A new Disney film in the canon, to me, is about as rare as finding a village in Minecraft – not something that happens at all often and, no matter how bad it ends up being, is always a welcome discovery. I mentioned in my post for The Emperor’s New Groove how this was my first new canonical Disney for 30 posts and I had no idea to expect. Now, I don’t know whether it’s the re-aligned expectations of the last few films, but I loved Atlantis. Might go as far as to say that it’s the best Disney since Hunchback.
Love for this film was unexpected. After all, it has the fourth lowest Metacritic score of all the films within the canon – the top three being all films in my near future. In fact, the reviews were so bad in the USA that I don’t even remember seeing Atlantis being advertised in the UK – the other being Home on the Range. With the reviewers went the ticket-buying audience, which made this film a comparative flop.
When watching Atlantis there is a very pertinent question that comes to mind (which also came up with Dinosaur): what makes a Disney film? It’s this question that really seemed to flummox crowds back in 2001 who went in expecting something young children would love and a few decent songs thrown in. Instead you get a film with visuals inspired by the Hellboy comics and a mythology that stands in the larger footsteps of Studio Ghibli films like Castle in the Sky. This is the film that Disney were trying to make all those years ago with The Black Cauldron – and I only hope that Atlantis gets some sort of critical re-evaluation soon.
The animation in this film is not Dinsey at their greatest. It hearkens back to animation we said goodbye to after The Great Mouse Detective and, to be honest the character designs are all over the place to the point where they look like models from three different films put together. It makes up for this in scope though, the use of 3D-modelling for the submersible and the whole sequence near the end with the Atlantean golems is beautifully done. I also really appreciate the work done on giving this culture a specially-constructed language with the view to have it be a possible offshoot of the Indo-European linguistic tree. Hell, this film is the Dungeons and Dragons campaign that most dungeon masters could only dream of constructing.
By no means is this one of the top tier Disney films. When I eventually do a ranking after watching and writing up Frozen 2, I don’t foresee Atlantis appearing in my Top 15. However, it deserves so much credit for being a different direction that Disney could have taken. With films like Zootopia we still see tinges of this more adult brand of story-telling, but with both Atlantis and Treasure Planet being flops – I can see why they would be so reluctant to engage in outlandish world-building for a while.
Next on the list is Lilo & Stitch, which when looking at what is to come, will be the last decent film on the list before 2008’s Bolt. I’m going to make sure that I relish it as much as possible as I know I’ll be missing it like crazy when I am halfway through watching Brother Bear.