In the last few years, computer animation has made leaps and bounds to the point where we're presented with smoothly digital characters in cartoons like "Shrek". The only problem is, has this spoiled audiences towards traditional animation? The only traditionally animated effort that I've been impressed by was Fox's "Titan A.E.", a "Star Wars"-ish feature that did a very nice job of combining CGI and Don Bluth's wonderful traditional animation.
Disney's "Atlantis" does stick with the traditional animation, but jumps the usual "Disney" formula by dropping the animated "sidekicks" and usual Disney songs that populate their features. The result, coming from "Beauty and the Beast" animators Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, is a mixed affair, with some fairly exciting action sequences at the begining and the end, but really not a whole lot in the middle of it all.
The film revolves around Milo Thatch(Michael J. Fox), a young lad who has always tried to prove that the lost city of Atlantis exists. His grandfather tried to find it, and now the mission is in his hands - if only he can convince anyone to believe him. An eccentric businessman offers him the means to get to where he thinks the lost city is and a crew to go with him, lead by a millitary officer played by James Garner, he's also followed by a demolitions expert, truck driver and others. Although Milo is supposedly smart, it takes him an awfully long time to figure out that the intentions of his fellow crew members are not for the best.
After an exciting attack sequence with a monster who guards the opening to Atlanis, there's a suprisingly long journey before the group actually arrives there. Once there, the usual elements fall into place. Milo falls for the Princess of Atlanis, Princess Kida (Cree Summer), who is arguing with her father about the future of the colony. Where the film's trailer made "Atlantis" look like an action picture, there's a long stretch in the middle where the group is trying to find out the city's secret that really doesn't move along the way it should.
It's all capped off with a pretty terrific action sequence that finishes things off. So, we're left with a film that looks fairly good for traditional animation, has a couple of decent action sequences and not a whole lot else. The actors providing the voices do a pretty respectable job, but the highlights of the group are Fox as Thatch and Don Novello, who gets all of the movie's best comedic lines.
I appreciated the lack of the usual Disney accessories in the form of songs and sidekicks, but I was suprised that there was some considerable violence in the film - a couple of the younger children in the audience had to be taken out for a little while after being scared by some of the more intense sequences. It's an entertaining enough way to pass the time for 90 minutes out of a Summer day, but it certainly doesn't have the energy of some of the studio's recent fare like "Tarzan" and it's not nearly as entertaining as "Shrek".
VIDEO: This basic edition of "Atlantis" offers the film in both 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen edition is a superb effort from Disney, presenting the terrific mix of traditional and computer animation with remarkable sharpness and detail. The slightest traces of pixelation during a few moments are the only flaws in what is otherwise a marvelous presentation. No print problems or other signs of trouble were spotted. Colors were the most pleasing part of the image throughout the film - "Atlantis" boasted a rich and vivid, although slightly dark, color palette that looked outstanding in all aspects. There's not much to discuss about Disney's effort here, which is a good thing - this is excellent work.
SOUND: The sound design of "Atlantis" was done by Gary Rydstrom, who many DVD enthusiasts will be familiar with, due to his work on such films as "The Haunting", "Toy Story 2" and the impressively detailed, yet subtle sound for "Legend Of Bagger Vance". "Atlantis" is an exciting sound experience, although it can only work with what it has. The film's middle section does not provide as much in the way of agressive sound effects because there's simply not enough going on. On both sides though - begining and end - there are some incredible sequences that really have the surrounds working overtime, such as the underwater attack early on. The soundtrack also provides strong bass at several points. While not a consistently agressive soundtrack, Rydstrom continues his wonderful work putting the viewer into the middle of each sequence, whether it be a quiet moment or a battle scene.
MENUS:: The disc does feature an animated main menu, but it's rather basic.
Commentary: This is a commentary from directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, who are joined by producer Don Hahn. The commentary is quite enjoyable, as the three provide a good mixture of fun discussion about their opinions of their work and some light technical details about how the animation was completed. I really liked this track and felt it was a nice balance of pleasant joking about the final product and nice detail about the story, characters and animation. The three do make some bad jokes, although they're bad enough to be funny.
Deleted Scene: A deleted (although fully completed) sequence that shows Vikings unsuccessfully trying to find Atlantis. It's interesting to watch, but it's not particularly necessary.
How To Speak Atlantean: A fun little featurette on translations between English and Atlantean.
Atlantis: Fact Or Fiction This is a section that provides additional clips about different historical facts related to Atlantis and other areas.
Digital Models: This section provides the animated digital models of "The Leviathan" and "The Ulysses".
Final Thoughts: "Atlantis" is enjoyable, but a bit on the bland side and not as enjoyable as the other main children's fare that was released in 2001. Disney's basic DVD edition of the picture doesn't offer nearly as many supplements as the special edition, but still has a few extras and strong audio/video.
The Film ***
Video 95/A = (380/400 possible points)
Audio: 93/A = (372/400 possible points)
Extras: 81/B = (243/300 possible points)
Menus: 80/B- = (160/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ***
DVD GRADE: B