This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2-Disc Collector's Edition)
Written by Mel Odom
Tuesday, 29 January 2002
|Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Two-Disc Collector's Edition
|Buena Vista Home Entertainment
||PG (action violence)
James Garner, Leonard Nimoy, Michael J. Fox, Cree Summer, Claudia
Christian, John Mahoney, Phil Morris, Don Novello, Jacqueline Obradors,
Jim Varney, Florence Stanley
"Atlantis: the Lost Empire" stands out as a return to classic
storytelling for the Disney people. What’s surprising is that the
return has taken so long. Disney has finally rediscovered one of the
principal areas of entertainment that the studio perfected back in the
early days of Walt Disney himself. This DVD harkens back to the days of
"Treasure Island," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," and "Swiss Family
Robinson." In the presentation of "Atlantis," the audience receives the
gift of a timeless tale and sterling heroes, and a world of total
wonderment menaced by base villains.
Fraught with peril and action, "Atlantis: the Lost Empire" holds equal
footing with the Indiana Jones trilogy for today’s audience. Snappy
dialogue, derring-do, a sense of mission, and a plethora of mysteries
and possibilities seasoned with the "real" quasi-mythology of fabled
Atlantis make for 96 minutes of pure viewing pleasure. Treat the kid(s)
you have, or the kid in yourself and join in the adventure.
The movie begins, as most truly epic tales do, a long time ago – nearly
9,000 years, in fact. In a blistering and unexplained attack, the
empire of Atlantis is wiped from the face of the Earth, swallowed up by
a raging sea. The only thing that appears to survive is a book marked
with an arcane symbol the viewer comes to recognize as the mark of
Atlantis. That book, as relayed in the expansive documentaries provided
as backup features, passes through the hands of men, centuries and
legend, until it finally arrives into the care of Milo Thatch (voiced
by Michael J. Fox) in Washington, D.C. in 1914.
Encouraged in the field of archeology by the loving grandfather who
raised him, Milo takes up the quest for the lost civilization.
Financing for the undertaking comes from wealthy Preston Whitmore, who
has also taken care to assemble the team Milo needs to see him through
the adventure. At the other end of the journey lies legendary Atlantis,
the sunken continent that has captured the minds of philosophers,
historians, and dreamers for generations.
Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and writers Joss Whedon, Jackie
and Bryce Zabel added to the script, originally conceived by Tab
Murphy. As a result, dialogue crackles all around the intrepid
explorers, made even more immediate and entertaining with the addition
of a surround sound system. Although a younger viewer might not catch
all the interplay between the characters, the adult viewer benefits
from the extra layering and attention.
Murphy had worked with Trousdale and Wise on "The Hunchback of Notre
Dame." They bonded as a team at that time and sought out a new project
to keep them together. When searching for new material, all of the
creative minds involved agreed that they wanted something big and epic.
They achieved their objective, and the audience reaps the benefits.
Besides being a visually entertaining piece, explosions rock the
subwoofer, and the front and back speakers are charged with the drone
of aerial combat and vehicular battle.
Although "Atlantis: the Lost Empire" comes in a single-disc package,
viewers who choose the double-disc bundle receive a ton of bonuses.
Besides an overview of the extrapolation and eventual arrival at the
story being told, the list of extras includes a documentary on the
history/mythology of Atlantis, an overview of how the art (drawings as
well as computer graphics) came together to produce the story as well
as the world, exploration of how the characters came into being, and
the models (physical and computer) that were used. This information is
released in what looks like an early 20th century newsreel footage
piece, delivered in a monotone that spits and crackles like the real
thing. Even the auxiliary features show the painstaking care that went
into the packaging of the movie, especially the sound.
The second disc also contains a totally entertaining segment regarding
the actors who did the voiceovers. Michael J. Fox has had plenty of
experience with animated movie and cartoon voicing, as well as voicing
a dog on the live-action "The Incredible Journey." However, this was
James Garner’s first such endeavor. Cree Summer, already a gifted voice
person, enjoys a role on "Rugrats" and works in other animated
projects. Watching these people work in the sound studio, then getting
to compare them to their animated characters is a treat. Don Novello
and Phil Morris were especially humorous in their bits. The featurette
on the actors shows the performers actually recording their lines, then
segues into film bits from the movie -- the sound remains the same,
showing what the voices were like before the background sounds were
Although Trousdale and Wise both worked on "The Hunchback of Notre
Dame," which had a heavy musical score (something Disney films have
become famous for again), they elected not to have brand-name songs for
"Atlantis: the Lost Empire." The movie enjoys stirring musical
accompaniment nonetheless, in much the same fashion as the Indiana
Jones movies that were one of the many inspirations for the "Atlantis"
team’s own efforts. A surround sound system blasts these uplifting
scores into the privacy of your home and makes you feel every bit as
much of the action as the heroes on the screen.
A surround sound system investment also nets you the hammering
experience of the movie’s prologue. The frantic return to Atlantis
aboard the flying fishcraft beats out thunder through the subwoofer
like an adrenaline-charged blacksmith working at an anvil. The people
of Atlantis cower for their lives, and a multitude of conversations
thread through the sound of the impending destruction, an undercurrent
of raw and naked fear that seizes the viewer immediately and won’t let
In Chapter 2, the viewer is introduced to a subtle shifting of voice
volume and location that is used throughout the DVD. While Milo paces
as he delivers a mock speech to a pseudo-audience, the viewer hears his
voice shift back and forth among the speakers, making the illusion of
movement even stronger. The voice shifting continues through several
other chapters, and the viewer almost wants to turn his or her head to
keep up with the speakers.
Chapter 3 has sexy, bluesy music as a character theme for Helga (voiced
by Claudia Christian), who proves to be a femme fatale, then brings up
the crash and fury of thunder that rocks the room. The clanking of the
elevator passing through Whitmore’s mansion echoes through the sound
system. The sound in the movie takes advantage of the surround sound
capabilities of your system to immerse you in the worlds presented in
the DVD during the launch of the submersible in Chapter 4.
The discovery of and battle with the Leviathan in Chapter 5 is an audio
treat. The basso booming from the subwoofer echoes through the living
room as the Leviathan pursues the sub through the ocean depths. Bubbles
burst around the underwater craft and echo from the center and front
speakers. Another impressive audio bit during this sequence are the
sounds of popping rivets pinging off the sub’s inner walls as the
Leviathan crushes the craft.
Another impressive audio aspect of the movie comes in Chapter 8. When
the fireflies zoom out of the cavern rooftop nest, the droning buzzing
fills all the speakers, whirling around and around the audience. Later,
after Milo confronts Kida (voiced by Cree Summer), jungle drums
(although there are none around) echo throughout the cavern. The
undercurrent of sound creates an intriguing backdrop that propels the
story forward. The final battle against evil forces is a cataclysmic
feast of battle noises: aerial combat, explosions, machine guns, and
If you love adventure films, animation, and great audio, "Atlantis: the
Lost Empire" will definitely be a good addition to your home library.
|English DTS 5.1 Surround Sound; English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound: THX-Certified; French Language Track
|2.35:1, Enhanced for 16 x 9 Televisions
by Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and Producer Don Hahn;
DisneyPedia Atlantis: Fact or Fiction; Multiple Platform Navigational
System (Explore Mode, Tour Mode, Files Mode); 16 x 9 Special Features;
Deleted Scene; Virtual Tours of CG Models; Whitmore Industries
Industrial Film; "How To Speak Atlantean"; History; Story &
Editorial; Abandoned Sequences; Art Direction; Animation Production;
Character Designs; Music & Sound Design; Publicity; English
subtitles and closed-captioning
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