from Jules Verne's A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) and decided to make a film which would fully explore Atlantis, in contrast to the quick visit presented in Verne's novel.[22] The filmmakers researched the mythology of Atlantis on the internet[23] and visited museums and old army installations to study the technology of the early 20th century, the film's period setting. They traveled 800 feet underground in New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns to view the subterranean trails that would serve as the model for the approach to Atlantis in the film.[24]

The filmmakers wanted to avoid the common depiction of Atlantis as "...crumbled Greek columns underwater" said Kirk Wise.[25] "From the get-go, we were committed to designing it top to bottom. Let's get the architectural style, clothing, heritage, customs, how they would sleep, and how they would speak. So we brought people on board who would help us develop those ideas."[26] Dave Goetz, the art director, stated, "We looked at Mayan architecture, styles of ancient - unusual architecture from around the world and the directors really liked the look of southeast Asian architecture."[27] The team later took inspiration from other forms of architecture including; Cambodia, India, and Tibet.[28] Don Hahn, the producer, added, "If you take and de-construct architecture from around the world into one architectural vocabulary, that's what our Atlantis looks like."[29] The overall design and circular layout of Atlantis was also based on the writings of Plato[28] with his famous quote, "in a single day and night of misfortune, the island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea" being a phrase which inspired the crew from the beginning of production.[20] The production crew wore T-shirts to work that read "ATLANTIS - Fewer songs, more explosions" due the film being planned out as an action-adventure in contrast to prior Disney animated features at the time which were musicals.[30]


The Atlantean letter A.

Marc Okrand, who had previously created the Klingon language for the Star Trek films, was hired to invent the Atlantean language for Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Okrand worked with the directors' intention for it to be a "mother-language" and thus implemented an Indo-European word stock with its own grammar. During development, Okrand would sometimes change the words if they began to sound too much like an actual spoken language.[26] John Emerson designed the written alphabet. Emerson made hundreds of random sketches of the individual letters from which the directors would eventually choose the best to represent the Atlantean alphabet.[31][32] The written language was designed to be read left to right on the first line, then right to left on the second line in a zigzag pattern to simulate the flow of water.[6]

The Atlantean [A] is a shape developed by John Emerson. It is a miniature map of the city of Atlantis (i.e., the outside of the swirl is the cave, the inside shape is the silhouette of the city, and the dot is the location of the crystal). It's a treasure map.
—Kirk Wise[33]


Joss Whedon was the first writer involved with the film during early production but left to work on other Disney projects and later, Toy Story.[34] Writer Tab Murphy completed the screenplay stating that the time it took from the initial discussion of the story over lunch and to write a story that satisfied the film crew was "about three to four months plus or minus a few weeks."[35] During story development, the directors found the beliefs of Edgar Cayce interesting and decided to implement his ideas of Atlantis and a mother-crystal which provided power, healing, and longevity to the Atlanteans into the story.[36] Murphy stated that he created the centuries old "Shepherd's Journal" because he needed a map for the characters to follow throughout their journey.[37] The first draft of the script was 155 pages long, much longer than a typical script for a Disney film at about 90 pages. When the first two acts where timed at 120 minutes, the directors decided to cut characters and sequences, and also to focus more on the development of "Milo". A revised version cut out the trials presented to the explorers as they navigated the underground caves to Atlantis. This gave the film a faster pace; Atlantis is discovered earlier in the story than it would be within the typical length of an animated feature-film.[38]

The directors often described the Atlanteans using Egypt as an example. When Napoleon wandered into Egypt, the people had lost track of their once great civilization. They were surrounded by artifacts of their former greatness but somehow unaware of what they meant.

Don Hahn, producer[39]

The "Milo" character was originally intended to be a descendant of the pirate Blackbeard. The directors later made him a descendant of an explorer so that he could discover his inner tendencies of exploration.[40] The character of Molière was originally intended to be very professorial, but Chris Ure, a story artist, changed the concept to that of a "horrible little burrowing creature with a wacky coat and strange headgear with extending eyeballs", says Wise.[41][42] Don Hahn stated that the absence of songs presented a new challenge for the team who were accustomed to animating musicals. They later realized that the action sequences would have to be the scenes which carried the film and Kirk Wise stated that it also gave the team the opportunity for more character development on-screen, "We had more screen time available to do a scene like where Milo and the explorers are camping out, and learning about one another's histories. An entire sequence is devoted to having dinner and going to bed. That is not, typically, something we would have the luxury of doing."[26]

Hahn stated that the first animated sequence which was completed during production was the film's prologue. The film's original prologue featured a Viking war party using the Shepherd's Journal to find Atlantis, and being swiftly dispatched by the Leviathan. Near the end of production, story supervisor Jon Sanford told the directors that he felt the prologue did not give the viewer enough emotional involvement with the Atlanteans themselves. The directors, knowing that the Viking prologue was fully finished, and that it would cost additional time and money to alter the scene, both agreed with Sanford and Trousdale went home to complete the storyboards that evening in a spiral-binder. The new prologue was replaced with a sequence depicting the actual destruction of Atlantis and introduced the film from the perspective of the Atlanteans and Princess Kida.[43] The original version of the opening is shown as an extra feature on the DVD release.[44]


A wide panoramic production still from the film depicting two distant figures standing atop of an Atlantean building tower while overlooking a city and a vast lake of water with clouds in the background.
The top picture is cropped to Disney's standard aspect ratio (1.66:1), while the bottom picture is what was seen in the film (2.35:1). Artistic supervisor Ed Chertner noted that the animators were able to create scenes that were much more immersive because of the film being shot in wide-screen. This particular scene utilized a technique called "Deep Canvas" which was developed on a prior Disney film, Tarzan.[45]

At the peak of production, Atlantis had 350 animators, artists, and technicians working on the film[46] at all three of Disney's animation studios located in Burbank, California, Paris, and Orlando, Florida.[47] The film is one of the few Disney animated films shot in anamorphic format (2.35:1); others include Lady And The Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Black Cauldron (1985), and later Brother Bear (2005). The directors both felt that a wide-screen image was crucial to the nostalgia of the film's action-adventure setting. Ed Chertner stated that with CinemaScope he was able to keep characters in scenes longer because of the additional space to walk within and that the scenes were much more immersive as well.[48] Chertner wrote a guide for the CinemaScope format to be used by the layout artist. Wise drew inspiration for the format from the works of film-makers David Lean and Akira Kurosawa.[26] 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 (1.66:1) Disney animated films.[49] The film's style was based upon that of Mike Mignola, the comic-book artist behind Hellboy. Mignola was one of four production designers (along with Matt Codd, Jim Martin, and Ricardo Delgado) hired by the Disney studio to work on the film, and provided style guides, preliminary character and background designs, and contributed story ideas for the film.[50] "Mignola's graphic, angular style was a key influence on the "look" of the characters", stated Kirk Wise.[51] When Mignola was first contacted by the studio to come work on the film, he was surprised that the film's visual style was being based upon his own,

I remember watching a rough cut of the film and these characters have these big square weird hands. I said to the guy next to me, "Those are cool hands." And he says to me, "Yea, they're your hands. We had a whole meeting about how to do your hands." It was so weird I couldn't wrap my brain around it.
—Mike Mignola[52]

The final pullout scene of the movie, immediately before the title card, was called the most difficult scene in the history of Disney animation by the directors. They said that the pullout attempt on their prior film The Hunchback of Notre Dame "struggled" and "lacked depth". With advancement in a process called "multi-plaining" for Atlantis: The Lost Empire, they tried the same scene again. The scene began with one 16 inch piece of paper showing a closeup of Milo and Kida. As the camera pulls away from them to show the newly restored Atlantis, it reaches the equivalent of one large 18,000 inch piece of paper made up of many individual pieces of paper 24 inches or smaller. Each piece had to be carefully drawn and combined with animated vehicles flying across the entire scene at the same time of the pullout to fool the viewer into thinking it was one entire drawing.[53]


A large model of a mechanical submarine perched atop a flat table mount.
The model of the Ulysses submarine built by Greg Aronowitz, which was used by the digital animators as a reference during production.[54]

Atlantis: The Lost Empire was noted to use more CGI than any of the other animated Disney films at the time of its release. In an effort to increase productivity, the directors decided to have the digital artists work alongside the traditional animators throughout the production. Several important scenes required heavy use of digital animation with the most prominent being the Leviathan, the Ulysses submarine, the sub-pods, the "Heart of Atlantis" crystal, and the Stone Giants.[55] During production, after Matt Codd and Jim Martin had designed the Ulysses submarine on paper, Greg Aronowitz was hired to build a scale model of the submarine for the digital animators to use as a reference for drawing the 3-D Ulysses.[54] 362 digital effects shots were in the final film with computer programs used to join seamlessly the 3-D and the 2-D artwork together.[56] One scene which took advantage of this was the "sub-drop" scene in a which the 3-D Ulysses submarine was dropped into the water, and as the camera floated toward it, a 2-D Milo was drawn to appear inside it tracking the camera. The crew noted it as a challenging scene to trick the audience into not being able to notice the difference between the 3-D and 2-D drawings merged together.[57] The digital production also gave the directors a unique "virtual camera" for complicated shots within the film. With the ability to operate in "z-plane", the camera was used to fly through a digital wire-frame set with detail and backgrounds that were hand-drawn over the wire-frames later. This was used in the opening flight scene through Atlantis shortly before it was destroyed, and the submarine chase through the undersea cavern with the Leviathan in pursuit.[58]

Music and sound

Since the film would not feature any musical interludes in contrast to previous Disney animated features, the directors decided to hire James Newton Howard to compose the score; he decided to approach it as a live-action film. Howard decided to have different musical themes for the surface world and Atlantis. For the musical theme of Atlantis, Howard chose an Indonesian orchestral sound which would feature heavier use of chimes, bells, and gongs throughout. The directors stated that they told Howard from the beginning that the film would have key scenes which would be completely absent of dialog and that the score itself would have to carry emotionally what the viewer was seeing on-screen.[59]

Gary Rydstrom and his team at Skywalker Sound were hired for the film's sound production.[60] Rydstrom decided to implement different sounds for the two different cultures. For the explorers he focused on machine and mechanical sounds of the early industrial era and felt the Atlanteans should have a "more organic" sound utilizing sounds from ceramics and pottery. The sound of the flying-fish was considered a challenge and Rydstrom stated that one day he was sitting on the side of a highway recording when a semi-truck drove by at high speed. Once the recording was sped up on his computer, he felt it sounded very organic and is exactly what is heard within the film. The harmonic sound of the floating crystal was achieved by rubbing his finger across a champagne glass and the sound of the sub-pods was by recording a waterpik.[61]



Atlantis was among Disney's first major attempts to utilize more internet marketing. The film was promoted through Kellogg's who created a website with mini-games, and gave away a free video-game based on the film by redeeming UPC labels from specially marked Atlantis cereal.[46] The film was Disney's first marketing attempt through mobile network operators and allowed users to download games based on the film.[62] McDonald's, who had an exclusive contract on all Disney releases, promoted the film though Happy Meal toys, food packaging, and in-store decor. McDonald's advertising campaign utilized TV, radio, and print advertisements beginning on the film's wide release date.[63]


Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Soundtrack album by James Newton Howard
Released May 22, 2001
Length 53:56
Label Walt Disney
Producer James Newton Howard, Jim Weidman

The soundtrack to Atlantis: The Lost Empire was released on May 22, 2001. It consists primarily of James Newton Howard's score, and also includes the song, "Where the Dream Takes You", written by Diane Warren and performed by Mýa. A limited edition of 20,000 numbered copies of the soundtrack was also released along with a unique 3-D album cover insert depicting the Leviathan from the film. A rare promotional edition was released with 73 minutes of material in contrast to the 53 minutes of the standard commercial editions. The promotional edition was only intended for AMPAS voters but was quickly bootlegged by fans along with fan-created artwork. Concerning the promotional edition, Filmtracks stated, "Outside of about five minutes of superior additional material (including the massive opening, "Atlantis Destroyed"), the complete presentation is mostly redundant. Still, Atlantis is an accomplished work for its genre."[64]

Video games

There are several video games based on the film. Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Search for the Journal (commonly known as Atlantis: Search for the Journal) was developed by Zombie Studios and published by Buena Vista Games, a subsidiary of Disney Interactive. It was released on May 1, 2001 exclusively for the Microsoft Windows platform and was a first-person shooter type game. It is the first of two games based on the film that were developed by Zombie Studios and was also released for free (with UPC labels from the purchase of Kellogg's products) to help promote the film.[65] Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Trial by Fire (commonly known as Atlantis: Trial by Fire) was the second of the two games developed by Zombie Studios and published by Disney Interactive. It was released on May 18, 2001 exclusively for the Microsoft Windows platform.[66] Atlantis: The Lost Empire is an action game developed by Eurocom for the PlayStation console and released on July 12, 2001. The player takes control of Milo and the other characters Vinny, Audrey and Moleire as they traverse Atlantis and rescue Princess Kida, finally saving Atlantis itself from doom. Some features in the game unlock special features such as a movie for a level by finding Atlantean symbols that spell Atlantis.[67] On September 19, 2001, THQ released Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire on the Game Boy Advance and later a version for the Game Boy Color. It is a platform game, in which the player takes control of Milo across fifteen levels on a quest to discover Atlantis.[68]

Spin-offs and related works

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, because of its under-performance at the box office, the series was not produced. On May 20, 2003, Disney released a direct-to-video sequel called Atlantis: Milo's Return, which consisted mostly of stories originally planned for the aborted series.[69] Milo Thatch, Princess Kida, Wilhemina Packard and Commander Rourke were featured as guests in House of Mouse, an early 2000s ABC Saturday morning cartoon featuring Disney characters. Originally, Disneyland Park was to revive its Submarine Voyage ride with an Atlantis theme by using elements from the movie. The ride was promoted with a "meet and greet" by the movie's characters. These plans were canceled after the film's under-performance at the box office, and the attraction was re-opened in 2007 as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage instead, basing its theme around Pixar's 2003 film Finding Nemo.[70]


Box office

Before the film's release, reporters speculated that the film would have a difficult run in light of competition from DreamWorks' Shrek, a wholly (CGI) feature and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, an action-adventure film from Paramount Pictures. In regards to the market shifting away from traditional animation and of the competition with CGI films, Wise said, "Any traditional animator, including myself, can't help but feel a twinge. I think it always comes down to story and character, and one form won't replace the other. Just like photography didn't replace painting. But maybe I'm blind to it."[56] Jeff Jenson of Entertainment Weekly noted that CGI films, such as Shrek, were more apt to attract the teenage demographic who were typically not interested in animation, and called Atlantis a "marketing and creative gamble".[71]

Atlantis: The Lost Empire had its world premiere at Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on June 3, 2001,[72] and a limited release in New York and Los Angeles on June 8, 2001; a wide opening followed on June 15, 2001.[2][56] At the premiere Destination Atlantis was also on display, which featured behind the scenes props from the film, and information on the legend of Atlantis with video games, displays, laser tag, and other attractions. The Aquarium of the Pacific also loaned many different fish to be displayed within the attraction.[73] With a budget of $100 million,[1] the film opened at #2 on its debut weekend earning $20.3 million in 3,011 theaters.[74] The film's international release began on September 20 in Australia with other markets following thereafter.[75] During the film's 25-week theatrical run, Atlantis: The Lost Empire grossed over $186 million worldwide, $84 million of which was from the United States and Canada.[2] In response to the disappointing box office performance, Thomas Schumacher, president of Walt Disney Feature Animation stated, "It seemed like a good idea at the time to not do a sweet fairy tale, but we missed."[76]


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 49% of 140 professional critics have given Atlantis: The Lost Empire a positive review, with a rating average of 5.5 out of 10.[77] Among Rotten Tomatoes' Top Critics, which only considers the views of mainstream film critics, the film holds an overall approval rating of 41%, based on thirty-two reviews.[78] The site's consensus is that "Atlantis provides a fast-paced spectacle, but stints on such things as character development and a coherent plot."[77] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 52 (out of 100) based on 29 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "Mixed or average reviews."[79] CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend revealed the average grade cinemagoers gave Atlantis: The Lost Empire was A on an A+ to F scale.[80]

The story of "Atlantis" is rousing in an old pulp science fiction sort of way, but the climactic scene transcends the rest, and stands by itself as one of the great animated action sequences.

— Roger Ebert, in the Chicago Sun-Times[81]

Roger Ebert gave Atlantis three-and-half stars out of four, indicating a very positive view of the film. Ebert praised the animation's "clean bright visual look" and the "classic energy of the comic book style," and he credited this to the work of Mike Mignola.[81] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C+ rating, he wrote that the movie had "gee-whiz formulaic character" and was "the essence of craft without dream."[82] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times noted the storyline and characterizations were "old-fashioned" and the movie had the retrograde look of a Saturday morning cartoon, but these deficiencies were offset by Atlantis's brisk, frantic pace.[83] James Berardinelli, film critic for ReelViews, wrote a positive review of the film, three out of four stars. He wrote, "On the whole, Atlantis offers 90 minutes of solid entertainment, once again proving that while Disney may be clueless when it comes to producing good live-action movies, they are exactly the opposite when it comes to their animated division."[84] Todd McCarthy of Variety disliked the film. "Disney pushes into all-talking, no-singing, no-dancing and, in the end, no-fun animated territory".[85] In theThe New York Times, Elvis Mitchell praised the film giving it four stars out of five calling it "a monumental treat" and wrote, "Atlantis is also one of the most eye-catching Disney cartoons since Uncle Walt institutionalized the four-fingered glove."[86] Stephanie Zacharek of Salon disliked the film, specifically Disney's attempt to make the film for an older audience and wrote, "The big problem with Disney's latest animated feature, "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," is that it doesn't seem geared to kids at all: It's so adult that it's massively boring."[87] On the other hand, Wesley Morris of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote positively of the film's approach for an older audience, "But just beneath the surface, "Atlantis" brims with adult possibility."[88]

Several viewers have noted that the film plays strongly on the theme of anti-capitalism. The character of Rourke was seen as having a "capitalist greed"[89] which was interpreted as an attack on American Imperialism.[90] Max Messier of wrote, "Disney even manages to lambast the capitalist lifestyle of the adventurers intent on uncovering the lost city. Damn the imperialists!"[91] The film was also said to portray a "segregationist moral" by ending the film with the discovery of the Atlanteans being kept a secret and keeping the two cultures apart.[92] Others saw it as an interesting look at the H. G. Wells and Jules Verne philosophy of an Utopian society.[93]

Before and up until the film's release, some viewers noticed that Atlantis: The Lost Empire bore similarities to the popular 1990s Japanese anime television show, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, along with Castle in the Sky (1986) by the Studio Ghibli. Noted similarities included character designs, story flow, and the background settings,[94] and although Disney never made a formal response to the claims of plagiarism, in May 2001, co-director Kirk Wise posted on a Disney animation news group stating, "Never heard of Nadia till it was mentioned in this [news group]. Long after we'd finished production, I might add."[95] Both the film and the TV show were inspired by the Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea which Lee Zion for Anime News Network wrote, "...there are too many similarities not connected with 20,000 Leagues for the whole thing to be coincidence."[96] Critics also noticed similarities to Stargate (1994). Plot points and especially Milo's characteristics were said to be close to those of Daniel Jackson, the protagonist of Stargate and the main character from the spin-off series, Stargate SG-1, which, coincidentally, started its own spin-off series named Stargate Atlantis.[97]

Home release

Atlantis: The Lost Empire was released on VHS and DVD on January 29, 2002. During the first month of its home release, the film led in VHS sales and was third in VHS and DVD sales combined.[98] Sales and rentals of the VHS and DVD combined would eventually go on to accumulate $157 million in revenue.[99] Both a single-disc DVD edition and a 2-Disc Collector's Edition with expanded bonus features were made available. The VHS edition presented the film in its original theatrical ratio with the use of anamorphic widescreen. The single-disc DVD gave the viewer the option to watch the film either in its original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio or in a modified 1.33:1 ratio which utilized pan and scan. Additional bonus features available for the DVD version included; audio commentary from the film team, a virtual tour of the CG models, an Atlantean language tutorial, an encyclopedia on the myth of Atlantis, and the deleted Viking prologue scene.[100] The 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD contained all of the single-disc features as well as an additional disc with supplemental features which detailed the making of the film in all aspects of its production. Additionally, for the Collector's Edition, the film could only be viewed in its original theatrical ratio and it also featured an optional DTS 5.1 track. Both DVD versions however contained a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and were THX certified.[100][101]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Name Outcome
29th Annie Awards[102] Individual Achievement in Directing Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise Nominated
Individual Achievement in Storyboarding Chris Ure Nominated
Individual Achievement in Production Design David Goetz Nominated
Individual Achievement in Effects Animation Marlon West Nominated
Individual Achievement in Voice Acting - Female Florence Stanley Nominated
Individual Achievement in Voice Acting - Male Leonard Nimoy Nominated
Individual Achievement for Music Score James Newton Howard Nominated
2002 DVD Exclusive Awards[103] Original Retrospective Documentary Michael Pellerin Nominated
2002 Golden Reel Award[104] Best Sound Editing - Animated Feature Film Gary Rydstrom, Michael Silvers, Mary Helen Leasman, John K. Carr, Shannon Mills, Ken Fischer, David C. Hughes, Susan Sanford Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards 2001[105] Best Animated Feature Nominated
2002 Political Film Society[106] Democracy Nominated
Human Rights Nominated
Peace Nominated
World Soundtrack Awards[107] Best Original Song for Film Diane Warren, James Newton Howard Nominated
Young Artist Awards[108] Best Feature Family Film - Drama Walt Disney Feature Animation Nominated

See also


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  3. ^ Harris, Scott (November 29, 2010). "Disney's 50 Finest: In Order of Awesome". MTV Networks. Retrieved August 30, 2011. "On the other hand, the movie does feature a great cast, including Michael J. Fox and James Garner, along with animation by legendary comic book artist and "Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola. Because of this last factor, "Atlantis" has become a bit of a cult favorite in some circles..." 
  4. ^ Animation Production: "The Voices Of Atlantis" at 0:20–0:56
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  8. ^ Animation Production: "The Voices Of Atlantis" at 2:32–2:50
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  13. ^ Animation Production: "The Voices Of Atlantis" at 8:20–9:13
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  15. ^ Animation Production: "The Voices Of Atlantis" at 3:00–3:43
  16. ^ Kurtti 2001, p. 15.
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  • Don Hahn, Kirk Wise, and Gary Trousdale (Audio commentary) (January 29, 2002). Atlantis: The Lost Empire 2-Disc Collector's Edition (DVD; Disc 1/2). Walt Disney Home Entertainment. ISBN 0-7888-3110-0. UPC 786936163872. 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire cast and crew (January 29, 2002). Atlantis: The Lost Empire 2-Disc Collector's Edition (DVD; Disc 2/2). Walt Disney Home Entertainment. ISBN 0-7888-3110-0. UPC 786936163872. 
  • Booker, M. Keith (2009). Disney, Pixar, and the hidden messages of children's films. Praeger. ISBN 978-0313376726. 
  • Kurtti, Jeff (2001). Atlantis: The Lost Empire: The Illustrated Script (Abridged with Notes From the Filmmakers). Disney Press. ISBN 978-0786853274. 
  • Raugust, Karen (2004). The Animation Business Handbook. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1429962285. 

External links

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