Atlantis: The Lost Empire

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Milo trying to convince scholars of Atlantis' existence.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (first released on June 3, 2001) is an animated sci-fi mixed action movie created by Walt Disney Studios. It was written by Tab Murphy and directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. It is set in the year 1914 where an expedition crew goes off to find the lost city of Atlantis.

It was one of the few animated films shot in the CinemaScope widescreen process.

Some viewers have noted similarities between the Milo character and motion picture language consultant Dr. Marc Okrand, who developed an "Atlantean language" for this movie.

On May 20, 2003, Disney released a direct-to-video sequel for this movie called Atlantis: Milo's Return.


Voice cast

Missing image
Princess Kida

Plot summary

The film begins with an explosion and a massive wave washing over the island of Atlantis. Giant sentries defend the city, but the queen is drawn into a glowing blue beam projected from the "heart of Atlantis," a huge gem which powers the city's defenses. She leaves behind a young daughter, princess Kida, as the city disappears beneath the waves.

Thousands of years later, Milo Thatch is an aspiring linguist and explorer whose university has little use for him other than keeping the boilers running. He believes that his research has revealed the location of The Shepherd's Journal, a Viking manuscript that allegedly reveals the way to Atlantis. After he can't get the faculty's support, a mysterious woman named Helga invites him to see her employer. Helga takes him to Preston B. Whitmore, an eccentric millionaire who, owing a debt to Milo's grandfather, has funded a successful effort to find the journal and, now that it is in hand, recruits Milo to read the book and lead an expedition to Atlantis.

Milo sets out with a crew headed up by Rourke, a military man who led the expedition to recover the journal, Helga, and a crew of oddballs. They set out in a massive submarine, the Ulysses. As they approach Atlantis, the Ulysses is attacked and destroyed by the Leviathan, a huge robotic defender of Atlantis. Milo, Rourke, and a small complement of crew escape in small sub-pods and a cargo hauler and, reaching an underground cavern described in the book, continue ahead on foot and vehicle. They are tracked all the time by some Atlanteans.

Reaching Atlantis, they are greeted by Kida, now a young woman. She brings the group to meet her aging father, who wants them to leave as soon as they are able. Atlantis has fallen into ruins since disappearing into the earth, and Kida enlists Milo's help deciphering the runes throughout the city. He helps her discover the nature of the heart of Atlantis, but can't tell how it works, since a page of the journal is missing.

Rourke turns out to have the missing page, and he turns the tables by forcing Milo and Kida to help him find the Heart of Atlantis. Once found, it merges with Kida, causing her to fall into a trance as her body becomes a glowing blue crystal. Rourke locks up Kida and attempts to float her out of Atlantis by balloon. Milo rallies the crew and the Atlanteans to stop Rourke, and manages to restart several Atlantian vehicles to create an aerial fighting force to challenge the plunderers.

In the ensuing battle, Rourke and Helga are killed, Kida is liberated, but a volcanic eruption ensues. The city's total destruction is immenient until Milo and Kida are able to restore the city's systems to full power which include restarting the sentinels who again rise to protect Atlantis. The Atlanteans thank the visitors who helped save Atlantis and give them a huge treasure. The surviving crew, now insanely wealthy, return to Whitmore's mansion to get their stories straight and cover up the existence of Atlantis, while Milo stays to help Kida rebuild the Atlantean empire.

Box office

Atlantis: The Lost Empire was a box office disappointment, making approximately $85 million dollars in its US theatrical run, well below its production cost of $120 million and nowhere near the animation high-water mark of $312 million set by The Lion King. It can be seen as part of a series of early-2000's Disney disappointments (a stretch that includes The Emperor's New Groove and Treasure Planet), and of a series of animated action-adventure movies that failed to connect with audiences, such as Titan A.E., Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and the aforementioned Treasure Planet.


The film has a terrific opening sequence depicting the fall of Atlantis, a promising first act that sets up the story, whip-smart dialogue, and an interesting visual look based on the comics of Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. It also won some praise for daring to break away from the comfort of Disney's animated musicals that dominated the 90's by trying a serious, action-adventure story.

That said, critics and audiences generally disliked the film. Critics noted the one-dimensional characterizations in the too-large cast of supporting characters, the remoteness of Milo, a lack of audience involvement, a deus ex machina climax, and a general lifelessness that accompanies the by-the-book trudging from one set piece to the next following the destruction of the Ulysses.

Some of the movie's internal logic has been found lacking as well. How can the Atlanteans, with multi-millennia life-spans, forget their own written language, and yet be able to speak Latin or modern languages like French and English when meeting Milo and his team, all of which developed after the Atlantean catastrophe?

Many have noticed the similarity in character between Milo and Daniel Jackson in the 1994 movie Stargate. Also, Rourke's attitude and contempt for Milo is similar to the less friendly movie version of Col Jack O'Neill.

The Nadia controversy

Some anime fans have accused the film as being derived from the Gainax series Nadia (also known as The Secret of Blue Water). Chief to this theory is a notable similarity to many of the lead characters in each: a bespectacled nerdy scholar, an exotic girl with a pendant that is a direct link to Atlantis' power, a fantastic submarine with a tough-as-nails woman as the first officer, etc.

Others dismiss the similarities as intrinsic to the nature of the material: how are you going to do a Jules Verne-like story about finding Atlantis that doesn't involve use of a submarine? Moreover, some of the most important elements of Nadia—like the comic villains Grandis and her henchmen, who join the heroes in the end to fight the true villains, the alien neo-Atlanteans—are nowhere to be seen in Atlantis. To top it all off, the film's producers have said while they were aware of anime, they weren't specifically familiar with Nadia, and instead took their cue from Disney live-action adventure movies like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Island at the Top of the World.

Others argue the real theft is that much of Nadia can be traced back to the Hayao Miyazaki film Castle in the Sky, which features a mysterious girl whose pendant is a direct link to the power source of a lost empire.

Quotations (in Atlantean)

  • Atlantean Pilot #1: "NEE-puk! GWEE-sit TEE-rid MEH-gid-leh-men!" (You fool! You've destroyed us all!)
  • Atlantean Pilot #2: "Shoam KOO-leh-beh-toat! LOO-den-tem WEE-luhg KAH-behr-seh-kem!" (It's gaining! We have to warn the city!)
  • Atlantean Pilot #2 (cont'd): "Nahl YOH-deh-neh-toat!" (Too late! AAAAAAAGHHH!)
  • Additional Pilots: "GWEE-sit khoab-DEH-sheh-toat! SOH-lesh-tem MOO-tih-lihm-kem!" (We're doomed! All is lost!)

Missing image
The Heart of Atlantis, merged with Princess Kida.
  • Kida: "MAH-tihm!" (Mother!)

  • Kida: "Deh-GEEM, TAH-neb-toap. Way-DAH-go-sen NEH-bet behr-NOH-tib-mick." (Greetings, Your Highness. I have brought the visitors.)
  • King: "MOAKH TAH-mar GWEE-sin puhn-NEB-leh-nen KEE-duh-toap. WEEL-tem neb GAH-moh-seh-toat deg DOO-weh-ren TEE-rid." (You know the law, Kida. No outsiders may see the city and live.)
  • Kida: "TAHB-toap LOO-den NEH-bet kwahm GEH-soo BOH-geh-kem deg YAH-seh-ken GEH-soo-goan-tokh." (Father, these people may be able to help us.)
  • King: "GWEES DOH-sep-tem SOH-bin kwahm AH-lih-teh-kem." (We do not need their help.)
  • Kida: "Uhd TAHB-toap..." (But father...)
  • King: "Puh-SEEL-leh-toat. TAH-ges DOH-tesh-tem neb YOO-teh-poan-kem." (That is enough. We will discuss this later.)

  • Kida: "MOH-khit GWEH-noag-loh-nick!" (I will kill you for that!)

  • Kida: "NEE-shen-toap AHD-luhn-tih-suhg KEH-loab-tem GAHB-rihn KAH-roak-lih-mihk bet gihm DEH-moat-tem net GEH-tuh-noh-sen-tem behr-NOAT-lih-mihk bet KAH-gihb LEH-wihd-yoakh." (Spirits of Atlantis, forgive me for defiling your chambers and bringing intruders into the land.)

  • Kida: "SOH-lesh MAH-toh-noat MY-loh THATCH-toap. Kwahm TEH-red-seh-nen." (All will be well, Milo Thatch. Be not afraid.)

External links

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