The Film (4/5)
The early 2000's was an uneven period for Disney animation. After the early 90's brought them back to the forefront of animation with films like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and the Lion King they began a decent in quality starting with Pocahontas. Starting around 2000 they started to change things up from the musical-feature film formula that had done them so well in the 90's, and into more straightforward narrative features that mixed wonderful animation with comedy, science-fiction, adventure, and so forth. The results of these films were decided mixed, but a few choice films certainly came out of this period. One of those films is the 2001 effort Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire follows Milo, a young man who has long researched the lost city of Atlantis with his knowledge of the city, and his fluency in the language of the people he becomes part of a team assigned to go under the sea and search for the remains of Atlantis. What they discover is not just artifacts, but a place where survivors still remain, and they group together with the survivors to thwart a common enemy.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a unique entry in the Disney Animated filmography regardless of era. Disney has certainly made fantasy films before such as Sword and the Stone and Black Cauldron, but Atlantis: The Lost Empire is more of pulp science fiction story. It is much darker than typical Disney fare (although it is certainly still targeted at the kiddies), and it has dropped the musical comedy elements that Disney had become known for throughout the 90's in favor of a more traditional (at times cliche) adventure story premise. In a way the film feels like the Disney animated take on the themes present in the work of Jules Verne (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From the Earth to the Moon) than anything else.
The direction from Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale keep things moving at a fast and effective pace, and their design choices including using art and character designs from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola help to set Atlantis apart from the typical Disney flick. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a great little pulp sci-fi flick with a great blend of adventure, sci-fi, action, and a nice little bit of comedy. It failed at the box office most likely to being so different from what Disney had been doing previously, but has since gained a cult reputation. It is certainly a wonderful little film from an uneven period in Disney's history.
While not a perfect transfer by any means Atlantis: The Lost Empire is granted a quite nice 1080p AVC encoded transfer in a 2:35:1 aspect ratio. The film looks quite good with colors coming out very nicely, and the black levels being inky and deep. The detail is quite good as well. There are some issues, and these are the same issues that have plagued some of the other Disney 2 movie collections such as macroblocking, and banding at play here, but they tend to be minor occurences and do not affect the overall transfer that much.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The track is comparable excellent with dialogue coming through loud and clear. The effects bursting through the speakers, and the score coming through loud, clear, and bombastic. I did not detect any issues with the audio such as pops, cracks, or hissing.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire unlike the other 2 packs recently released by Disney has had it's extras ported over to the Blu-ray release. The most substantial extra is the sequel Atlantis: Milo's Return, which is promised of 3 television episodes edited together to make a feature film. We then have an audio commentary with the film's producer and directors. This is followed up by a 63 minute making of Atlantis featurette. We then get 16 minutes of deleted scenes, a 2 minute mock documentary on how to speak Atlantean, and a fact vs. fiction featurette that runs 7 minutes called Atlantis Fact or Fiction. The Set is rounded off by the films theatrical trailer.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is certainly an oddity in the world of Disney Animation, but with it's pulpy and fun adventure story, great art design, excellent voice cast and direction it certainly deserves the cult reputation it has garnered over the years. The A/V on the disc isn't perfect, but it certainly looks quite good, and it's nice to see some extras on the Blu-ray. RECOMMENDED.