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YMMV / Atlantis: The Lost Empire

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • During the Leviathan's attack on the Ulysses, it briefly grabs the ship in its mandible claws and holds it up to its "eyes", close enough for Milo to watch them dilate. Considering that it doesn't attack or snap the Ulysses in half during this scene, it almost appears to be intently studying the ship. Is it analyzing the enemy for weaknesses, perhaps trying to determine whether it's a threat? Taunting the people on board with how easily it can destroy them? Lining up a killshot for its Wave Motion Gun? Or is it so ancient that it genuinely has no idea what the hell it has in its claws, especially since the only other mechanical constructions it's ever seen are other Atlantean vessels like itself?
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    • During the same sequence, the Leviathan takes an awfully long time to destroy the Ulysses, although it clearly could have obliterared the ship and everyone on board with a single tail slap. Is this a case of Plot Armor keeping the Leviathan from killing all the main characters in five seconds, or is the Leviathan actively and sadistically toying with its defenseless prey?
    • Was Rourke Evil All Along or did he do a Face–Heel Turn? He knew about the crystal beforehand by reading, or looking at the images in the book. But he didn't understand the ancient language so he couldn't know what the crystal was exactly, nor did he expect Atlantis to still be inhabitated. Excavating valuable artifacts from long dead civilizations isn't evil, even if you're Only in It for the Money, but deciding to take it from still living people who depends on it, is.
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  • Audience-Alienating Premise: The film basically stepped farther and farther from Disney's comfort zone with every decision taken by the producers. In the first place, its plot being basically a Diesel Punk version of Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water mixed with obscure esoterism demanded a very ambitious project, which would only play against the fact that those themes didn't have a clear cultural hook in United States or Europe (and unlike other Disney films, this one didn't have the advantage of being at least loosely adapting a more famous fiction work). Secondly, the gimmick of an action-adventure film with "fewer songs, more explosions" only turned the Disney brand against itself, as its usual target crowd would find it unappealing and raunchy, while non-Disney fans would be repelled by the fear it turned out to be yet another cheesy musical after all. The producers's insistence to make the film with hand-drawn animation (with only streaks of CGI) could have been overlooked, but at that time it only hurt its draw, as the audiences's interest had already switched to full-CGI pictures. Finally, the movie's chosen release date pitted against a strong competition, namely Shrek and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, thus stacking even more odds against it. Ultimately, even if this later granted it a Cult Classic status, Atlantis had just too many audience-alienating traits to succeed.
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  • Awesome Music: James Newton Howard provides as usual. The music during the submarine launch is especially epic. Special mention needs to go to "The Crystal Chamber". It's quite possibly one of the most gorgeous tracks Howard ever composed. Close runner-ups would be "The Secret Swim" and "Just Do It".
  • "Common Knowledge": In 2019, rumors that this film was going to join the list of Disney Animated Canon films slated for live-action remakes started flying around the internet, with claims that Guillermo del Toro and Tom Holland were being considered to direct and star, respectively. These rumors were ultimately debunked by del Toro himself, but many people still believe them to be true, mostly because the idea of an Atlantis remake with del Toro at the helm is widely considered to be awesome.
  • Complete Monster: Commander Lyle Tiberius Rourke is a tomb-robbing mercenary (or, as he insists, "adventure capitalist") solely in the Atlantis operation for profit. The leader of the expedition sent to find Atlantis, Rourke maintains a gruff, militaristic indifference to the lives of those lost to the Leviathan and upon seeing the Heart of Atlantis, plans to confiscate it and sell it for double the money he'd receive. Knowing full well this will kill every Atlantean, when he's confronted on this Rourke threatens to shoot Princess Kida and shortly thereafter murders her father, never dropping his friendly façade. Rourke was concerned for little else but himself and the potential profit he could reap from Atlantis, to the point where he tosses Helga off a blimp to her death for a minor benefit to his escape, and was greedy enough in the end to make his entire party turn against him.
  • Crazy Awesome: Gaetan Moliere. The man is completely obsessed with dirt... and it makes him incredibly useful. He's able to identify Milo as a linguist by Sherlock Scanning and tasting dirt from under Milo's fingernails.
  • Critical Dissonance: Has a critic score of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes as well as a surprisingly low audience score only around 51%. However, given its Cult Classic status and its constant inclusion in lists of the most underrated Disney movies and animated movies in general, it’s obvious the audience liked it more.
  • Cult Classic: As with Treasure Planet, this film is becoming one. Many fans believe that it would be a perfect candidate to join Disney's increasingly long list of live-action remakes.
  • Dork Age: Given its poor critical reception and box office take, it proved to be an early warning sign that Disney was falling into one, and many critics have in pointed to it as in hindsight marking the end of the Disney Renaissance.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Ask any random person what they remember most about this movie. Nine times out of ten they'll answer the Leviathan even though it doesn't actually speak and only appears for about five minutes..
    • Vinny is arguably the most popular character. ESPECIALLY in the French fanbase, thanks to a brilliant dub that arguably makes his DeadpanSnark even funnier than in the original.
    • Audrey is perhaps a close second for many.
    • Helga's got a strong fanbase too.
    • Also Mrs. Packard, due to her bottomless pit of snark.
    • King Kashekim for being voiced by Leonard Nimoy.
  • Evil Is Cool: Okay, "evil" is perhaps an overstatement, since it's just a machine doing its job, but sweet mother of mercy, is the Leviathan awesome.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
    • Lieutenant Helga Katrina. Made apparent in her very first scene when the gobsmacked hero finds her waiting for him in his apartment like some sultry Femme Fatale in a hardboiled detective story. It helps that she's voiced by Claudia Christian of all people!
    • Even Rourke has a few fans. Yes, really. The genocidal sociopath. Admittedly, he does have the physique of a Hunk despite his age.
  • Friendly Fandoms: With Hellboy because the similar art style and characters designs courtesy of Mike Mignola.
  • Genius Bonus: Several examples:
    • Ichthyologists and paleontologists in the audience had to laugh at Whitmore's aquarium, which contained coelacanths (a 65-million-year-old species that was thought long extinct until its rediscovery in 1938.) Probably meant to show, in the most obscure possible way, that Whitmire's been exploring the world long enough to find all sorts of hidden things.
    • Cookie shows off a map on his belly showing "all 38 states." There were 38 states from 1876 to 1889 (meaning he got the tattoo sometime between age 33 and 47.) He seems to think there are still only 38 states, but then, he's not all there.
    • While abandoning the main characters in Atlantis, Rourke mutters, "P. T. Barnum was right." Mere gibberish unless you know Barnum's most famous (and probably apocryphal) saying, There's a sucker born every minute.
    • Cookie is confused when he finds a can labelled "cilantro" in his supplies at the start of the mission. Cilantro — Spanish for coriander — was called "coriander leaves" until the 1920s (it was introduced to British colonies in North America in 1670).
  • Harsher in Hindsight: King Nedakh's death and final monologue became more sorrowful with the passing of Leonard Nimoy in 2015. Furthermore, both of them suffered from complications of their aged body with Nedakh's internal bleeding from Rourke's punch striking his frail body and Nimoy's suffering from end-stage COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) at the age of 83.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • It's Short, So It Sucks!: A few fans have noted that the film could have used a lot more running time to better establish the setting and give the characters more screen time.
  • LGBT Fanbase: The film has a lot of queer female fans due to the attractiveness of Helga, Audrey, and Kida.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Rourke crosses it and keeps on going when he punches the elderly King of Atlantis so hard it causes internal bleeding, eventually leading to his death. Dr. Sweet drops out without hesitation when he sees this happen and while the other main crew members don't, Audrey and Vinny at least are shown to be disconcerted and repulsed.
  • Narm: There's Kida's mother in the opening scene. Kida drops her doll, and the Queen stops her to give her a lecture on why there's no time to go and get it - something she could have easily done in the space of time it took for the Queen to give her lecture.
    Unshaved Mouse: "We are going to stay here until you understand that there is no time to waste! LITERALLY EVERY SECOND COUNTS!”
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Kida is the first princess in a Disney movie to be crowned Queen, a whole decade before Elsa from Frozen.
    • The film also featured a seemingly friendly character being revealed as the villain long before it started showing up in Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Why yes, the Leviathan technically appears for only one brief segment of this movie. Let's put it this way - have you forgotten about the colossal magic Atlantean robot lobster that shoots lasers and inflicts an absolutely staggering death toll on the Main Characters, in a Disney movie?
  • She Really Can Act: Given that Cree Summer is best known for voicing 90% of Sassy Black Woman characters in cartoons, it's quite surprising to hear her give such a wildly against type performance as Kida. Cree even lists the princess as her favourite role.
  • So Okay, It's Average: The general consensus seems to be that it has a lot of good points, but a lot of bad ones too with each kind of balancing the other out.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: The movie is probably the closest thing we'll ever get to an American remake of 1990 anime series Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. In fact, the similarities between both works are so strong that, according to the Nadia production team, there were calls for suing for plagiarism at one point. They only declined to do so because the Troubled Production of the anime had left its rights on the hands of another production company, whose execs were wary to sue becuase they didn't believe they would win against Disney in court.
    Yasuhiro Takeda: ...some years later, Disney would produce a cartoon that fans in both America and Japan would claim was practically a carbon copy of Nadia. Several people asked us if we planned to sue, but the only response we could give was, "Please take this up with NHK and Toho."
    Hiroyuki Yamaga: We actually tried to get NHK to pick a fight with Disney, but even the National Television Network of Japan didn't dare to mess with Disney and their lawyers. What we said to them was, this really had nothing to do with us but if it did we would definitely take them to court. Of course, it is all a lie. We actually did say that but we wouldn’t actually take them to court. We would be so terrified about what they would do to them in return that we wouldn't dare.
  • Testosterone Brigade: Both Helga and Kida have lots of attention for their vampy outfits (see below).
  • Theiss Titillation Theory: Kida's Atlantean clothing bares much skin. Okay, so that's an Atlantean thing. Helga, on the other hand, wears some things with straps. Often, there is only one firmly on a shoulder at at time...
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Lots of effort is devoted early on to establishing this huge herd of interesting supporting cast members, who then spend the rest of the movie tripping over each other for screen time to the point where it feels like all of them got shortchanged. If the proposed TV series had materialized (see "Sequelitis" above), they would have each finally gotten a chance to shine.
    • The Ulysses is a rare non-human example, as it gets destroyed criminally early in the film, with even Rourke himself confirming it had been attacked barely seven hours after launch. For all the promotion centered on the massive submarine, you can't be blamed for wanting more after the fact.
  • Uncanny Valley: There's a scene of Milo smiling early in the film that's supposed to be sweet, however it looks more ominous than intended.
  • Vanilla Protagonist: Milo's not exactly a Flat Character, but he's also not very interesting either especially compared to the herd of quirky supporting characters. He's just a nice, normal nerd with a talent for linguistics who gets to go on an adventure.
  • Vindicated by History: The film was neither a huge financial or critical hit, and perhaps received one of the most lukewarm receptions of any Disney film at the time. Many questioned Disney on its choice to pursue an action-oriented animated film, one that was designed for an older audience in mind and resorted to the extensive use of CGI when traditional animation had begun to lose favor at Disney. However, these days it is becoming a significant cult classic with more and more viewers taking a closer look at the film's merits. Those who enjoy it tend to appreciate its comic book style animation and its many adventurous elements, while many in its supporting cast have grown to be fan favorites among some, especially Audrey, Kida and Vinny in particular.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The film has very good animation on the whole, but the animation on the Leviathan is amazing. Similarly, any scene with Kida and the Crystal is bound to have this.
  • Win Back the Crowd: This was Disney's attempt to achieve this with more adult audiences, with a heavier emphasis on action, philosophy and steampunk as prominent features of the story, complete with a Darker and Edgier tone. The end result however ultimately did not achieve this effect, and like The Black Cauldron before it it would be some years before Disney fans would come back to reevaluate its good points, eventually granting it new life as a Cult Classic.
  • Woolseyism: In the Brazilian dub, Cookie is from Minas Gerais, a Brazilian state that is historically associated with countrysides and whose traditional cuisine is generally rich in fatty dishes. It fit the character well, at least until Cookie reveals his tattoo, and the dub still calls it a map of Minas Gerais.


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