Atlantis: The Lost Empire Review
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When you think about Disney movies, you probably think about princesses and fairy tales. Maybe you think about cartoony characters and singing animals. You probably don’t think about animated fantasies or daring adventurers who journey to fabled lands. But, in 2001, that’s exactly what the studio offered audiences with the release of Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Linguistics expert Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox) has devoted his life to studying the lost city of Atlantis. If he could just get the funding to find a legendary book known as The Shepherd’s Journal, he’ll know exactly where to find it—but it seems that no one else shares his vision.

But then Milo meets Preston B. Whitmore (John Mahoney), an old friend of Milo’s grandfather. Not only does Whitmore have The Shepherd’s Journal but he also has the funds, the equipment, and the team needed for the expedition. So, with his team already gathered, Milo sets out on an underwater adventure to discover a lost civilization.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire definitely isn’t the typical Disney animated film. It isn’t light and fluffy. There aren’t any talking animals. And there isn’t a single musical number. Instead, it’s a more mature, World War I-era adventure, with eccentric but relatively realistic characters who go on a death-defying mission to find a long-lost land. The story tends to ramble a bit—and it goes in directions that you might not be expecting—but it has the feel of a classic adventure movie.

The adventurers definitely are a motley bunch. Digging expert Mole (Corey Burton) is the quirkiest, most cartoonish member of the group, but the others—from big, lovable Dr. Sweet (Phil Morris) to teen mechanics whiz Audrey Ramirez (Jacqueline Obradors)—are more convincing, each with an interesting back story. And then, of course, there’s Milo, the brainy underdog who wants nothing more than to see Atlantis for himself—to prove that he and his grandfather weren’t as crazy as everyone said. He’s the kind of character that average kids will understand and relate to, and they’ll be eager to see if he gets his wish in the end.

The animation, too, is unlike the usual Disney animation. It’s darker and a little bolder—with imaginative, often dream-like settings and more lifelike characters. And it all comes together in an action-filled package of mystery, adventure.

Still, the fact that it’s so different makes it a tough sell. Most people don’t pick up a Disney movie expecting harrowing underwater adventures—and it isn’t quite as all-ages as most of Disney’s animated films. So if your little ones are looking for fairy tale princesses and singing puppies, you won’t find them here. But if your older kids are looking for something different—something exciting and adventurous and a little more grown-up—this unconventional Disney adventure is worth checking out.

Blu-ray Review:
The new three-disc Blu-ray/DVD release of Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire also features the film’s straight-to-video sequel, 2003’s Atlantis: Milo’s Return. And, unlike some other recent two-movie sets, it also includes a number of special features.

In addition to a commentary track and some deleted scenes (in various stages of completion), there’s also a massive, 11-part making-of feature. It covers pretty much every step of the process, from the film’s inspiration, the research that went into it, the design concepts, the characters, and more. It’s definitely an extensive feature, offering some interesting insights into the film and its creation—but it will most likely be a little overwhelming for casual viewers.

For more on Atlantis and its mysteries, you can also check out the DisneyPedia, which explores the story, the theories, and the possibilities regarding the lost city—and also provides some information about things like submarines and archaeology. Or you can learn to speak Atlantean with linguist Marc Okrand (who’s most famous for creating the Klingon language).

The extras included in this two-movie set aren’t necessarily mandatory viewing, but if you enjoy the action and adventure of Atlantis and want to know more about how this unconventional Disney movie came about, I recommend taking some time to browse through the special features menu.

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