A traditionally-animated 2000 film by DreamWorks Animation, The Road to El Dorado, follows the adventures of Spaniards Tulio (voiced by Kevin Kline) and Miguel (voiced by Kenneth Branagh) as they try to con and cheat their way to fame and fortune during the Spanish Conquest of México. A game of chance earns them a Treasure Map which seems to point the way to El Dorado: the lost "City of Gold." The two men stow away by accident on the Hernan Cortéz's flagship, and their escape strands them in the New World with only Cortéz's horse and the treasure map for company. Seeking enough gold to "buy Spain", they set off into the jungles of Central America, where they'll find something worth much more than treasure.
Only the second traditionally animated feature-length offering from DreamWorks, after The Prince of Egypt. The studio may have been hoping to rival the success Disney had enjoyed with the Renaissance of the 1990s. Unfortunately the film failed to equal Prince of Egypt commercially and critically, and DreamWorks, after releasing the Direct to Video Joseph: King of Dreams and the theater-released (but barely advertised) Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, thereafter wholeheartedly embraced computer animation.
According to the producers, after seeing so many animated features whose heroes were upstaged by more memorable sidekicks, they decided to just cut out the typical "hero" characters and center the film on Those Two Guys in the first place. With the plot of The Man Who Would Be King. With songs by Elton John, reunited with lyricist Tim Rice and composer Hans Zimmer after all three had worked on another little animated movie.
As might be expected from the title and the two con-artists traveling plotline, the film is heavily influenced by the Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour series of Road to ... films of the 1940s.
This film provides examples of:
- 2D Visuals, 3D Effects:
- DreamWorks wrote special animation software to make the gold look "gold" rather than merely "yellow".
- The barrels the duo hide in are also CGI.
- There's a lot of this, since many of the backgrounds are CGI.
- Achilles in His Tent: Miguel, after a fight with Tulio, decides to stay in El Dorado while Tulio and Chel sail back to Spain. When he sees that they're about to be crushed by a giant pillar, he rushes back to save them.
- Adaptational Heroism: The movie began life as an adaptation of The Man Who Would Be King and still is a loose adaptation. Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnahan were straight-up villain protagonists. Tulio and Miguel on the other hand, are not, lacking the Evil Colonialist nature of their counterparts, showing no racism or undeserved contempt towards the native populace.
- Adaptational Villainy: In stark contrast to The Man Who Would Be King, Tzekel-Kan is not a Villainy-Free Villain like his counterpart was and that is the most direct thing that can be said. The High Priest of the original story was not the Ax-Crazy Evil Sorcerer with a fetish for grusome slaughter, but was simply a man rooting out the lies of a pair of conmen exploiting his religion.
- Adipose Rex: Chief Tannabok, who is obese but still fit enough to walk to the top of the temple, while Miguel, Tulio and Altivo are all left breathless.
- Air Quotes: Used by Tzekel-Kan when he sics the jaguar statue on Miguel and Tulio, sarcastically emphasising "divinity" towards them.Tzekel-Kan: Now everyone will know the truth of your 'divinity'!
- Aliens Speaking English: Despite Miguel and Tulio being implied to be the first Europeans the Doradans have ever encountered, nobody has any issue understanding eachother.
- All There in the Manual: The tie-ins reveal the armadillo's name: Bibo.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Of all kinds. Particularly of note are the animals seen within El Dorado, including gigantic catfish and tall, but friendly, flightless birds. Truth in Television for a tropical rain forest environment!
- Anachronism Stew: The story is supposed to begin in 1519, which makes several bits of costume and equipment inappropriate. Rule of Funny is 100% in play here:
- Fashion in general is way too ahead of its time. For example, ruff collars and trunk hose for men didn't catch on until a couple decades later.
- The main characters make mention of the peseta as a currency. The peseta wasn't introduced until 1869, exactly 350 years after the time the movie is set in. (The Spain-Spanish dub corrects this to the period-appropriate maravedí and doblón.)
- Those ultra thin cup-hilted rapiers used by the guards in Seville didn't exist until the mid 17th century. In the time of Cortez the rapier was still in its embryonic stages, differing hardly at all from the medieval knightly sword apart from the ricasso and some extra bars on the hilt.
- The morion helmets worn by Cortez and his conquistadors were a fashion of the second half of the 16th century and the early 17th. Cortez' troops probably wore sallets, kettle hats, and burgonets.
- Cortez stated that once they touch land, Tulio and Miguel would be sent to Cuba to work as slaves on sugar cane fields. The cultivation of sugar cane in Cuba began in the 18th century. In the 16th century, the name of Cuba was "Isla Juana".
- Altivo's apple can be seeing bouncing off a telescope on Cortez's ship. The telescope was not invented until the early 1600s in the Netherlands.
- Tzekel-Kan's use of Air Quotes at one point, which are a relatively modern thing that certainly wasn't in use in any Mayan society, much less in the 1500s. Their hieroglyphic writing system didn't even have anything resembling quotation marks.
- When Tulio stops Chel from giving him a backrub, he holds his hands in a "T" shape for "time-out".
- The various characters using "Okay," which wasn't a slang term until the mid-1800s.
- Tzekel-Kan knows what a rat is even though rats are not indigenous to the Americas and El Dorado is isolated enough to not have any outsiders.
- And the Adventure Continues: After sealing off the entrance to El Dorado so Cortez can't get to it, Miguel, Tulio and Chel ride off into the sunset in search of their next adventure.-
- Artistic License Geography: The legend of El Dorado has nothing to do with Central America or a tropical, jungle locale. El Dorado comes from Colombia at the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, which features perennial woodland and dry cold. Not quite as romantic in reality.
- Artistic License Geology: Aside from being pure Rule of Funny, it's no more possible for a volcano to reverse the eruption process, as it did when Miguel and Tulio arrived at El Dorado, than it is to un-pop a zit. Though given that Word of God states that the armadillo Bibo was actually a god sent to help Miguel and Tulio, it can be chalked up to A Wizard Did It as well.
- Artistic License History: Let's be serious. This movie resembles Cortez's campaign as much as The Magic Voyage resembles Columbus' first travel. Though, of course, that's not the point.
- Awesome, but Impractical: The giant stone jaguar, while terrifyingly strong and fast, doesn't fare too well as a weapon. It can't turn as fast as its prey, can't fit through tight spaces, and ultimately proves quite fragile — after only a few minutes of chasing Tulio and Miguel its eye is damaged and its lower jaw is visibly dislocated.
- Bad Boss: Tzekel-Kan, who kicks his loyal acolyte into the magic pool as part of the Human Sacrifice needed to bring the jaguar statue to life. He could've gotten anyone else but chose to just immediately resort to killing his only truly loyal follower.
- Bare Your Midriff: Chel. Justified since it's local attire.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Tzekel-Khan and Hernàn Cortez serve as the film's main antagonists. Tzekel-Khan is the more direct, personal antagonist towards Miguel and Tulio in El Dorado, but Cortez's discovery of the Golden City makes him a looming threat.
- Big Damn Heroes: When it seems like Tulio and Chel's ship won't make it past the falling pillar, Miguel rides Altivo towards the ship to give him the impulse he needs to jump and pull the sail down so the ship can go faster and avoid certain death.
- Big Fun: Chief Tannabok is significantly fatter than anyone else in the city, and he's also far kinder than Tzekel-Kan.
- Big "NO!": Tzekel-Kan yells "No!" when he is about to fall into the maelstrom during his battle with Miguel and Tulio.
- Big Word Shout: Tulio yells "STOP!" apparently stopping a volcano from erupting.
- Blood Magic: Tzekel-Kan seems to power his magic with human sacrifice during the Jaguar rite scene. However his lack of knowledge for the main ingredient (body) suggests that he didn't do it very often and that most of the Human Sacrifice attempts he made were purely for ideological and psychological reasons rather than any magical and practical profit.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: "I am Miguel." "And I am Tulio." "And they call us Miguel and Tulio."
- Brief Accent Imitation: Tulio briefly imitates Miguel's British accent at the end. note Tulio: You had to be all 'Oh, look at me, look at me, I'm a god.'
- Buffy Speak:
- When trying to get Altivo to find them a pry-bar.Miguel: All you have to do is find a pry-bar! A long piece of iron with a hooky-thing at the end!
- Later when trying to explain why the boat is unacceptable.Miguel: I have been around boats, believe me. And that, um... pointy tall... the-the-the long up and- up and down thing...
Chief Tannabok: The mast?
- When trying to get Altivo to find them a pry-bar.
- Call-Back: Miguel and Tulio appearing to fight each other to get out of trouble. Works on Spanish soldiers AND crazy Aztec priests.
- Card Sharp: Or more specifically Dice Sharp; their source of income is pretty much Tulio's trusty loaded dice. It is mentioned in the novelisation that his preferred targets were the wealthy and corrupt.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Both inverted and played straight. Miguel and Tulio do get into serious trouble for using loaded dice, but, on the other hand, if they hadn't cheated they wouldn't have gotten to El Dorado in the first place. Later on, cheating at the ball game saved their bacon. Then again, it only delayed things since it directly led to the Big Bad coming after them.
- The Chew Toy: Tulio takes a lot of amusing injuries during the "Trail We Blaze" sequence.
- Comically Missing the Point: Cortez goes into a detailed explanation of exactly how Miguel and Tulio will be punished, culminating in their being sold into slavery when they arrive in Cuba. Miguel's response?Miguel: All right! Cuba!
- Con Man: Both Miguel and Tulio made a living as grifters before getting swept up in their adventure.
- Contrived Coincidence: The guy the duo gambles against happens to have a map to El Dorado just as the Spanish Fleet is leaving for South America, the duo happen to wash up right on its shores after days adrift at sea, a thief just happened to be escaping El Dorado just as our heroes were leaving for Spain, and a volcanic eruption happens (and cancels itself) just as the duo are asked for proof of their divinity.
- Convection Schmonvection: Slightly averted as when Tulio and Miguel are escaping the stone jaguar by a lava pool, they're shown sweating.
- Cue the Rain: When Miguel and Tulio are adrift at sea with no food or water.
- Death Glare:
- Tulio gives several of these to Miguel for digging them deeper into trouble.
- Miguel himself gives a truly awesome one after his Shut Up, Hannibal! speech.
- Deathly Dies Irae: This being Cortez's Leitmotif makes him bad news.
- Denser and Wackier: The film's emphasis is more focused on humor and innuendos compared to Dreamworks' earlier production, The Prince of Egypt which is more focused on drama.
- Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Chel hums the opening theme casually while blackmailing Tulio and Miguel.
- Disney Acid Sequence: The "It's Tough to Be a God" party sequence gets pretty acidy near the end, where it's implied that they'd had a LOT to drink and smoke, the wine was strong enough to burn (meaning more than 100 proof) and it's entirely possible that this acid sequence is more literal than most.
- Disneyesque: Sort of. While the animation is clearly as fluid and well-drawn as Disney films, it does break the mold of the Disney School of Mime and Acting with some of the more unique facial expressions, and follows DreamWorks in-house angular character design style. The much more adult-oriented humor is also very anti-Disney.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Cortez plans to have Miguel and Tulio flogged and sold into slavery, all for accidentally stowing away on his ship.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Chel goes barefoot throughout the film.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- The scene where Tzekel-Kan completes the potion that summons the huge jaguar stone-beast-thing. Orgasm much?
- Speaking of orgasm face, Tulio really gets into that massage he gives Chel.
- Double-Edged Answer: Tulio and Miguel manage to sneak off Cortez's ship with enough food to get back to Spain, with the unexpected event of Altivo jumping off the ship in chase of an apple. After saving themselves, the horse, and the boat, Altivo eats all of their food within seconds.Tulio: Did any of the provisions make it?
Miguel: [looks and sees Altivo eating] Well, yes and no...
- Easter Egg: When Tzekel-Kan is flicking through his codex, one of the pictures is a boy fishing from a moon.
- Eat the Dog: Averted; when Miguel and Tulio are dying of hunger and thirst eating Altivo (which could have kept them alive for much longer) never seems to cross their minds, hinting that Tulio is fonder of the horse than he lets on.
- Eating the Eye Candy: Chel does this while watching Miguel and Tulio undress.
- Eternal English: Played completely straight. Everybody - even the people of El Dorado - speaks English (though, being generous, it could be eternal Spanish).
- Gets confusing when Chel needs to translate certain words for Tulio and Miguel, like the word for "spirit world".
- Even more confusing when Miguel and Tulio first find the entrance to El Dorado... and, not seeing the city itself, Tulio remarks that El Dorado must mean "Great Big Rock" in the native language. "El Dorado" is a Spanish term, not a Mesoamerican one. The main characters speak Spanish, but apparently don't recognize a simple Spanish term, mistaking it for a term in the native language of the city... which refers to itself by that same Spanish term.
- Evil Brit: Despite being an ancient Mesoamerican high priest, Tzekel-Kan still manages to have the villainous British accent.
- Evil Is Hammy: Tzekel-Kan, who is the hammiest of all the cast.
- Eye Scream: Altivo kicks the jaguar in one of its gem eyes, which damages it and seems to shock and hurt Tzekel-Kan.
- Facepalm: Chel makes one when Miguel and Tulio agree to send the gold to Xibalba.
- Fanservice: Equal opportunity fanservice, no less. In addition to Chel's many lovely assets, there are plenty of scenes that show off the very nice bodies of Miguel and Tulio, including a changing scene bordering on Male Frontal Nudity.
- They even lampshade it, with Tulio asking Chel (who is watching them change) "Do you mind?" She responds "No", and bites her lip.
- Fanfare: Whenever Tulio, Miguel or both of them do something good or heroic for a change, the soundtrack picks up fanfares. And it's absent whenever they are scheming or pulling cons.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: El Dorado is a Mayincatec dream, with the architecture and games of Mesoamerica mixed in with a few Inca names and clothing styles and the Muisca practise of throwing gold down water bodies. The latter's inclusion makes it pretty unique in blending in a fairly obscure culture as well.
- Faux Affably Evil: Tzekel-Kan, even after he discovers Miguel and Tulio aren't gods, maintains a veneer of civility.
- Faux Symbolism: Invoked; Cortés claims that his crew was "as carefully chosen as the disciples of Christ."
- Feud Episode: Tulio and Miguel nearly split up over Tulio's relationship with Chel. (And over Miguel deciding he'd rather stay in El Dorado than go back to Spain with Tulio)
- Flynning: Justified when Tulio and Miguel do it deliberately during a rapier swordfight with each other, then reveal it's all a ploy to avoid being arrested.Tulio: Ladies and gentlemen, we've decided it's a draw!
Miguel: Thank you all for coming! You've been great, see you soon!
- The way it's staged suggests that they've done it before, and considering the film being set in the early 1500s (and the rapier being a civilian weapon) it's likely that both are in reality adequate fencers.
- From Bad to Worse: Lampshaded when the two of them (and the horse) are stranded on the rowboat in the Atlantic:Miguel: Look on the positive side. At least things can't get--
[Massive thunderstorm starts]
Tulio: Excuse me. Were you going to say "worse"?!
Miguel: Absolutely not. I've revised that whole thing.
[Scene ends with a pan out showing sharks approaching]
- The Fundamentalist: Tzekel-Kan's aim is to execute as many of those in El Dorado that he sees as wretched in the form of human sacrifice to appease the gods.
- Funny Background Event:
- Miguel playing his mandolin during the gambling scenes.
- Hee hee◊
- When they first enter the city, Altivo mouths "El Dorado!" along with Tulio and Miguel.
- Gambling Brawl: When Tulio and Miguel were caught cheating with loaded dice, the two knew that they were in for a brawl so they started accusing each other, and began a fight with each other, using the guards' swords. They used this fight to get away from the guards and the angry gamblers.
- God Guise: The basis of most of the plot. C'mon, it's a Mayincatec classic. Interestingly it's made clear that the Chief sees through it (when the High Priest doesn't) but is willing to humor them. After all, they're basically decent people taking his side against a sacrifice-happy madman and all they want is gold.
- God Test: The Doradans challenge the explorers to a ballgame... two gods against 15 mortals.
- Gold Fever: Downplayed. Tulio really, really loves gold. His more materialistic outlook clashes with Miguel's simple desire for adventure, which creates a rift between them, but he doesn't hesitate to abandon the gold to save El Dorado.
- Gold Is Yellow: Averted. Gold objects are given both realistic tones and realistic shading.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: When going for a dip Tulio and Miguel's clothing is swiped by monkeys! With fleas!
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Miguel, who is blonde and good.
- Hard Head: In attempting to figure out an escape plan, Tulio bangs his head on a wooden plank so often over a period of (we must assume) months it leaves a worn, rounded dent in the shape of his forehead.
- Hartman Hips: Chel, almost to the point of parody. Her waist was, tops, twenty inches and her breasts were rather large, considering. Waltz on down below the waist and her hips are at least as wide as her shoulders.
- Headdesk: Tulio is banging his head against a wall to try to figure out a way to escape from Cortez's ship. He appears to get an idea... but just resumes banging.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Miguel and Tulio are inseparable from the beginning of the film, clearly care deeply for each other, and share massive amounts of Ho Yay. Both are also attracted to Chel.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Human Sacrifice is treated as something the people of El Dorado don't like, but have been led to believe in as a necessary evil. The one person pushing human sacrifice into his culture, Tzekel-Kan, is evil and also uses it secondarily as a form of Blood Magic. There is contradictory evidence about what players of the Mesoamerican ball game were historically sacrificed after, if the losers or the winners, but it seems that (unlike in the film) the sacrifices considered it a honor.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Cortés, which is impressive given the historical atrocities he did commit. He took Spanish prisoners in a battle with a fleet sent to arrest him for mutiny (the guy who sent him to the new world changed his mind at the last second due to a petty argument, but Cortez went anyway), but the idea of enslaving a fellow Christian or Spaniard would have horrified him. He was also a charming diplomat who forged real alliances with some native groups, while in the film he is a humorless hardass who uses the one native who submits to him as a tool to destroy and kill all the others, and betrays him the minute he doesn't get his way.
- Horse of a Different Color: While the main characters do have an actual horse, the people of El Dorado appear to have domesticated gigantic sea turtles that they ride on in the aqueducts through the city.
- Human Sacrifice: Tzekel-Kan loves to kill people in the name of the gods and threatens this often. "It needs more... body."
- Humans Are Bastards: Tzekel-Kan's philosophy is steeped in this: that humans deserve to be sacrificed to the gods because humans are unworthy.
- I Choose to Stay: Subverted. Miguel loves the city, but decides to stay only because he got into a fight with Tulio, who wants to go back to Spain. Eventually, to save Tulio and Chel's lives, he's forced to leave anyway.
- Idiot Hair: Both Miguel and Tulio have it, though the animation style gives their hair a bit more weight and droop than a lot of anime examples.
- Ignored Enemy: Tulio and Miguel ignore the imposing city guard in favour of challenging each other to a duel... which leads them onto a rooftop and freedom. Later in the film they get into a rather nastier slapfight, to their delight of their ignored opponent Tzekel-Kan and his fifty-foot animated stone jaguar.
- Both examples are somewhat subverted as the two deliberately invoke the trope for the purposes of escaping danger. As mentioned, their sword fight was meant to allow them a chance to escape when their use of loaded dice is discovered, while their fight in front of Tzekel-Kan eventually gives them a chance to punch their enemy to the ground.
- I'm Okay!: Used when a guard encounters the Jaguar's foot. Then he gets stomped:Guard: I'm still okay!
- Incoming Ham: Tzekel-Kan goes full ham once his plan enters its final phase.Tzekel-Kan: BEHOLD! As the prophesies foretold! The time! Of judgement! IS NOW!!!
- In Love with the Mark: Miguel starts to fall in love with lifestyle he is living by pretending to be a god, while Tulio falls in love with Chel, the native girl helping them pull of their con. This causes to tension between the two of them, as each thinks the other is losing sight of the original plan, and leads to this exchange:Miguel: Hey, it was his stupid plan!
Tulio: My plan was that we should lie low! But your plan was to run off and be all "Oh, look at me, look at me, I'm a God!"
Miguel: That's not true!
Tulio: No? Who are you kidding?! You're buying your own con!
Miguel: At least I'm not dating mine!
- Ink-Suit Actor: Miguel has been noted by some to bear a slight resemblance◊ to his voice actor, Kenneth Branagh.
- Intellectual Animal: Altivo has canine traits and is capable of sarcasm.
- In the Local Tongue: Provides the page quote.Tulio: Apparently, El Dorado is native for great... big... ROCK!!!
- Irony: Cortés boasts that his crew was as carefully chosen as the disciples of Christ. Christ chose his disciples by asking people to drop what they were doing and follow him, and the ones that did became his chosen ones.
- It Has Been an Honor: Tulio and Miguel in the rowboat, where they think that they will soon die. Ham-to-Ham Combat ensues:Tulio: If it's any consolation, Miguel... you... made my life... an adventure! [sobs]
Miguel: And if it's any consolation, Tulio... you... made my life... rich!
Altivo: [rolls eyes]
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both Miguel and Tulio. Though Tulio is more of a jerk than Miguel, they both end up saving the city from Cortez and Tzekel-Kan.
- Just a Stupid Accent: Everyone speaks English, period. The Spaniards sound like native-born Americans/Brits, most everyone else speaks with a Central American accent, and Tzekel-Kan has a dialect all his own.
- Karma Houdini: Hernan Cortez suffers no pain or indignities in this story. A foregone conclusion, sadly.
- Karmic Death: Averted at the conclusion of Tzekel-Kan's battle with Tulio and Miguel. Tzekel-Kan falls into the maelstrom along with the stone jaguar he was controlling and is thought to have been killed. However, he is sucked out of the maelstrom into the entrance to El Dorado.
- Keet: Miguel is really excitable.
- Kick the Dog: Tzekel-Kan sacrifices his loyal but not-too-bright right hand man to fuel a spell.
- Knight of Cerebus: While Tzekel-Khan gets some humorous moments, every time Cortez appears, all the humor is drained out. Well, almost every time.Miguel: All right! Cuba!
- Knight Templar: Tzekel-Kan wants to purge the city of, what he believes, the wicked and unrighteous citizens of El Dorado.
- Large Ham: Tzekel-Kan: "BEHOLD! As the prophecies foretold! The TIME of JUDGMENT is NOW!"
- "MIGHTY AND POWERFUL GODS!"
- [sniffs potion] "AAAHHH!"
- Miguel and Tulio as well, not that surprising since the former is voiced by a Shakespearean actor and the latter's voiced by the guy who was the lead in the 1983 version of The Pirates of Penzance.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Tulio doesn't do a good job hiding his desires regarding Chel.Tulio: ...free from any tempta— uh, distractions.
- Latin Land: The legend of El Dorado does not come from Central America; just ask a Colombian.
- Lean and Mean: Tzekel-Kan is skinny and enjoys human sacrifice and BLOOD, in contrast to his counterpart, the large, fat and benevolent Chief Tannabok.
- Left the Background Music On: Miguel provides his own soundtrack at numerous points in the film.
- Lighter and Softer: The plot of the movie is based on Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King," which was made into a live action movie with Sean Connery and Michael Caine. The original story and the live adaptation are significantly darker. Each of the two con-men there is a violent and ruthless Villain Protagonist for starters who will do anything to scam the tribe, a sharp contrast to the likable Antiheroes of this film who treat the natives nicely and even started the whole charade primarily out of fear.
- Living Statue: Using powerful magic, Tzekel-Kan brings to life a giant jaguar statue and controls it as a Marionette Master.
- Loads and Loads of Roles: This film gives you your money's worth of Jim Cummings.
- Loud Gulp: When Miguel and Tulio have to play a ball game they've never played before against fifteen of the best players in the city and are expected to win since they are gods.
- Lovable Rogue: Miguel is the closest; stealing and lying most of the time but never being malicious about it and he outright defends strangers without asking for anything in return. Tulio and Chel are both more self-serving but come through in the end.
- Magic Cauldron: Wicked high priest Tzekel-Kan has a bubbling cauldron built into the floor of his workshop. One potion mixed there brings a huge stone jaguar to life, right after adding a Human Sacrifice ingredient.
- Marked Change: Tzekel-Kan gains Tron Lines on his body when he takes control of the stone jaguar.
- Match Cut: Numerous, usually involving something symbolic matched instantly with real version.
- Mayincatec: The native culture is sort of a blend of all the typical Hollywood Aztec/Mayan/Incan traits. To cap it all of it retains the inspiration for the El Dorado legend, the Muisca practise of throwing gold down water bodies, adding a fairly obscure culture to the mix.
- Meaningful Echo: "To err is human, to forgive Divine." First used as a means of appeasing Tzekel-Kan when they dismiss his "tribute". Later, said back to Miguel by the Chief, all but saying out loud he knows Miguel isn't a god but doesn't care.
- Meaningful Name:
- Altivo is Spanish for "arrogant".
- And Miguel means "Who is like God".
- Tulio means "That who leads".
- Mega Neko: When Tzekel-Kan discovers Miguel and Tulio aren't gods, he decides to eliminate them and purge El Dorado himself by animating a massive jaguar statue.
- Mighty Whitey: Averted. From climbing temple stairs to the local sports, Miguel and Tulio are comically out of the natives' league. They can only get anywhere through cheating and duplicity.
- Mr. Fanservice: Both Tulio and Miguel. Their overall attractiveness and the scene where the monkeys steal their clothes attributes to this.
- Ms. Fanservice: Chel. She wear a very skimpy outfit, has huge hips (as demonstrated in a ball-game scene) and openly seduces one of the male Main Characters.
- My Grandma Can Do Better Than You: Variant:Miguel: You fight like my sister!
Tulio: I fought your sister; that's a compliment!
- Naked People Are Funny: Tulio and Miguel, naturally, in the scene where the monkeys steal their clothes. Also in the scene where they're changing and Chel is pretending not to peek.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Some trailers made it appear as if Tulio and Miguel's God Guise was their idea, and Tzekel-kan was the only one not fooled by this and would try to unmask them. In the movie, ironically, it was Tzekel-kan himself who first suggested that Tulio and Miguel were gods due a series of Contrived Coincidences, with the latter two going Sure, Let's Go with That. While Tzekel-kan would eventually realize that Tulio and Miguel weren't gods, it wouldn't happen until the second half of the movie.
- Non Human Side Kick: Altivo the warhorse is a pretty valuable ally throughout the story and shows a lot of emotions. The armadillo is also helpful during the ball game.
- Noodle Incident:
- Mentioned by Miguel when he thinks he and Tulio are going to die.Miguel: Tulio, I just want you to know, I'm sorry about that girl in Barcelona.
- Possibly, Chel's reasons for leaving El Dorado, which are never clarified, but her facial expression is more than a little suspicious in that instance.Chel: You've got your reasons... and I've got mine.
- In the junior novelization and storybooks, Tzekel-Kan was about to sacrifice her before the chief stopped him. This scene was the original opening to the movie before it was cut.
- Mentioned by Miguel when he thinks he and Tulio are going to die.
- "No Peeking!" Request: Chel brings Tulio and Miguel appropriate clothes for the feast, they begin to take off their clothes to change when Tulio notices Chel is still in the room and staring and he shoos her away, which she does reluctantly.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: For a Spaniard, Miguel sounds awfully... British. And, come to that, Tulio sounds awfully... American.
- Not in the Face!: Tulio while Flynning.Tulio: [whispers] Not the face, not the face...
- Not So Great Escape: Takes on a pronounced zig zag through the beginning of the film: Miguel and Tulio avoid arrest through impressive Flynning only to fall into a bull pen. They make a dramatic exit with the bull mowing down some of their pursuers, jumping off of a high wall into open barrels full of water to elude the others. They pull the lids over themselves, only to be hoisted aboard a ship bound for the New World and have a large, heavy chest piled on top to keep them from getting out. At sea, the chest is removed, they emerge dramatically in full view of the crew, and are promptly locked in irons for an involuntary audience with Cortez. They are thrown in the brig as stowaways and presumably flogged, eventually sneaking out in the dead of night with the help of Altivo's fetching skills. After another dramatic escape when Altivo jumps overboard, all three wind up at sea in a rowboat, dying of starvation and thirst. Fortunately, they miraculously beach themselves a stone's throw away from a landmark in their map to El Dorado.
- Nubile Savage: Chel, who is a very shapely and scantily-clad local of El Dorado. Though played with in that she is at least as sharp as the protagonists, and much more knowledgeable about the situation.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Around the middle of the movie, Chief Tannabok hints that he already knows that Miguel and Tulio weren't gods. He probably chooses not to divulge this because the "gods"' presence weakened the high priest's power and put a stop to the human sacrifices, which he was clearly against. The fact they were pretty fun anyway probably helped.
- Ocean Madness: Referenced after Miguel, Tulio, and their horse Altivo have been floating for God-knows how long and then suddenly wash ashore:Miguel: And it is! It really is the map to El Dorado! [he pants with excitement]
Tulio: ...you drank the seawater, didn't you?
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Well, ominous chanting, anyway...
- Our Alebrijes Are Different: Many of the animals, like the fish, birds and reptiles, are very alebrije-esque, many of them coming and various shapes, sizes and bright colors.
- Palm Bloodletting: Tzekel-Khan does this and smears the blood on a carving of the gods to emphasize his realization that Miguel and Tulio are only mortal, because "Gods don't bleed." As he lifts his bleeding hand, his cut then instantly heals by magic.
- Parental Bonus: When Chel and Tulio are making out and almost caught by Tzekel-Kan, look closely where her head pops up in relation to his. It certainly makes one question if it was his lips she was kissing...
- Perma-Stubble: Tulio has stubble even when he's in a city and could shave.
- Pet Gets the Keys: From their holding cell onboard ship, Miguel offers Altivo an apple if he will bring them a pry-bar. Just as Tulio is ridiculing him for expecting a horse to understand the words "pry bar," Altivo shows up with the cell keys instead.Tulio: Well, it's not a pry bar.
- Planning with Props: When Tulio tries to formulate a plan for their boat of gold and the pillars that lead to El Dorado, he uses a stack of earrings to represent the pillars and a pendant for the boat. The armadillo spills water over the whole scene, inspiring Tulio to decide to crash the boat into the pillars.
- Plot-Irrelevant Villain: While Cortez is indirectly responsible for Miguel and Tulio winding up at El Dorado, he vanishes from the bulk of the film after the opening, is briefly seen a couple more times and only factors into the plot again very late in the film, with Tzekel-Kan taking over as the main villain for the bulk of the film.
- Pop-Star Composer: Elton John co-wrote and performed all the songs for the movie.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- Tulio gets to do four of these:Tulio: Apparently, El Dorado is native for... "Great. Big. ROCK!!!" [echoes]
Tulio: Get. On. The horse.
Tulio: WHAT. Do you THINK. You're DOING?!
Tulio: ...On the one hand - Gold! On the other hand [points at mural of an execution] - Painful. Agonizing. FAILURE!
- Tzekel-Kan gets a much less hammy one.Tzekel-Kan: "Gods... don't... bleed..."
- Tulio gets to do four of these:
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Miguel uses this on Tulio, who calls it "The Face", to gamble for the map. It is very effective; Tulio just can't say no... for long.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Chief Tannabok, who loves his people in spite of the high minister's bloodthirsty religious fervor and accepts Miguel and Tulio even after he figures out on his own that they aren't gods.
- Record Needle Scratch: Atop their temple, looking over the majestic city below, Miguel is gazing out as Tulio is thinking inside.Tulio: We just have to lie low.
Miguel: [beautiful music swells] But Tulio, this place is amazing! I mean I wonder what's-
Tulio: NO! [needle scratch] Don't even move!!!
- Recycled IN SPACE!.
- Revealing Injury: Miguel receiving a cut during the ball game is what tips Tzekel-Kan off to their masquerade, as gods don't bleed.
- Riding into the Sunset: The movie ends this way, or rather Chel rides off, with Miguel and Tulio running to catch up after they fall off Altivo.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Chief Tannabok is shown to be thoroughly involved in keeping his city in order, from going out of his way to making the "Gods" happy to singlehandedly keeping the pillars from falling over too early at the end.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Miguel and Tulio - they even provided the page image. But, of course, you'd probably react the same way to a giant green stone jaguar breaking out of a temple. But less so when it's Chel.Tulio: Miguel and Tulio!
Miguel: Tulio and Miguel!
Both: Mighty and Powerful Gods!
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Both Tulio and Miguel prove to care more for people than cold metal. Even if they scammed the whole city with their God Guise, leaving it for Cortez to plunder is beyond them.
- Secret Secret-Keeper: Chief Tannabok eventually hints that he figured out Miguel and Tulio aren't gods.
- Setting Update: The Man Who Would Be King was set in the 19th century in British India and Kafiristan. The Road to El Dorado is instead set during the Age of Discovery in Spain and Central America.
- Shout-Out: The fighting bull that chased Miguel and Tulio looks a lot like the bull that would occasionally pester Bugs Bunny.
- Sinister Minister: Tzekel-Kan is an evil priest. He's also, to a certain extent, The Grand Vizier. Though the chief is not the typical Horrible Judge of Character who lets the Grand Vizier get away with everything; he clearly distrusts and dislikes Tzekel-Kan, and is glad when the gods start speaking for themselves.
- Silent Snarker: Altivo, the eye-rolling horse.
- The Smart Guy: Tulio plans things and keeps Miguel grounded.
- Soft Water: Quite a few scenes, including the scene where Miguel and Tulio get onto the ship.
- Spared by the Adaptation: In contrast to Daniel Dravot and Peachey Carnehan from The Man Who Would Be King, both Tulio and Miguel are alive by the end of the film. Dravot ended up being executed and his body beheaded, his mummified head being kept for a time by Carnehan, and Carnehan died of sunstroke a few days after telling his tale to the story's narrator, with no belongings on him, leaving the fate of Dravot's mummified head a mystery.
- Spexico: The aesthetics of El Dorado and its inhabitants are a mixture of different prehispanic cultures of Central America, in order to avoid connecting El Dorado to any particular geographical place. The buildings and temples are a composition of the Mixteco city of Mitla, in modern Oaxaca, Mexico, and the Mayan city of the Palanque. The features of the locals are distinctly Mayan, as well the murals and the Xibalba tradition. The weapons, attires and human sacrifices customs are mostly of Aztec origin. Curiously, even though the inspiration comes from Central and Southern Mexico, the most widely accepted location for the real El Dorado legend was the Amazonian rain forest.
- Spiritual Successor: Multiple:
- The film is seen by many fans as a Spiritual Successor to the old Hope and Crosby "Road to ..." movies.
- The connection is referenced in the film itself during "It's Tough to Be a God," where Tulio and Miguel's aquatic reflections are briefly made to resemble those of Hope and Crosby.
- To The Lion King (1994), at least production-wise. Producer Jeff Katzenberg recruited Elton John to write the songs because they had enjoyed each other's company while making that film.
- The film is seen by many fans as a Spiritual Successor to the old Hope and Crosby "Road to ..." movies.
- Stout Strength: Tannabok, easily the fattest person in El Dorado, manages to single-handedly slow the topple of a massive stone pillar by pulling on all the guy ropes at once.
- Stripperiffic: Chel doesn't wear much, but she has the tropical climate as a justification.
- This Way to Certain Death: As soon as Miguel and Tulio make landfall somewhere on the Yucatan Peninsula, they discover on the sandy beach two skeletons, each with glaring evidence of a violent demise. One has a sword through his rib cage that surely would have punctured the pericardial sac. The other has an axe-like implement embedded in his skull.
- Those Two Guys: The entire idea behind the film was to take Those Two Guys and make them into main characters instead of putting them in their normal sidekick role.
- Thwarted Escape: After their impressive display of Flynning to avoid being arrested, Miguel and Tulio drop behind a stone wall, only to find they have fallen into the pen of a huge bull that doesn't seem too happy to see them.
- Threat Backfire: Tzekel-Kan is not impressed by the new "gods".Miguel: That's right, do not question us! Or we shall have to unleash our awesome and terrible power, and you don't want that!
Tzekel-Kan: Oh yes! We do!
Miguel: ...You do?
- Trailers Always Spoil: This trailer gives an abridged version of pretty much the whole movie. All it's missing is showing the Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure between Miguel and Tulio and Cortez sealing Tzekel-Kan's doom after finding the path blocked at the very end.
- Treasure Map: The map won by Miguel and Tulio leads to El Dorado.
- The Trickster: Chel, though Miguel and Tulio are not exactly lacking in this department either.
- Tron Lines: Tzekel-Kan's ritual causes glowing blue-green markings to cover his own body and the jaguar statue.
- Truth in Television:
- There actually was a real event in the 16th century where a Spanish army (led by Hernan Cortès) attempted to invade the Aztecs only to be warmly greeted with gifts and gold in the belief that they were gods, though the veracity of the God Guise story has been contested by other scholars.
- The rapier really was a civilian weapon in 16th century Spain due to being cheap to make, easy to use, light to carry, and less lethal than many other weapons. Miguel and Tulio could both have learned to fence with both Flynning and with genuine skill.
- Vagabond Buddies: Miguel and Tulio. Unsurprising, since it's styled after the Trope Codifier.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Tulio and Miguel are each quite critical of the other.
- "Wanted!" Poster: Miguel and Tulio are first introduced by one to establish that they are criminals.
- You Fight Like a Cow: This is part of their ruse when their con games go south.
- Miguel: You fight like my sister!
Tulio: Ah ha! I've fought your sister! That's a compliment!