Atlantis: The Misplaced Empire used to be supposed to modify the process Disney

Your favourite early life film may’ve been a complete box-office dud. The animated films that outlined the overdue ‘90s and early 2000s are cherished by way of a technology that grew up gazing them on VHS, however many of those nostalgic favorites had been crucial disasters, box-office disappointments, or each. What went fallacious alongside the best way? And why did they achieve such love after the truth? The Cherished Animated Disasters collection is out to mud off the ones previous VHS tapes (or, extra appropriately, to find the flicks on streaming) and read about a few of these motion pictures.

Atlantis: The Misplaced Empire got here from the staff in the back of two sweeping Disney Renaissance musicals, but it surely deliberately didn’t function a unmarried tune. Manufacturer Don Hahn and administrators Attractiveness and the Beast’s Gary Trousdale and Kirk Smart, plus their The Hunchback of Notre Dame screenwriter Tab Murphy, sought after to create a film that harkened again to Disney’s live-action journey films of the 1960s. Atlantis used to be pitched as an “Adventureland” better half to the Disney Renaissance’s “Fantasyland.” Leaders on the corporate had been excited for what that would imply for Disney animation: simply as many films eager about motion and journey as options eager about fairy stories and songs.

Atlantis didn’t tank upon unencumber in 2001, but it surely did give an underwhelming efficiency on the field workplace. It used to be meant to modify the process Disney animation, bring in a tv collection, and provides Disney a brand new reworking theme for a few of its park sights. As a substitute, it went quietly underneath the radar. However like all of the films on this collection, Atlantis discovered a robust, passionate fanbase amongst individuals who grew up with it. In fresh months, this film in particular has ignited a resurgence of appreciation, a lot to the marvel of the filmmakers, who had no concept that their once-overlooked film had grown a devoted, loving following.

kida and milo standing at the entrance to Atlantis

Symbol: Disney

The yr is 1914. Cartographer Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) has dreamed of discovering the misplaced empire of Atlantis all his existence. When a mysterious benefactor absolutely funds an exploratory undertaking, Milo and a gaggle of ragtag mavens descend right into a subterranean international looking for Atlantis and discover a misplaced civilization, a curious princess, and an unattainable supply of energy…

A little bit backstory…

Atlantis used to be some of the first Disney films since 1986’s The Nice Mouse Detective to be absolutely shaped with out a musical part. Disney pivoted clear of the Broadway-esque components within the overdue 1990s, however even films that weren’t explicitly musicals, like Tarzan and The Emperor’s New Groove, nonetheless incorporated musical sequences with custom-composed songs from outstanding rock stars. Indubitably a part of that vary used to be the Disney components getting diminishing returns from audiences and critics alike, however as manufacturer Don Hahn instructed Polygon in an interview, the creators themselves had been additionally getting bored with musicals.

“We’d achieved such a lot of of them and with such good fortune, however I feel it used to be time to check out one thing other. I feel that’s the reality with any artist or creator,” he says. “You get to some extent for your occupation the place you need to push out in new instructions, and we had been all feeling that approach.”

Author Tab Murphy consents with this sentiment. He joined the Trousdale-Smart-Hahn staff throughout The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which he felt already have shyed away from the everyday Disney components with its extra severe tone.

“We had any such nice time making [Hunchback]. They sought after to stay their staff in combination and instantly release into one thing else,” he explains to Polygon. “However frankly, they had been a little bit burned out of this sort of musical template that Disney had at the moment: the songs and speaking animals and this and that. They had been simply craving — as I used to be — to do one thing other.”

Hahn remembers that there used to be by no means a mandate to check out new issues — if truth be told, he thinks that the studio would have most well-liked “princess films for a very long time, as a result of they had been in reality profitable.” However the writers, administrators, and artists at Disney had been hungry for one thing other. It used to be an exhilarating time to be on the studio, the place pitches had been coming in for every type of wackier concepts.

“It used to be looking to in reality push out in a brand new course,” says Hahn. “Gosh, on the time, pitches had been popping out for Westerns, for area adventures, and a wide variety of items.”

Atlantis in particular sparked from an try to recapture a Disney custom. At an extended lunch at a Mexican eating place in Burbank, Trousdale, Smart, Hahn, and Murphy attempted to determine what sort of film they sought after to make subsequent. They had been all nostalgic for the live-action Disney films of the previous, the action-adventure motion pictures of the 1950s and ’60s. Atlantis wasn’t about Atlantis in the beginning — they first of all envisioned it as a remaster of Jules Verne’s novel Adventure to the Middle of the Earth. Consistent with a record on Collider, the tale sooner or later developed into Atlantis once they learn the Verne guide, and discovered it lacked a robust answer; the explorers within the guide by no means in fact succeed in their vacation spot. (“It’s a really perfect thought but it surely simply doesn’t cross any place,” Trousdale instructed Collider.)

kida greeting the explorers

Symbol: DIsney

The Adventureland-vs.-Fantasyland thought used to be used to pitch Disney on the concept other flavors of tasks may all exist underneath the similar banner and components. Hahn’s staff felt the Disney components didn’t must be limited to fairy-tale musicals — and that Walt himself had already laid the groundwork for journey films by way of dedicating a bit of the theme park to them.

The studio used to be on board with that pitch — despite the fact that it helped that Michael Eisner used to be bitterly feuding with Roy Disney, and many of the higher-u.s.had been eager about Disney Theatrical. That gave the ingenious staff extra space for innovation with out consistent supervision.

“There used to be no doubt a distinct vibe on the studio,” Trousdale instructed Collider. “It didn’t really feel like Eisner used to be long gone at all times. He used to be simply distracted […] with Roy and the board and an influence battle.”

Hahn says the brand new style objectives knowledgeable the movie’s visible genre. The manufacturing staff, aiming to make the film glance extra like a comic book guide, became to the artwork of Hellboy author Mike Mignola for inspiration. The studio employed Mignola as some of the manufacturing designers, and his distinct genre used to be used in particular for the nature designs, that have a specifically angular glance that separates Atlantis from the softer aesthetic of earlier Disney films.

“I consider gazing a coarse lower of the movie and those characters have those large, sq., bizarre palms,” Mignola recalled to New York Day-to-day Information in a 2008 interview. “I stated to the fellow subsequent to me, ‘The ones are cool palms.’ And he says to me, ‘Yeah, they’re your palms. We had a complete assembly about methods to do your palms.’ It used to be so bizarre I couldn’t wrap my mind round it.”

When it got here to the misplaced civilization itself, the staff sought after to deviate from the everyday depiction of Atlantis as a crumbling Greco-Roman spoil. They became to different architectural kinds from Mayan, Cambodian, Indian, and Tibetan structures. Hahn says in a DVD supplemental function that the objective used to be to “deconstruct structure from world wide into one architectural vocabulary.” The staff tapped linguist Marc Okrand, who evolved the Klingon vocabulary for Famous person Trek, to create a dialect for Atlantis. It used to be designed to be a imaginable “mom language” for the Indo-Ecu language tree, with its personal alphabet and numbers.

a panoramic view of atlantis

Symbol: Disney

The overall model of Atlantis has Joss Whedon’s identify connected with a screenwriting credit score, however consistent with Murphy, Whedon wasn’t concerned with this model of the movie in any respect. He’d achieved a remedy for a musical undertaking involving Atlantis, so the studio idea it prudent to glue his identify to the film — a lot to the marvel of Murphy, Smart, and Trousdale.

Past that, the studio handiest positioned a couple of constraints at the filmmakers. One, Murphy says, used to be to dial down the violence.

“My first draft used to be about 142 pages, and the frame depend used to be somewhat top,” he remembers. (For reference, consistent with the Sport Theorists, Atlantis: The Misplaced Empire has the second-highest frame depend of any Disney film at roughly 35,185, moment handiest to the mass extinction in 2000’s Dinosaur.) After the Columbine shootings in 1999, Disney executives additionally changed into cautious of the gun utilization within the film. One of the shootout scenes had been toned again, together with some scarier monsters. However as opposed to that, Murphy says, Disney’s executives had been gung-ho concerning the film’s growth.

The studio’s religion in Atlantis used to be so top that executives started to ascertain theme-park tie-ins. They laid out a plan to revise Disneyland’s 20,000 Leagues Underneath the Sea-themed Submarine Voyage, and to introduce a unconditionally new curler coaster referred to as Fireplace Mountain, which might sign up for the roster of Disney mountain sights (Area Mountain, Splash Mountain, Large Thunder Mountain, and Expedition Everest).

“In a way it will reproduction the feeling and the design of the gliders which can be used within the ultimate struggle of the film. That used to be going to take you during the exploding volcano and more than a few different eventualities,” Smart instructed Collider.

In other places on the studio, an animated tv collection in response to the film began construction. Not one of the filmmakers had been very concerned within the display, but it surely used to be designed as an X-Information-esque journey collection, the place the characters reunited and visited a distinct location with a distinct legend every episode. There have been plans to sooner or later move over the collection with Disney’s Gargoyles TV collection.

Consistent with Smart, price range setbacks supposed that one of the most costlier set components and motion sequences needed to be scaled again just a little, however however, Atlantis were given a hefty advertising push. It used to be some of the first Disney films to make use of web advertising, with a site with mini-games and cell video games in response to the movie. The movie used to be a chance, however the studio used to be assured it will be well worth the funding. It used to be supposed as a daring undertaking into the unknown, like the only the explorers within the film adopt. And similar to within the film, it didn’t pan out precisely the best way they envisioned.

What went fallacious

helga making a face with rourke right behind her

Symbol: Disney

Atlantis didn’t tank, but it surely made significantly much less cash than Disney anticipated. The theme-park plans had been shelved, and the animated collection used to be quietly smushed right into a direct-to-video sequel when it changed into transparent that this film wasn’t hitting the best way Disney had expected. Despite the fact that some critics praised the original animation genre and the extra mature storyline, others lamented that with out songs, and with a focal point on discussion and motion, it felt “too grownup,” and that its tale dragged.

Many attributed Atlantis’ failure to audiences simply being extra excited about CG animation, pointing to Shrek, which got here out previous that yr, and made $484.four million on a $60 million price range. All over that generation, the place animation used to be converting, each time an absolutely computer-animated film succeeded whilst a hand-drawn movie ebbed, it used to be simple to easily use CG as a scapegoat for the failure of hand-drawn films. In spite of everything, CG animation these days dominates the business, and those less-than-successful historically animated films may really well look like a funeral bell on reflection. As earlier entries of our Cherished Animated Disasters collection have famous, despite the fact that, Shrek’s CG visuals weren’t as important as its hipper, edgier tone. Whilst Atlantis deviates from the Disney musical components, with extra explosions and less songs, it’s nonetheless a old fashioned heroic-fantasy circle of relatives tale. Shrek’s crass, referential humor and evident digs at Disney totally departed from the earnest hero’s adventure, and aimed toward an older and extra understanding target audience. However that didn’t stay second-guessers from blaming Atlantis’ failure on its animation.

Even so, Hahn says that, on the time, nobody idea that hand-drawn animation used to be death, in keeping with se, “however we knew we needed to push the envelope. And we had these kinds of nice new era equipment at our fingertips. So similar to the artists need to push the tale, the artists sought after to push what they are able to do with the ones equipment. Then they only [used] them in several tactics: digicam strikes and cinematography and engaging cars and submarines and leviathans and all that stuff.”

However despite the fact that the film driven the bounds of era, oldsters taking youngsters to catch a brand new Disney film would basically be considering the tale, no longer the visuals. With a extra grownup solid, a heavier storyline, and emphasis on motion and journey, Atlantis used to be additionally a more difficult promote. Murphy attributes the disappointing box-office effects to 1 easy factor.

“It used to be other. Anytime you do one thing other, you are taking a chance. That is the drawback of it,” he says. “Atlantis used to be a complete new … it used to be a really perfect jump of religion into the unknown for the studio.” And prefer many leaps of religion, this one didn’t hit the touchdown again in 2001.

Why we adore it nowadays

kida in a blue spirit form

Symbol: Disney

Just about 20 years after Atlantis got here out, Murphy stated he doesn’t suppose a lot concerning the film. Its underperformance used to be disappointing, but it surely had roughly left his thoughts. He figured it got here and went again in 2001, with few folks taking note of it after the truth.

So consider his marvel when he realized of a Fb crew devoted to the film that sports activities greater than 20,000 participants.

“I simply more or less assumed that it walked away and into the film graveyard,” says Murphy. “There’s a super fan base that I used to be totally blind to.”

The gang in query, Atlantis: The Misplaced Empireposting, used to be created in 2019 and is one of the “shitposting” Fb teams devoted to making memes about underappreciated animated films of the early 2000s. Jordan Waterfield, the Atlantis crew’s admin and co-creator, is a 28-year-old who watched the film for the primary time when it got here out on DVD within the early 2000s.

“I in fact by no means noticed it within the cinema!” he tells Polygon. “I used to observe it on repeat with my little brother, and it used to be a staple favorite of ours.”

Because it seems, there’s so much to like about Atlantis: The Misplaced Empire. For starters, it’s an journey film formed in a story genre we don’t see a lot anymore, animated in a cel-animation genre we don’t see a lot anymore. The archaeological journey style has been round for a very long time, however flourished it within the 1980s and ’90s with films like Raiders of the Misplaced Ark and The Mummy. With few exceptions, just like the 2018 Tomb Raider movie and the 2017 Mummy remake, those films tapered off into the 2010s. Just like Titan A.E. uncovered a technology of youngsters to laborious science fiction, Atlantis opened some youngsters’ eyes to the find out about of historical cultures. Murphy says he used to be completely floored by way of the choice of folks within the Fb crew who spoke to him about how Atlantis impressed their love of archaeology or linguistics.

It’s additionally visually placing. The misplaced town itself is a lush, herbal position filled with earth tones and placing blues and vegetables. All the film faucets into a definite steampunk / dieselpunk hybrid, particularly with the designs of the cars and guns. The submarine that the staff forums is a behemoth of a contraption to behold on display screen.

one of the submarine pods in atlantis

Symbol: Disney

Murphy says a large number of the choices about when to set the film had been merely in response to what gave the impression cool on the time. The Jules Verne adventures that impressed the film are set within the overdue Victorian generation, only a wee bit previous than the film’s ultimate atmosphere of 1914. However positioning Atlantis proper on the cusp of Global Struggle I (a undeniable fact that’s simply forgettable, till Milo mentions the Kaiser towards the top of the film) blends the exploration vibe of steampunk with the with extra militaristic dieselpunk guns. Just like the next yr’s Treasure Planet, Atlantis had a glance that simply hadn’t been achieved a lot in Western animation, a glance reputedly impressed by way of anime like Studio Ghibli’s Fortress within the Sky.

After which there are the characters. One of the crucial hallmarks of Atlantis: The Misplaced Empire is the huge solid, in particular the misfit crew of explorers who accompany Milo on his adventure. They’re a shockingly numerous crew of people for a Disney film made in 2001, all with attention-grabbing, distinctive backstories, from former flower-shop proprietor became demolitions professional Vinnie (Don Novello) to mechanical-engineering prodigy Audrey (Jacqueline Obradors). Hahn says the filmmakers sought after a Challenge Inconceivable-style staff.

“We would have liked this to be a world crew of explorers,” explains Murphy. “Preston Whitmore, the reclusive billionaire, had drawn from world wide and were given the most productive of the most productive. And that gave us a possibility to do one thing that used to be in some ways forward of its time, to position in combination a solid and a staff that used to be extraordinarily numerous.”

One of the crucial easiest scenes of the film isn’t a large chase scene or shootout, however a quiet second by way of the fireplace because the explorers bond. They business foundation tales and calmly tease one some other. It’s a smaller personality second nested amid the nice journey — and one thing the filmmakers should not have been in a position to do throughout the Disney Renaissance musical framework.

As Kirk Smart instructed Movie Magazine Global again in 2001, “We had extra display screen time to be had to do a scene like the place Milo and the explorers are tenting out and studying about one some other’s histories. A whole collection is dedicated to having dinner and going to mattress. That isn’t normally one thing we’d have the posh of doing.”

Atlantean princess Kida (Cree Summers) and Milo themselves go away from the archetypal heroes of the Disney Renaissance. Milo isn’t specifically good-looking, sturdy, or fascinating, whilst Kida isn’t a wide-eyed dreamer wishing to flee an organized marriage. They’re personality varieties we see incessantly in journey films — the made up our minds student and the warrior princess — however they’re firsts within the pantheon of Disney animated heroes. To youngsters rising up with the film, Atlantis introduced another kind of hero that they grasp to these kinds of years later, and took to meme teams and different on-line areas to have a good time.

Hahn — together with Smart, Trousdale, and one of the most different participants of the manufacturing staff — joined the Atlantis Fb crew after Murphy came upon it. It’s been an exciting revel in, Hahn says, to find that this film had such an have an effect on.

“A large number of those enthusiasts that are actually popping out of the woodwork and retaining this film alive are all of their mid-20s, mid-late-20s,” says Murphy. “The truth that I had no thought for 20 years [that] there used to be a complete fan base in the market that reveres this film — it’s in reality been pleasant to come back complete circle.”

And Waterfield says he watches the film along with his personal youngsters now, retaining the legacy of the film going. “Each time I watch Atlantis now, I will really feel the nice and cozy nostalgia of my early life,” he says. “And I am hoping that’s one thing my youngsters will really feel too sooner or later.”

Atlantis: The Misplaced Empire is to be had to move on Disney Plus.


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