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Western Animation / Atlantis: The Lost Empire

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"Atlantis is waiting..."

" a single day and night of misfortune, the island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea."
Plato, 360 B.C.

Entry #41 in the Disney Animated Canon, this 2001 movie begins with a great cataclysm that occurred in the distant past which swallows up an entire, highly advanced civilization. Only through the Heroic Sacrifice of the queen is the civilization spared complete destruction, but to the rest of the world, it seems as if it was wiped from the face of the planet...

Flash forward to 1914. Milo Thatch, a young, poor, orphaned linguist, has uncovered evidence of the existence of a great civilization in the past, Atlantis, which was previously thought to be just a myth. Despite his breakthroughs in deciphering clues hidden in the writings and legends of many disparate cultures, his ideas and his proposed expedition—to find "the Shepherd's Journal" and follow its instructions to the lost city itself—is rejected outright by his peers. However, a mysterious woman steps in and offers him a chance to prove his theory, backed by the mysterious billionaire Mr. Whitmore, who knew Milo's grandfather and had agreed years earlier to help finance Milo's expedition.


Once Milo meets Whitmore and convinces him of his own personal determination and commitment, he is invited to join an expedition that is setting out to make the unprecedented trip to Atlantis itself. The rag-tag team is led by Commander Rourke, a straight, no-nonsense military man, who also knew Milo's grandfather and worked with him on the previous expedition where they found the Shepherd's Journal. Once they arrive at the destination from which they might never return, they discover an underdeveloped, dying society that has abandoned and forgotten their written language — and Milo becomes a translator between the two cultures. However, it is revealed that there is an ulterior purpose to the expedition that Milo is unaware of, and his compatriots are not all that they seem.

While a sequel named Shards of Chaos as well as an animated TV series named Team Atlantis was under development, the film's somewhat disappointing performance at the box-office lead Disney to cancel both the sequel and the series, the latter of which was a bit into its production. Instead, the completed material for the series was reworked into a Direct to Video sequel film named Atlantis: Milo's Return.


The film was accompanied by three tie-in video games. Atlantis is also the third Disney Animated Canon film to be rated PG in America, with the first being 1985's The Black Cauldron and the second being Dinosaur in 2000 (Dinosaur, however, was only added to the Canon in 2008).

This film provides examples of:

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  • Acoustic License: During the opening sequence, one of the Atlantean pilots angrily shouts from his Hammerhead craft to another that "You fool! You've destroyed us all!" Never mind how loud the flying craft are, how fast they're moving, and how many of them they are all around the pilots, considering how close they were to the explosion, they should all have instantly had their eardrums ruptured, if not killed outright.
  • Action Girl: It would be easier to just say "all of them," but it's a lot more fun to name them specifically:
    • Audrey is a teenage mechanic who's surprisingly proactive, given her age. Apparently she also has a sister who is poised to become a boxing champion.
    • Helga's not just a Femme Fatale - she can kick some serious ass too.
    • Even Ms. Packard gets in on this during the climax.
    • Kida herself is one, being able to hold her own against trained soldiers (and, according to her father, she was quite ruthless in the past).
  • Actor Allusion:
    • When Milo first meets Commander Rourke, the latter comments that he "prefers a good western." This could be seen as a reference to James Garner's earlier television series Maverick, where he played a gambler in The Wild West.
    • Two for Michael J. Fox and Back to the Future. In his first scene, Marty/Milo is rehearsing something, only to realize he's late. Later, when Milo realizes King Kashekim Nedakh is dying, he says "What a nightmare", which was what Marty says when he wakes up in the "improved" 1985 in the end.
  • Advanced Ancient Acropolis: Although by the time Milo and the crew gets there, the natives have forgotten how everything works since everything was lost in the flood shown in the beginning of the film.
  • Advanced Ancient Humans: The Atlanteans have technology and science far more advanced than anything recorded in history including laser-spewing hovercrafts, floating monuments, crystals that grant healing and advanced longevity, hyper-awareness of languages created millennia after their own, and massive machines. However, they are also quite militaristic to the point they tried to turn their own civilization's power source into a weapon of mass destruction and ended up destroying themselves by accident for it. All this while still possessing tribalistic characteristics such as a hunter/gatherer style of living. In their case, they're a strange case of a proud warrior race and a proud scholar race.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Though no individual characters themselves fit the trope, the movie as a whole fit the genre perfectly.
  • A Father to His Men: Rourke, particularly towards Milo, to whom he serves as a second father figure. It turns out to be an act, since he doesn’t give a damn about any of his men, and flat-out murders Helga at the drop of a hat.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: At the end of the movie, Milo is saying goodbye to all his friends. When he comes to Mole, who offers a big hug, he hesitates before patting his head instead.
  • Alliterative Name: Thaddeus Thatch, Milo's deceased grandfather.
  • Alternate History: By the way, then thanks for Milo's crew, in the sequel, outside Atlantis exists again.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song:
    • The film has a different theme song for the Japanese version, called "Crystal Vine", written by DREAMS COME TRUE.
    • Germany has local girlband No Angels re-perform the song "Atlantis" by and with Scottish singer and songwriter Donovan.
    • Also an alternative song in the Latin American version, to the point where the North American DVD has an entire hidden section you cannot access if you select to see the movie in anything but Spanish when you have the chance at the loading screen.
  • All There in the Manual: Much of the backstory for the Shepherd's Journal and more detail on Atlantis's workings can be found in tie-in books, most prominently in "Atlantis: Subterranean Tours", an in-universe travel guide Whitmore produced for secretive later expeditions for dignitaries, celebrities and Whitmore employees.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Gas had not been deployed as a weapon yet, but the concept of a gas mask dates back to the 9th century. A gas mask was patented in America in 1849 by Lewis Haslett, for filtering dust, and Garrett A. Morgan invented a gas mask in 1912 that proved useful for gas/smoke-filled environments. Military use of gas masks did not occur until at least 1915, but Rourke runs a private army with unconventional equipment, to say the least.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Atlanteans in general. In fact, they look downright multi-ethnic. This was intentional as Atlanteans were made to be the race from which all other races evolved from.
  • Anachronism Stew: The movie makes an effort to avoid this minus Atlantis and some of the Steampunk / Dieselpunk tech used by the expedition.
    • Though Mole does use a Soviet PPSh-41 submachine gun and steel helmets and gas masks would not be commonplace until 1915-16.
    • The expedition uses deep diving Submarines (at this time they were incapable of going deep or remaining under for long), acoustic torpedoes (which wouldn't be invented for decades), and fighter airplanes with synchronizing gear (wouldn't be developed until well into WWI).
    • Coelacanths, like the ones in Whitmore's aquarium, were still thought to have been extinct in 1914, and remained so until their rediscovery in 1938. Justified as this is mainly meant to illustrate his character as a Collector of the Strange and an adventurer. Who else would fund a trip to Atlantis but a man who owns fish decades before their actual (re)discovery?
  • Animation Bump:
    • A rather odd example—While it wasn't uncommon for films like this to assign an animator to a character, Helga's animation is considerably much more fluid than the rest of the cast. This may be due to her supervising animator being from France.
    • Milo himself was sometimes subject to these, during which he would truly come across as an animated Michael J. Fox.
  • Anyone Can Die: Appears to be the case for numerous characters who appeared in the film, which is considered a first for a Disney animated film.
    • Kida's mother (the Queen of Atlantis) died after being fused into the Heart of Atlantis during the sinking of Atlantis that killed thousands of people who were trapped outside the crystal barrier.
    • Milo stated that his parents died of unknown causes when he was a young boy, and he was taken in by his grandfather Thaddeus, who later died of a broken heart after being ridiculed and jeered by the Smithsonian Board for his claims about Atlantis. Even Thaddeus's old partner Preston Whitmore sympathizes over Thaddeus's loss and vows to carry on his legacy, which was the main reason why he was willing to help Milo prove the existence of Atlantis.
    • The case can be said during the expedition, when almost all of the crewmembers were killed after the Leviathan destroyed the Ulysses, with the exception of the main characters and several dozens who escaped on an escape pod and subpod, and Rourke stated out that there were 200 people on board. Of course, they weren't the only ones who perished by the Leviathan's wrath as numerous sunken ships were seen surrounding the Leviathan's resting grounds, along with underground murals showing people from other civilizations perishing during their attempts to invade Atlantis. This implies that many people throughout the ages have died searching and trying to pillage Atlantis; this was shown in a deleted scene when a group of Vikings tried to search for Atlantis in their ship, only to end up being killed by the Leviathan itself.
    • During the fireflies' attack, two of the explorers' trucks exploded, killing the two poor drivers in the process.
    • The most tragic case is for Kida's father King Kashekim Nedakh, who was brutally punched in the chest by Rourke and suffered internal bleeding. He eventually succumbed to his injuries, but not before he passed his crystal to Milo so that he can stop Rourke from taking away the Heart of Atlantis. Also, during his death throes, he admitted that he wanted to use the Heart of Atlantis as a weapon of war, but his arrogance is what led his empire to crumble during the tidal wave that cost thousands of his people's lives (including his wife), an act that left him wracked with complete remorse; he even refused to be cured with his crystal's healing energy as he is more concerned about the well-being of Kida and their remaining people.
    • During the battle inside the volcano, Milo, the crew and Atlanteans suffered few casualties as several Atlantean warriors were killed by Rourke's men using gunfire. However, the tides were turned when the heroes used the powers of the fish-mobiles to kill all of Rourke's men, one-by-one. And after sending Helga to fall to her death, Rourke ends up being crystallized by Milo and shredded to pieces by his blimp's propellers.
  • Appease the Volcano God: Or, rather, the Stoneface God. As penance for attempting to use the Heart of Atlantis as a weapon, members of the King's bloodline are ritually bonded to the Heart every time the city is in danger. It just so happens that by trespassing on the Heart's chamber, Milo's team ended up kick-starting it.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Milo describes the Leviathan as probably nothing more than a sculpture to frighten the superstitious, even though they're already on an expedition to recover a lost advanced civilization commonly described as fairy tale.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "We've done a lot of things we're not proud of: robbing graves, eh, plundering tombs, double-parking..." In the Latin American dub, he ends the list with "kicked a dog".
  • Artistic License – Geology: The volcano. Unless it were pretty much already erupting, the crash of a hot air balloon wouldn't even dent a lava dome. Further, it erupts in a "Strombolian" fashion (creating lava bombs, splatter, and explosively fast lava flows) but produces lava in a volume only seen in Hawai'ian eruption. They'd probably have something on the order of several hours to construct the shield in a Hawai'ian eruption, but Rule of Drama! Presumably a true "Plinian" eruption (explosive, the type that the Mount St. Helens eruption followed) would have been too hard to animate. The danger from them are not lava, but pyroclastic clouds of red-hot gasses and tiny bits of magma that travel several hundred miles per hour.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Averted (See Conveniently Precise Translation below) and also played straight. In most languages, the translation in the beginning would not work, but the Norse words for Ireland and Iceland really are one rune (letter) apart, so it makes perfect sense for the two words to be accidentally switched. However, later on the Atlanteans can magically speak not just English but every language descended from their own, even though that is not how languages evolve. Additionally, many of the languages spoken are from completely different language families (meaning that they are not descended from the same language, Atlantean or otherwise).
    • Milo can speak Atlantean through slowly translating their written language. Unless a Romanization or Anglicization of the alphabet exists (which is doubtful), this is impossible, as you can't tell what a letter is supposed to sound like solely through what it looks like. On the other hand, his pronunciation is nowhere near perfect; Kida comments that his accent is "boorish, provincial, and you speak it through your nose."
      • A remarkable coincidence, given that Atlantis hasn't had a provincial territory in thousands of years.
    • It is possible for a civilization to lose the knowledge needed to read their own written language (Hieroglyphics were a complete mystery to modern Egyptians until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, and while it's still more or less possible to read the words of Latin or Old English it's next to impossible to extract much meaning without specific knowledge of those languages). However, the people of Atlantis are extremely long-lived, Kida was slightly older than a toddler at the time of the Great Flood and is now a young woman nearly 9000 years later. This means most Atlanteans alive at the time of the story were alive at the height of their civilization. It seems very far-fetched that a people would lose the ability to read their own written language within one generation, especially when those same people are apparently able to pick up spoken languages they've never heard before in a matter of seconds.
      • Then again, royal Atlanteans are shown to live long lives, but common Atlanteans are never confirmed to have the same longevity.
  • Artistic License – Military: Despite holding a naval officer's rank, Commander Rourke is seen wearing a green uniform and Stetson hat more in line with a US Army officer (which is apparently his background according to supplementary material). He's actually a mercenary, so he can presumably call himself whatever the hell he wants.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The Atlantean tech gets a pass due to the 'sufficiently advanced technology', but there are a couple of instances. For instance, the Ulysses explodes after the crew escapes, when at thalassic depths it should have been crumpling in on itself as the boiler explosion within compromised its structure.
    • Tunnel boring machines don't actually look like the one Mole uses. Instead they have a mostly flat drilling mechanism. Though this was likely done so the audience would recognize the machine.
    • Packard is somehow able to carry on a telephone conversation with her friend Marge on a submarine, several miles under the ocean, in the 1910s. (That is, of course, unless Marge is also somewhere aboard the Ulysses.)
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: One of the most memorable and terrifying in film history is an attack by a 2-mile long robot lobster kaiju. Its mandibles are larger than the entire Ulysses.
  • Atlantis: The goal is to reach and explore Atlantis. It's literally in the title.
  • Award-Bait Song: Oh, it may not be a musical, but it is still a Disney animated film. Thus, "Where the Dream Takes You". Sadly, it is not in Atlantean.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Kida was the first Disney Princess to become a queen in her opening film. This wouldn't happen again until Frozen twelve years later.
  • An Axe to Grind: Rourke grabs a nearby fire axe during his fight with Milo.
  • Ax-Crazy: Rourke following his Villainous Breakdown, both figuratively and literally.
  • Badass Adorable: Kida.
  • Badass Bookworm: Milo during the climax.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Kida and a few other Atlantean women.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Helga ends up looking pretty good for someone who was just thrown out of a zeppelin.
  • Berserk Button: Do not disturb Molière's dirt collection.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: Mole. When Cookie is serving up dinner, he slops baked beans onto everyone's trays, but refers to it as Caesar salad (for Sweet), escargot (for Audrey) and oriental spring rolls (for Mole). Mole looks at his tray, disappointed, and protests to Audrey that he wanted the escargot, and Audrey shoves her tray at him. Mole abandons the 'spring rolls' and digs into the 'escargot,' even though it's the same greasy food. The fact that Mole eats Cookie's food at all and apparently even looks forward to it can count as well.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word : Or, in this case, mercenary.
    Rourke: I prefer the term "Adventure Capitalist".
    • Averted a few minutes later, when he flat-out calls himself a mercenary.
  • The Bet: Whitmore reveals that, years ago, he and Milo's grandfather had made a bet: If Thaddeus Thatch ever actually found the Shepherd's Journal then Whitmore would not only personally fund the mission to find the city, he would kiss Thatch right on the mouth.
    Whitmore: Imagine my embarrassment when he found the darn thing.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Downplayed. Although everyone has earned their happy ending and Atlantis is now thriving once more, Milo and Kida's story ends with them holding an Atlantean funeral for her father.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands:
    • When the expedition turns out to be a group of mercenaries, Rourke shoots Kida's knife out of her hand when she fights his Mooks.
    • Vinnie shoots Rourke's Lewis gun out of his hand during the climax.
  • Blatant Lies: Used for humor and as the official story in the end. Pretty much the crew that made it back home are talking about how it was all a dead end and how everyone died... while they're wearing their crystals and new, expensive clothes, with Whitmore looking at the photographs of Atlantis.
  • Bookends: The queens. The film begins with the end of one queen's reign, and ends with the beginning of another's.
  • Book Snap: Milo has just been handed the Shepherd's Journal, a supposed first-person account of the lost city of Atlantis, by Mr. Whitmore. As he peruses it, Whitmore comments that it's probably fake. Milo quickly shuts the journal and tells him that he his certain of the existence of Atlantis and is willing to do anything to prove it...which is exactly what Whitmore wanted to hear.
  • Body to Jewel: Kida merges with the Heart of Atlantis. Later on Rourke is turned into a crystal monster after making contact with a crystallized shard of glass.
  • Brick Joke: Sweet gloats that his surgical saw could cut a femur in just twenty-eight seconds. Later during the race to save Kida...
    Audrey: I thought you said this thing could cut through a femur in twenty-eight seconds!
    —>Sweet: Less talk, more saw!
  • Bridge Logic: Vinny:
    Milo: Will you look at the size of this? It's gotta be half a mile high, at least. It must have taken hundred — no, thousands of years to carve this thing.
    [Vinny blows it up so it falls down over a chasm]
    Vinny: Hey, look, I made a bridge. It only took me, like, what? 10 seconds? 11, tops.
    • This is made even more hilarious when taking into account that that particular scene is 10-11 seconds, depending on how you cut it.
  • Bubblegum Popping: Audrey Ramirez does this to Milo when introduced to him during his presentation on Atlantis.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most of Rourke's team are highly competent in their respective fields but are very odd individuals otherwise.
  • But Not Too Black: Sweet is only half African, with a Native American mother. Which sort of makes him a literal African-American.
  • Campfire Character Exploration: Milo first bonds with the other members of the expedition as they share their life stories while they set up camp for the night.
  • Caper Crew: As this is not strictly a "caper" as much as it is the world's most expensive and dangerous excavation, some roles may be disputed, but for the most part it would follow for each character as:
    • Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke: The Mastermind, leader of his own private military group
    • Lieutenant Helga Katrina Sinclair: The Partner in Crime, and second-in-command of said military group
    • Preston B. Whitmore: The Backer
    • Milo Thatch: The Hacker (figuratively) and/or The New Kid
    • Vincenzo "Vinny" Santorini: The Gadget Guy, though his gadgets are bombs and other explosive materials
    • Gaétan "Mole" Molière: The other Gadget Guy, specializing in excavating equipment
    • Wilhelmina Bertha Packard: The Coordinator, being their resident radio operator
    • Joshua Strongbear Sweet: The Muscle, physically speaking, but he is actually the crew's medical officer
    • Audrey Rocio Ramirez: The Gadget Girl, the mechanic
    • Jebidiah Allardyce "Cookie" Farnsworth: Simply the cook for the expedition, as his expertise is not specialized specifically for the crew's line of work
  • Capitalism Is Bad: The Big Bad is a self-described "adventure capitalist" whose greed propels the conflict. Notably, he'd undoubtedly get rich from just pictures of the lost city, but decides to increase his wealth further by stealing and selling the Atlantean deity, devastating their civilization in the process.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Thanks to the combination of Disney and Mike Mignola working together, everyone, including random Atlanteans and Ulysses crewmembers, looks completely unique.
  • Captain Obvious:
    Milo: [exasperated] Well, do you have any advice?!
    Vinny: Yeah - Don't get shot.
  • Casting Gag: Leonard Nimoy, who voices King Kashekim Nedakh, hosted In Search of..., a TV series about different mysteries and phenomena in human history, one of which included the City of Atlantis.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Dr. Sweet's saw. Later used to cut down the trapped Kida. Or at least tries:
      Audrey: [trying and failing to cut the chain] I thought you said this thing could cut through a femur in 28 seconds!
      Sweet: Less talk, more saw!
    • Helga carries Chekhov's Flare Gun tucked into her trousers.
    • Milo plays with a small part of the submarine model, which turns out to be the large inflatable balloon that Rourke and Helga try to take to the top of the volcanic chimney to escape.
      Sweet: Hold on. Back Up. Are you saying this volcano can blow at anytime?
      Mole: No, no, no, no. That would take an explosive force of great magnitude.note 
    • The Guardians of Atlantis - the shield golems, activated by the Heart of Atlantis, which protect the center of the city from the tsunami at the beginning and from the exploding volcano at the end.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Milo's ability to manage certain touchy boilers comes in handy to keep their equipment and vehicles going.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: It's a tribute to pulp adventure. They find a dormant volcano. The rest practically writes itself.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Kida.
  • Chimney Entry: After Milo comes home one night to find the mysterious Helga in his house, she claims to have gotten in through the chimney, yet her expensive furs aren't the slightest bit dirty.
  • Comically Missing the Point: See Nice Job Breaking It, Hero below. Sweet's response to Milo's rant is to remind him "you did set the camp on fire and drop us down that big hole".
  • The Comically Serious: Ms. Packard during pretty much every life-threatening situation, most notably the Leviathan attack.
  • Communications Officer: Mrs. Packard, although she spends most of the time chatting up her friend over the phone (which, unless she's also in the submarine, would be quite a feat using 1914 technology).
  • Conlang: The Atlantean language is an actual functional language.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Milo runs around on a rapidly melting volcano floor in thin shoes with no problem.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: The Shepherd's Journal has a missing page, which means that nobody knows exactly what the Atlanteans' power-source is. Rourke had the missing page in his boot the whole time.
  • Conveniently Precise Translation: The runes between the Norse words "Ísland" and "Írland" really are fairly similar, just like the English words "Ireland" and "Iceland". The only difference being a horizontal mirroring and a vertical line.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Sweet threatens the dirt-loving geologist Mole with soap if he doesn't leave Milo alone.
  • Cool Ship: The huge submarine Ulysses is awesome, built like something straight out of Jules Verne's stories. Unfortunately, even it is no match for the Leviathan's Wave-Motion Gun.
  • Cosmopolitan Council
  • Creator Thumbprint: Mike Mignola was the production designer for the film and boy, does it show. Especially one scene during a travel montage where a shot combines both what Milo sees in the Shepherd's Journal with the route the crew follows, complete with Mike's signature use of black.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Rourke is cut by Milo with crystallized glass, transforming him into a horrific, crystallized monster that can only roar in pain, and is then sliced apart by giant spinning blades that were keeping his hot air balloon aloft.
  • Crush the Keepsake: At the climax, Rourke, after obtaining the Atlantean crystal and having no more need of him, punches Milo in the face. Milo's framed picture of him as a boy with his grandfather falls out and Rourke stomps on it, smashing the frame. Fortunately, the photo is intact, and what's more, it's this act that causes Audrey, followed by everybody else except Helga, to do a Heel–Face Turn and abandon Rourke.
  • Cunning Linguist: Milo.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: For all their guns, the Ulysses and her fleet of subpods never stood a chance against the Leviathan, leaving only a few dozen survivors to carry on to Atlantis.
  • Damsel in Distress: Kida... but in proof that Tropes Are Not Bad, once she is saved from distress, she proceeds to save everyone else from certain death. Plus, to even put her into distress, she had to be threatened with multiple guns after taking out four professional mercenaries.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the usual Disney fare, by a big degree, and largely considered to be a reason for its financial failure. It may hold the record for the largest number of people who die onscreen in a Disney movie (not major characters, but still.) The Fantastic Nuke is the first thing that happens after the opening credits.
  • Dark Action Girl: Helga.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: The Atlanteans mostly have white hair but otherwise fit the archetype closely.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Vinny seems to be made of pure snark.
    Rourke: Looks like we've got a little roadblock. Vinny, what do you think?
    Vinny: I could un-roadblock that if I had about two-hundred of these. [holds up stick of dynamite] Problem is, I only got about...ten. Plus, y'know, five of my own. Couple cherry bombs. Road flare. Hey, too bad we don't have any nitroglycerin, eh, Milo?
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Disney's parent-hatred sets a new record here, Kida loses her mother (well, sort of) a minute and a half into the movie, after Queen Kashem's gotten something like five seconds of screen time.
  • Death Glare: The explorers give this to Milo after Milo almost led them down the jaws of a creature by accident due to holding the Shepherd's Journal upside down. Milo at the end at everyone else, causing them to Heel–Face Turn and also glare at those that don't.
  • Deflector Shields: Atlantis is shown to have one in the prelude. They turn out to be a Chekhov's Gun.
  • Disney Death: Averted with Kida's father.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Subverted. Helga survives the fall, but it's not likely she survived having a flaming zeppelin crashing down on her. And then the volcano erupts while she's under the zeppelin.
    • Also averted by Rourke, who dies by getting caught in the zeppelin's blades.
  • Distant Prologue: The film opens with the destruction of Atlantis several thousand years ago as it is submerged beneath the ocean. Originally there was a different Distant Prologue intended for the opening, focusing on a viking ship that was trying to find the city, but the producers decided for a more action-packed opening. The alternate opening was instead put into the PC game.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: "You do swim, do you not?", "Oh, I swim pretty girl— pr-pretty good! Good, I swim pretty good."
  • The Dog Bites Back: It is Helga's Last Breath Bullet after Rourke betrays her that really foils the Evil Plan.
  • Dread Zeppelin: The Gyro-Evac, the airship Rourke plans to use to carry the crystal to the surface.
  • Dwindling Party: The encounter with the Leviathan kills most of the crew of the Ulysses; each step of their journey to Atlantis further thins their party until few more than the main characters are left.
  • Dying Race: The Atlanteans, though they start to redevelop their society at the end of the first movie.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The sequel gives us the Kraken, a giant squid-like beastie with a fish-like face and the ability to offer immortality to anyone who makes a deal with it and hypnotize people as well. The Leviathan is a mechanical version.
  • Embarrassing Slide: Milo intends to start his lecture by showing a slide of the Leviathan, "a creature so terrifying that sailors were said to be driven mad by the mere sight of it." Cut to a slide of him popping up, wearing a onesie bathing suit, duckie inner tube, and arm floaties.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Kida drops her doll during the destruction of Atlantis. Her mother stops to tell her to leave it, even though they're no more than three steps away from it.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Every main character gets at least one, sometimes backed up by a second one.
    • Milo, during his entire first scene, is shown to be a Cunning Linguist, a mythology expert, pursuing a dream, and also a Cloudcuckoolander in the eyes of his peers who's not recognized for his true potential nor taken seriously.
    • Vinnie likes to blow things up and his a professional Deadpan Snarker.
    • Mole likes digging, dirt, being generally gross and unpleasant, and is quite possibly deranged.
    • Sweet is an unorthodox medic with slightly unusual and, say, "energic" methods (unlocking vertebræ by almost snapping the patient's neck, or bragging about how quickly he can saw a bone), but he's competent and caring nonetheless.
    • Packard is old, cynical, and a slacker, but also an even bigger Deadpan Snarker than Vinnie.
    • Audrey is a young, brash tomboy, but also an excellent mechanic, and is very honest.
    • Helga is the movie's Femme Fatale, who can also show a strong Lara Croft flavour.
  • Establishing Series Moment: Within seconds of the opening logos, we get a Fantastic Nuke explosion and the very first line of dialogue is (in Atlantean) "You fool! You've destroyed us all!" Not exactly your traditional Disney fare, for sure.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Robbing graves? Fine. Plundering tombs? Fine. Double-parking? Fine. Stealing the only thing keeping the last remnants of Atlantean civilization alive? Prompts a group Heel–Face Turn.
  • Everything Makes a Mushroom: Cookie's cooking does this when disposed of in a fire.
  • Evil Plan: Rourke makes the journey to steal the crystal and kill anyone in his way. The final stage of this plan is what Milo fights against.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Earlier in the film, Milo comments how the Shepherd’s Journal mentions something called "The Heart of Atlantis", but it abruptly cuts off. He muses that it’s "almost like there’s a missing page". Then, after Milo and Kida discover the truth about the Heart of Atlantis...
    Kida: Then, where is it now?
    Milo: I don’t know. I don’t—you think something this important would’ve been in the Journal, but—! Unless... the missing page.
  • Faceless Mooks: The gas-mask wearing soldiers in the end.
  • Family Business: Both Audrey and Vinny are part of one.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Averted. Period accurate weapons are used frequently.
  • Fan Disservice: In-universe. Mrs. Packard says she sleeps in the nude and Sweet says that she sleepwalks after offering Milo a sleep mask.
  • Fanservice Pack: It's quite convenient that the fireflies would attack the camp while everyone's asleep, meaning they spend the rest of the film wearing less clothing. Rourke, Milo, Vinnie and Sweet lose their modest tops to be replaced by flattering vests. Audrey also loses her baggy sleeves and Helga loses the coat in favour of a tank top.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Rourke is quite friendly toward everyone until it is time to enact the plan.
  • Fauxshadowing: After Mole comments on how the dormant volcano will only erupt in reaction to an explosion of great magnitude, everyone stares at Vinny, who is tinkering with a time bomb. When the volcano does erupt, however, Vinny has nothing to do with it; in fact, he lampshades this.
  • Femme Fatale: Helga is pretty, convincing, and dangerous, and certainly not friendly.
  • Firing One-Handed: During the climax, Rourke fires a Lewis gun one-handed until Vinny shoots it out of his hand.
  • Flight Is the Final Power: The unique energy emitted by the Atlantean crystals is shown to have many applications throughout the film, such as creating unusual lifeforms, illuminating dark places and granting its bearers longevity. Milo enthusiastically attempts to use them as fuel for an ancient flying vehicle so he can explore the city from above, but reconsiders when he accidentally causes the machine to crash. Later on, the heroes collectivelly decide to try again and take flight to pursue the Big Bad, setting the stage for the final battle.
  • Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: Ends with an Atlantean flying machine obscuring the camera.
  • The Fog of Ages: The Atlanteans have forgotten much of their culture over the centuries; none of the modern-day Atlanteans can even read their own writing. Kida even observes this, saying that while the Atlanteans are immortal, their culture is the thing that's dying.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • It moves so fast it's hard to tell, but in the cataclysm that opens the film, the Leviathan is the leading Atlantean vehicle in the convoy, and in fact flies directly into the camera, long before it gets any plot relevance.
    • When Whitmore shows off the scale models of the vehicles to be used in the expedition, Milo is seen fiddling with the hot air balloon model. Milo later has his climactic battle with Rourke on the real thing.
    • There is quite a bit of it towards Rourke's true nature.
      • As mentioned in the DVD commentary, when Whitmore shows the files of the crew, Rourke's photo is partially covered-up. All the good guys' photos are fully uncovered.
      • When the characters are getting on the boat, Rourke says the trip "will be enriching for all of us". Pillaging Atlantis for dollars was his motive for joining the expedition all along.
      • When Helga comments to Rourke that there being people alive in Atlantis "changes everything", he replies, "This changes nothing". For first-time viewers, this lack of concern about the Atlanteans could be attributed to him being in grief over the death of the crew and him, somewhat rightfully, considering them responsible for it. After you know how greedy and ruthless he is, though...
    • Kida's true age is foreshadowed once by the King ("A thousand years ago you would have struck them down.").
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When the opening cataclysm hits Atlantis and the people in the outer villages get trapped outside the magical barrier, one guy (possibly one of the soldiers from the Hammerhead ships) takes his hat off as he stands facing the wave, while several other families hug each other tightly, preparing for the end.
    • During the scene in which the leviathan attacks, Mrs. Packard can be seen opening a crime novel and trying to read even as she relays communications for the rest of the panicked crew.
    • Those two Mauve Shirts who just make it through the flooding hallway before Audrey slams the door are the pilots of the last heavy sub that gets destroyed by the Leviathan.
    • When the Ulysses descends into the ocean, a crewman can be seen grinning and waving at the camera almost immediately after Milo goes out of frame.
  • Freudian Slip: "I know how to swim pretty girl — good! Pretty good, I swim pretty good."
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Averted, as Cookie includes whiskey in his personal list of the four basic food groups.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The soldiers that come along on the expedition. A prudent measure, given it is an underground expedition with a real risk of gas pockets and the climax takes place inside a magma chamber of a volcano about to erupt.
  • Gilligan Cut: Milo is so excited he can't hold it in. Cue Vomit Discretion Shot.
  • Glasses Curiosity: Kida takes and wears Milo's glasses while showing him around Atlantis for the first time due to never having seen the object until now.
  • Going Native: Milo at the end of the film.
  • Golem: The Guardians of Atlantis; unlike the Leviathan, they serve a defensive purpose, generating a deflector shield to protect the center of Atlantis, both from the cataclysm at the beginning and the exploding volcano at the end.
  • The Great Depression: It's revealed in passing during the direct-to-video "sequel" that its events take place shortly after the Stock Market Crash, well over 15 years after the movie...with no one changing or aging at all in the intervening time, thanks to the longevity crystals they brought back from Atlantis.
  • Hats Off to the Dead: The team hold a brief memorial service for the lives lost to the Leviathan, during which Commander Rourke takes off his hat. Subverted when it turns out that he cares nothing about lives lost beyond his own.
  • Heart of the Matter: The Heart of Atlantis is mentioned in the Shepherd's Journal, and is speculated to be some sort of power source. It turns out to be a living crystal that is keeping the entire island and its inhabitants alive after centuries beneath the bottom of the ocean. Rourke plans to take it and sell it above ground, not only dooming the Atlanteans but also risking it falling into the wrong hands and causing mass devastation; it was the King trying to harness it as a weapon that caused Atlantis to sink in the first place.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Helga shows some remorse when she discovers that they will be stealing from living people and not a long-dead civilization, but she goes along with Rourke's least until he turns on her. It's not clear if this would have been enough to make her side with Milo, though, since she doesn't survive the final battle.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Vinny, Audrey. Mole, Cookie, and Mrs. Packard may have been Only in It for the Money, but unlike Rourke they're not willing to resort to murder.
    • Sweet's moment comes earlier than the rest. Note that he's not with the party as they're preparing to leave with the crystal—he stays to take care of the injured king.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The incredibly ominous metallic moans and roars the Leviathan makes while hunting the Ulysses through the undersea trench. Especially terrifying is when Packard puts it on over the intercom, and the entire crew is shown to be freaked out and unsettled by the sound of it.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Double Subverted. Although Helga's not the only woman in the crew, she's the most conventionally feminine and as the Big Bad's right-hand woman, she fits the traditional model for this trope more than anyone else. Which makes it all the more surprising when she's the only one of the named crew not to desert Rourke out of disgust. At least until Rourke chucks her off the zeppelin. Hey, wait a second...doesn't she still have that flare gun?
  • The High Queen: Kida's mother. And Kida herself at the end.
  • Hindenburg Incendiary Principle: Helga brings down Rourke's airship with a flare gun.
  • Honor Before Reason: Milo's decision to stop the older and very-experienced-in-warfare Rourke from taking Kida and the source of Atlantis's power. He even says so himself.
    Milo: I didn't say it was the smart thing, but it is the right thing.
  • I Drank WHAT?!: Done with a canteen of what Vinny claims to be nitroglycerin as a joke.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: When the Ulysses engineering compartments start to flood, Audrey prevents the leakage from getting out of hand and drowning more people by sealing off the damaged section, with at least one engineer still inside.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When looking for a stolen clay vase, Milo mentions they are looking for a crate and the villain claims he hasn't seen any pottery in a crate. When Milo gets outside, he points out he specifically didn't say there was pottery in the missing crate. Oops.
  • Immortality Field: The lives of the citizens of Atlantis are prolonged by a piece of a comet which they call the "Heart of Atlantis."
  • Inexplicable Language Fluency: The Atlanteans are able to fluently communicate with the explorers from the surface in English and French. This is handwaved as their own language being a precursor to all other languages.
  • Informed Ability: Audrey is said to be a brilliant mechanic, but we never actually see her fix anything throughout the film. She even gets upstaged by Milo at one point for fixing the digger's boiler, because the boiler in his office is similar.
  • Insistent Terminology: Quoth Rourke: "Mercenary? I prefer the term adventure capitalist."
  • Instant Runes: Any and every Atlantean machine lights up with a luminous pattern of runes (and Tron Lines) when it's activated.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • When the crew sets up camp for the night and talking about their lives, all of them except Milo say that they're here pretty much because they're getting paid. Later, when they're loading the Crystal-possessed Kida up for the trip back to the volcano, Milo reminds them of their plans and how easy they'll be now, but they have wiped out the Atlanteans in the process, ending with-
      Milo: But that's what it's all about, right? Money.
    • As Rourke and Helga attempt to escape with the crystallized Kida, Rourke betrays Helga and throws her off the zeppelin, after which Rourke yells to her, "Nothing Personal!" Much later, as Helga lies on the ground, dying from her wounds, she gets revenge by pulling out her flare gun to shoot down the zeppelin, though not before throwing Rourke's words right back.
  • Irony: Disney was expecting this film to be their big 2D hit for 2001, but the film performed under expectations, causing Disney's smaller 2D movie of the year, Recess: School's Out, to be a bigger successnote . In Finland, the VHS and DVD of Atlantis contained the Recess premiere episode ("The Break In/The New Kid") as a bonus.
  • Jerkass: The Museum Board of directors. They are nothing but rude to Milo and mistreat him over his belief in Atlantis. They moved his presentation to request funding for an expedition to a time that had already passed just to reject him and claim he has potential and they need him but keep him in the basement just to take care of the heater.
  • Jerkass Gods: Kida states that the Atlanteans were banished underwater because their gods grew jealous of Atlantis' wealth and power. The real reason the city sank, however, is because Kida's father attempted to use the Heart of Atlantis as a weapon against enemy nations. The Heart, being sentient, did NOT take it well.
  • Jump Scare:
    • Rourke is petrified! Hooray, the villain has been killed in a relatively family-friendly oh god it lives!
    • "Helmsman! Bring us about! Tighten our search pattern and-" [entire ship shakes as the Leviathan hits it]
  • Kaiju: The Leviathan, the Kraken, Ymir and Sutr all count, though the Leviathan is really a Giant Mecha.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • All of the specialists who took part in Rourke's get-rich plan that ends up with the king of Atlantis dead, all so they can steal Atlantis's treasure, are Easily Forgiven (and very richly rewarded) for having a last minute twinge of conscience. Granted they initially thought they were just going to be doing some elaborate grave-robbing from a long-dead civilization. Murder wasn't on their to-do list.
    • The Leviathan is a non-human example, having massacred nearly all of the 200-man crew aboard the Ulysses, and for all we know, it's still out there preying on unsuspecting trespassers.
  • Kick the Dog: When Rourke has gotten the crystal, removed Atlantean opposition and is ready to leave the city he turns and knocks Milo down just for the hell of it. And he crushes Milo's picture of Thaddeus under his heel.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Rourke does this to Helga when he tries to throw her off the zeppelin. It ends up backfiring on him later on.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Milo has a white cat named Fluffy. Audrey adopts her in the end.
  • Kirby Dots: The Leviathan's energy weapon. Discussed by the director on the commentary track.
  • Knight of Cerebus: For about the first half hour or so, the film is a fun, mostly harmless pulp adventure story. Then the Leviathan shows up and promptly destroys the Ulysses and kills 90% of the crew in 5 minutes flat.
  • Lad-ette: Audrey and implied with her sister, because their father wanted boys. Helga, while she is introduced as The Vamp, is a competent quasi-military leader and fighter.
  • Last Breath Bullet: Helga. Well, flare anyway.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others:
    Milo: What else have you got in there?
    Vinny: Oh, you know: gunpowder, nitroglycerin, notepads, fuses, wicks, glue, paper clips (big ones). You know, just office supplies.
  • Layman's Terms:
    Milo: I don't know how to explain it! It's their deity, their power source!
    Rourke: Speak English, professor!
    • Also:
      Mole: The fissure! It is about to eject its pyroclastic fury!
      Sweet: Milo! Mole says the volcano's about to blow!
  • Lethal Chef: Cookie, who puts sickening amounts of lard in his food.
    Cookie: [holding a head of lettuce] What is this?
    Helga: That would be lettuce.
    Cookie: Lettuce!? LETTUCE!?
    Helga: It's a vegetable. The men need their four basic food groups.
    Cookie: [holding up three fingers] I got yer four basic food groups: beans, bacon, whiskey, an' lard!
    When the team dumps his food into the campfire, it creates a miniature mushroom cloud.
  • Living Prop: The Gas mask-wearing soldiers appear suddenly after the explosion of the Ulysses. They don't really interact with any of the main characters and are all promptly killed off at the end.
  • The Load: Milo is seen this way by many of the expedition members - and he certainly causes enough problems to justify the view. Once his skill set comes into play, the trope is defied.
  • Lost World: Duh.
  • Lovecraft Country: The small fishing village in the second movie.

  • Magical Negro: Joshua Sweet could be considered a mild example of this, he's the most outwardly nice to Milo out of the whole crew, the first to turn on Rourke, and the first to definitively throw his lot in with Milo in the climax.
  • Mayincatec: The Atlantean ruins (and runes) have more than a whiff of this, especially when their Tron Lines become visible. This is a deliberate invocation of the trope, since Atlantis is supposed to have been the inspiration for those later cultures.
  • May–December Romance: It's hard to tell, considering everyone in Atlantis has white hair, but the King looks substantially older than his wife in the prologue.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Milo and Really 700 Years Old Kida. Although, if the Atlantean's crystal power source is what makes them live so long, you never know...
  • Mechanical Monster: The Leviathan.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Averted to an almost ahistorical extent. The crew of the Ulysses clearly has a good number of women among its crew, note  and very few, if any, are seen to have escaped its destruction. Rourke's eulogy specifically mentions that the crew had "some of the finest men and women I've ever known." Rourke's Gas Mask Mooks in the climax are assumed to be all male, but they wear heavy, full-body coats and don't speak, so we can't say that for certain.
  • Mighty Whitey: Downplayed. The Atlanteans' technology is far more sophisticated than the surface-dwellers', but few of them actually remember how to make it work, and it takes the intervention of a white researcher to bring this knowledge back.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The Heart of Atlantis, seeing as it's the fabled power source that the expedition has searching for all along.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens during the destruction of Atlantis, which took place when Kida was still a child.
  • Missing Mom: Follow the Disney rule of having the princess raised by only one parent: the film begins with Kida's mom being taken from her and her father.
  • Mole Men: Mole.
  • Motor Mouth:
    • Sweet talks faster than the other characters. In fact, his actor's rapid-fire delivery of lines made animating him somewhat difficult.
    • Milo speaks so fast he's almost unintelligible in one or two scenes.
  • Multinational Team: The crew for the expedition is multiethnic in 1914, no less. Audrey's inclusion made this the only film in Disney's canon to have a Hispanic human character voiced by a Hispanic actor (or in this case, actress) until Big Hero 6, which had Honey Lemon, another Hispanic girl, in its main cast.
  • Mystical White Hair: Almost all of the Atlanteans have naturally white hair regardless of age.
  • Never Say "Die":
    • Pretty cleverly worked around in the scene where Rourke is interrogating the King of Atlantis. At one point, he punches the King in the gut for not cooperating, and an enraged Kida (who is being held captive by Rourke's men) starts threatening him in Atlantean. The official comic book adaption translates her words to 'I will kill you for that.'
    • Elsewhere, death and references to it are pretty straightforward.
      Rourke: All right, who's not dead? Sound off!
  • Nice Hat:
    • Packard wears a Brodie Helmet as part of her uniform.
    • Of course, there is Moliere's leather cap.
    • Audrey also wears one as well.
    • Kida's tiara at the end of the film.
    • Cookie's bowler hat.
    • There's also the helmet Milo inherited from his grandfather. He never grew into it and it covers his eyes, but he apparently likes to put it on anyway. He even keeps it in a nice little case.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Milo realizes towards the end of the film that a lot of the problems, maybe even all the problems, are at least tangentially his fault.
    Milo: Oh, my decision? Well, I think we've seen how effective my decisions have been. Let's recap. I led a band of plundering vandals to the greatest archeological find in recorded history, thus enabling the kidnap and/or murder of the royal family! Not to mention personally delivering the most powerful force known to man to the hands of a mercenary NUTCASE, who's probably gonna sell it to the KAISER! HAVE I LEFT ANYTHING OUT?!
    Sweet: Well, you did set the camp on fire and drop us down that big hole.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Rourke is hit by this bigtime when he hurls Helga off the balloon simply for the short-term gain of reducing the weight to ensure his own escape (and to give himself a bigger share of the fortune); Instead, she survives just long enough to fire off her flare gun and send it and his prize crashing back down in flames.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Milo accidentally awakens some fireflies while heading out to relieve himself.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Averted, but Mole is called an animal and a pet which Milo replies as, "Close enough".
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Averted. The Leviathan kills well over a hundred people during its attack (visibly crushing their mini-subs in its claws) and the final battle features plenty of Mooks being blown up.
  • Nonsense Classification: Cookie has his own take on the four basic food groups: beans, bacon, whiskey and lard. A deleted scene has him name the only three spices he uses: salt, salt, and sodium chloride.
  • Noodle Incident: Mole's background. Sweet is sorry he ever heard it from Audrey, and forbids her to tell Milo. According to some of the promotional material released before the film, it involves literally living in the Paris catacombs/sewers where he was raised by naked mole rats. The sequel has this line in reference to Mole: "What else can you expect from a guy who grew up with naked mole rats?"
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Kida had some trouble grasping the notion that not all doctors are medics.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Used when the Leviathan is stalking the Ulysses through the underwater caves. The audience sees it clearly, but the characters don't, cranking up the suspense until the inevitable happens.
    Helga: Well, whatever it was, it's gone now.
    Rourke: Helmsman! Bring us about! Tighten our search pattern and- BOOM
  • Nothing Personal: Used twice as a Pre-Mortem One-Liner, after Rourke kicks Helga off his zeppelin and then repeated when Helga fires the Flare Gun at the zeppelin. In her case, it's probably Blatant Lies.
  • Nubile Savage: Convenient, that Kida fits Western beauty standards despite belonging to a culture isolated for millennia. The "savage" part however, only applies in that their culture is pre-historical in age.
  • Nuclear Candle: Averted. Rourke lights a match in a dark chasm and it's only bright enough to light his face. Nothing else can be seen until everyone turns their vehicles' headlights on.
  • Ocean of Adventure: The first part of the movie follows a team of explorers trying to find and prove the existence of the sunken city of Atlantis; they begin by traveling to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine, traversing a graveyard of ships and being pursued by a Leviathan that guards the entrance to Atlantis (which can be reached via a long series of underground tunnels and caverns accessible only underwater).
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The entire crew of the Ulysses shits themselves simultaneously when Packard puts the Leviathan's call on over the radio.
    • There's such a moment for Milo, Audrey, Sweet and Vinnie when they realize the final battle has brought on a volcanic eruption.
    • Most of the main team members when they realize their leader plans to commit genocide.
  • Omniglot: The Atlanteans are implied to be fluent in every single language spoken in the world in addition to their own language. When the expedition first enters Atlantis, Milo and Kida converse in several different languages (including the Atlantean, Latin, Hebrew and French) before settling on English for the rest of the film.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: During the king and Milo's discussion on his deathbed, we flash back to the opening scene of the film, as the king explains what happened.
  • One, Two, Skip a Few: When Rourke threatens to shoot the Atlantean King on the count of ten if he doesn't tell him where the Heart of Atlantis is, he ends up skipping to nine right after two. Right before he reaches ten, he realizes the symbol on the front of the throne is the entrance to the Heart, and puts the gun down.
  • Only in It for the Money: Milo aside, everyone on the expedition is this, especially Rourke.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: It's implied that Thaddeus Thatch outlived his unnamed son, since he raised his grandson Milo.
  • Parent Service: Helga's introduction.
  • Parental Bonus: Many of the voice actors (especially Don Novello) and references to people like Jefferson Davis and P.T. Barnum.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Helga is generally scowling.
  • Pet's Homage Name: Milo was originally going to have a pet rat named Plato.
  • Phosphor-Essence: Kida glows blue when she takes on an energy form.
  • Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation: When Whitmore is showing Milo the files of each of the crew members, Rourke has his face partially obscured while everyone else's is not, hinting that he turns out to be the Big Bad.
  • Politically Correct History:
    • An ethnically diverse crew of explorers... in 1914! Justified in that the core were mercenaries - which put petty little things like ethnicity aside in the Search for More Money - and the crew was assembled by Whitmore, who was a certifiable awesome nutcase.
    • Audrey's sister competing in boxing, let alone having a genuine title shot (presumably against a man), would have been extremely unusual for the time, yet is barely remarked on.
  • Poverty Food: Jebidiah "Cookie" Farnsworth serves up lumpy ooze to the survivors, who have no alternative except to choke it down. Cookie earlier stated that the four food groups are: "beans, bacon, whiskey and lard," thus dinner looks to be some unholy mixture of those ingredients.
  • Power Crystal: The Heart of Atlantis, the literal power source for Atlantis.
  • Primordial Tongue: The Atlantean language is presented as this, and demonstrated when Kida is able to learn several modern languages by hearing snippets of them and reverse-engineering them. Milo, likewise, is able to learn Atlantean by reversing the same process.
  • Punch Catch:
    • At the climax, Milo tries to punch Rourke, only for Rourke to catch it and slam Milo's own hand back into his face. Justified in that Milo is a scrawny bookworm, and Rourke is a fit, trained fighter.
    • Rourke also uses this technique to throw Helga off the balloon, only this time it's more of a Kick Catch.
  • Punk Punk: Steampunk explorers vs. Sandal Punk Atlanteans.
  • Punny Name:
    • Mol-iere is the Tunnel King (see above).
    • A Mol(e) is also a unit of measurement in Chemistry, and Mole is seen speaking in scientific terms for chemistry on several occasions (about dirt, obviously).
    • The communications officer is Ms. Packard. Packard Bell was a radio manufacturer back around the time the movie took place. (In fact, the creators say Ms. Packard actually is the same Packard in Packard Bell!)
    • And of course, the cook is named Cookie.
    • LT. L(yle) T. Rourke
    • Vinny's last name is Santorini. Santorini is the modern-day name of the island of Thera, which is theorized to have been the inspiration for Atlantis in Plato's dialogues. It was home to the Minoan civilization, which, while not supernaturally so, was advanced for its day until the island was destroyed in a volcanic eruption. This makes his position as the group's explosives expert especially apt.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: Kida struggles to explain to Milo why their culture is rotting from within. Then it becomes apparent. Their own writing has become lost knowledge.
  • Read the Map Upside Down: During their expedition to find the lost city, the team comes across two paths. Upon examining the journal, Milo points to the left path. However the left path has a monster that the team backs away from immediately. Upon examining the journal again, Milo notices his mistake and points to the right path.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Averted with Milo; who frequently stutters, repeats himself, or stumbles over wordsnote . Justified in-universe, as he's an anxious character adventuring for the first time.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Atlanteans are positively ancient due to the restorative powers of the Heart of Atlantis. Kida herself is over 8,800 years old and still appears in her early 20's.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Milo sarcastically gives one to Audrey, Sweet, Mole, Vinny, Cookie and Ms. Packard when he tells them that they don't want the death of others to be on their conscience.
  • Red Shirt Army: The submarine crews just keeps dying and dying. Between drowning, blowing up, rampant wildfires, falling down a crevice, getting shot and getting buried in molten lava only the main cast of seven survives the voyage. In total, 193 of the original 200 crew members died on the mission, which is quite a whopping number for a Disney movie.
    Rourke: [talking to only a few dozen people] Seven hours ago we started this expedition with two hundred of the finest men and women I have ever known. We are all that's left.
  • Restricted Rescue Operation: The shield that Kida's mother creates to protect Atlantis is shown unable to reach most of the city.
  • The Reveal: Rourke is the villain. At first, everyone except Milo has no problem following his orders, which is kind of shocking for a Disney movie.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The cataclysm that opens the movie becomes much more horrifying when you recognize the first Atlantean vehicles in line fleeing from the explosion: a formation of four Leviathans.
    • On a second viewing of the opening scene, which shows how Atlantis was sunk, viewers will recognise the red lights of the Heart of Atlantis responding to danger and casting around for a host until they select Kida's mother and turn blue.
    • The crew volunteering Milo to talk to Kida seems like a humorous moment on first watch until you realise what Rourke's real intentions were, and realise that actually it was probably just a good way of keeping Milo and Kida out of the way while the crew armed themselves.
  • Rock of Limitless Water: In a sense. The directors' commentary describes Atlantis' giant volcanic cavern as a closed system: water falls to the magma-heated bottom of the cave, rises as steam, falls as rain onto the city's plateau, and finally flows as waterfalls back to the magma.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Kida to some extent, who has Milo help her find a way to preserve Atlantean society.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The idea that Atlantis was a culturally-rich society and had advanced technology is a relatively recent addition to the myth. Plato simply described it as an unbeatable naval power.
  • Scare Chord: The Ulysses is traveling through an underground cavern, filled with the wreckage of sea ships from every known naval era. We get a noticeable spike in the score when the searchlights of the Ulysses sweep across a part of the sea floor...and it moves.
  • Scenery Porn: Atlantis is gorgeous.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Milo has this attitude all along - as does Dr. Sweet, as it turns out. The more sympathetic members of the expedition adopt this attitude after Milo sets a moral example.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • When Mr. Whitmore first gives Milo the Shepherd's Journal, he makes several doubtful comments as to its authenticity and reliability, as well as to the futility of any mission to find Atlantis. When Milo explains that he would know if it was a fake and that he would rent a rowboat himself if that was what it took to get an expedition going, Whitmore explains that that was exactly what he wanted to hear, and then offers Milo a place on the multi-million dollar expedition he had already been planning.
    • In the sequel, the Dust Coyotes will spare the heroes the fate they dealt to the villain if they confess a secret they have kept. As it turns out, had they revealed the secret (about Atlantis existing), the Dust Coyotes (who knew the secret anyway) would have concluded they cannot be trusted to keep secrets and would have punished them accordingly.
  • See Water: Milo can read Atlantean glyphs underwater, while wearing glasses.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Coelacanths.
  • Serrated Blade of Pain: The team's medic is quite fond of a large medical saw of his. Later said saw is used in the climax.
  • Sexophone: When we first meet Helga in Milo's apartment.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely:
    • Inverted. Milo first meets Helga dolled up in a sexy dress. Later on he does the gasp and double take when he sees her on the expedition dressed casually (though not for the same reasons).
    • A straighter version with both Audrey and Mrs. Packard at the end, when they're dressed in their finest, after we've only seen them in work/travel clothes for the duration of the film.
  • Sherlock Scan: Moliere discerns pretty much everything about Milo simply by examining a piece of dirt under his fingernails. In the sequel, he uses this skill to find secret locations and navigate by matching dirt samples with geographical locales.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Ulysses screams of Jules Verne influence. It's important to note that Atlantis: The Lost Empire was partly inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Speaking of which, the idea of having to go into the Earth itself to find Atlantis came from Journey to the Center of the Earth.note 
    • Milo's explanation of the boiler's finer workings is one to Don Knotts, according to the the commentary.
  • Siding with the Suffering: Much of Rourke's crew (save Helga and the Faceless Goons) initially started at his side for the reward of finding Atlantis, until he begins hurting its people and Milo. In addition, Milo guilts them for bringing a lost civilization to extinction for monetary reasons.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Helga holds Kida by the upper arm while she's captive, though Kida only submits due to the threat of being shot if she tries to get loose.
  • Stealth Pun: Before the expedition sets off, Rourke says, "This should be enriching for all of us."
  • Steampunk / Dieselpunk : Thanks to Mike Mignola's involvement.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Vinny loves explosives... but not to the point of being a Bomb Throwing Anarchist.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • When Rourke, a fit muscular man, punches the King, an extremely old man, in the gut. Hard. The King dies of internal bleeding a short time later.
    • There's also Milo's fight with Rourke. One's a scholar with a Geek Physique, the other's a trained soldier with plenty of muscle. Suffice to say, Milo finds himself on the business end of a Curb-Stomp Battle, until he's able to cut Rourke with a shard of crystal energy-infused glass.
  • Symbiotic Possession: Crystal/Kida.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: Watch carefully during the destruction of the Ulysses - those two random crewmen who just barely make it through the flooding hallway before Audrey slams the door? They're the pilots of the last submarine that gets destroyed by the Leviathan.
  • Team Mom: Joshua Sweet takes up this role a lot of the time - he's the wisest and most compassionate member of the expedition by far (he is the first of the team to perform a Heel–Face Turn when Rourke harms the King), and can be often found taking care of the rest. His name is very well chosen..
  • Team Pet: Mole, sort of. Even lampshaded by Kida as she tries to make sense of the roles of the explorers:
    Kida: ...and the little digging animal called Mole; he's your pet?
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In the deleted prologue, when the viking crew who last had the Shepherd's Journal are being attacked by the Leviathan, the leader of the crew dares it to 'do its worst'. It does.
    • During the slideshow, Milo figures that whatever guards the entrance to the tunnel leading to Atlantis is merely "a sculpture to ward off the superstitious". Minutes later, they are faced with more than just a sculpture...
  • Toilet Humor:
    • "To whoever took the 'L' from the 'MOTOR POOL' sign, ha ha, we are very amused." It's even more literally a toilet joke in the german translation: "Whoever took the 1 from room 100, haha, very funny."
    • "Attention. Tonight's supper will be baked beans. Musical program to follow. Who wrote this?"
  • Tomboy Princess: Kida.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Milo
  • Translation Convention: The Atlanteans, despite having their own Constructed Language, speak English amongst themselves for much of the film.
  • Tribal Face Paint: The Atlanteans have varying tattoos on their faces.
  • Tron Lines: A common motif in Atlantean art and tech, the glowing face etchings on the stones of the God are a good example.
  • True Companions: Milo bonds with most of the expedition members, to the point when they switch sides against Rourke's Evil Plan and save Atlantis.
  • Try Not to Die: When Milo and the others are flying in to stop Rourke and rescue Kida, it leads to this exchange.
    Milo: Anyone have any ideas?
    Vinny: Yeah, don't get shot.
  • Tunnel King: Moliere loves to dig and is charge of the digging machine.
  • Twofer Token Minority:
    • Dr. Sweet, African-American and Native American.
    • Audrey, female and Hispanic.
  • Two-Fisted Tales: That's the genre, even though the hero is an inversion of the usual type.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Milo and Kida. Well, plenty of people think Milo is cute, but compared to him, Kida is wow.
  • Underground City: Atlantis isn't just underwater, it's under the ocean floor.
  • Underwater Fart Gag: At one point, Milo is embarrassed after falling into a pool and air bubbling out of his pants, making it seem like he farted.
  • The Unpronounceable: Kida's real name, Kidagakash. Which is a bit odd, since it's not that exotic, it's Milo (a trained linguist) who finds it unpronounceable.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: Whatever exploded that caused the cataclysm that destroyed (most of) Atlantis and buried the part that was protected by the shield. All that is absolutely sure is that one Atlantean looks at another and yells out "You Fool!!! You destroyed us all!" before they both perish in the tidal wave that resulted from the explosion, but what did that, it'll forever be unknown.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Milo simply pointing his flashlight in the wrong direction for a few seconds attacts the fireflies, who then destroy most of the team's supplies and cause the deaths of the remaining Red Shirt Army.
  • Walk on Water: Kida as the Heart of Atlantis beckons to her.
  • Waterfall into the Abyss: The core city is elevated above a volcanic flow, its waters endlessly spilling over into the similarly inexhaustible magma (and creating a huge cloud of steam as a result).
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Leviathan is armed with one, as the crew of the Ulysses quickly (and tragically) find out. The Atlantean personal flyers have a miniature version of it, which prove quite useful in the final battle with Rourke.
  • Weather Dissonance: During the journey to Atlantis, there is a point where it is snowing and everything is covered in ice... underground.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Milo gives a sarcastic praise version of this towards Audrey, Sweet, Mole, Vinny, Cookie and Ms. Packard before the group had a Heel–Face Turn. He even gives one to himself a bit later, admitting that he willfully ignored all the signs that proved that everyone on the expedition is ruthless and only in it for profit.
  • Whoosh in Front of the Camera: While the explorer make their way through the underground tunnel, some figures run by in the foreground, one stopping to look at the intruders. They are later revealed to be Princess Kida and some Atlantean hunters.
  • Who's on First?: Kida gets a bit confused by some of the team having names that are also English words.
    Kida: Tell me more about your companions. Your physician, he is called Cookie?
    Milo: No, that's Sweet.
    Kida: What is?
    Milo: The doctor. He's Sweet.
    Kida: Oh, he is kindly.
    Milo: No, no, no, that- that's his name.
    Kida: His name is Kindly?
    Milo: No, Sweet. Well, I mean, he's kindly, too.
    Kida: So all of your doctors are sweet and kindly?
    Milo: No. Well, I-I'm sure some are. Ours is, but that's not a requirement. You're missing the point.
    Kida: You are confusing me.
    Kida: Cookies are sweet but yours is not, Sweet is kindly but that is not his name, Audrey is sweet but she is not your doctor... and the little digging animal called Mole...he is your pet?
    Milo: Close enough.
  • World War I: The film takes place in 1914, right on the cusp of the first World War, and Milo fears that Rourke will probably try to sell the Heart of Atlantis to the Kaiser. In the German dub, they changed "Kaiser" to "some kind of tyrant".
  • The Worf Effect: A subtle example, when you're watching the movie for a second time. What's the very first vehicle fleeing in panic from the massive explosion that opens the movie? A whole squadron of Leviathans.
  • Wrench Wench: Audrey.
  • You Can Say That Again: Kida sees something amazing and says the Atlantean equivalent of "wow!" Milo is also amazed, and savvy enough with the language to say "You can say that again!"
  • You Do NOT Want to Know: Sweet says this about Moliere's backstory.
    Sweet: Trust me on this: You don't want to know. Audrey, don't you tell him. You shouldn't have told me, but you did, so now I'm telling [Milo], you don't wanna know.
    • According to Audrey in the sequel, it turns out that he was raised by naked mole rats. The truth of this is at best unclear. The Disney Adventures article on the film says he spent his childhood roaming through the sewers of Paris and that some of the dirt on him is from that time.
  • You Go, Girl!: Discussed about Audrey and her sister.
    Audrey: My father always wanted sons, right? One to run his machine shop and the other to be middleweight boxing champion. But he got my sister and me instead.
    Milo: So what happened to your sister?
    Audrey: She's 24 and 0 with a shot at the title next month.
  • Your Size May Vary: A mechanical example. Only two vehicles, apparently, escape the destruction of the Ulysses, a single sub-pod and one of the larger carrier subs which doesn't look to be much bigger than a house, considering its size next to the two-man sub-pod...yet when the survivors emerge from it, they're barely visible on top, and that single carrier is apparently large enough to carry a sizable armed backup, a full military convoy complete with air support, at least one massive boring machine...oh, and an escape zeppelin.
    • The Leviathan is also slightly inconsistent in regards to how much bigger it is than the Ulysses. In one shot, it swims quietly underneath the Ulysses, and although it's hard to tell from the water depth, the Ulysses appears to be about as long as its head or one of its larger claws. Another shot from the same action sequence shows the Leviathan quite comfortably holding the entire Ulysses like a footlong sub sandwich in its mandibles.


Video Example(s):


The Leviathan Attacks

When the Ulysses enters a vast graveyard filled with ships from every era, it is attacked by the Leviathan, the guardian of the entrance to Atlantis. During the attack, Milo discovers that the giant crustacean is an Atlantean machine.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / GiantEnemyCrab

Media sources: