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|Kevin Krock, editor|
To say the least, Atlantis is a departure from the Disney norm. The combination of a straightforward fantasy adventure and the angular, high- contrast style of comic books may a bit much for fans of the traditional softer, more natural- looking style of animation with copious doses of musical numbers (like my wife). The plot is a rough- and- tumble journey with a lot of explosions, peril, and a bit more racy depiction of the feminine characters than most other Disney heroines or villains. Those, along with a couple of violent moments during the climax of the movie, resulted in the movie receiving a PG rating, so if you have not seen this movie before, you may want to take a look at it before popping it in for your toddlers.
So, what is the story about? Here is the synopsis from the press kit:
While Atlantis will probably not go down in history as a Disney masterpiece of storytelling, I have to admit that I found it more enjoyable and humorous than I had expected. The action keeps things moving along pretty well, and the comedic relief from several of the characters also helps keep the movie moderately interesting for young and old.
The one factor that I found to complicate the storyline is the large cast of characters. Because of this, some of the characters do not get fully fleshed out before the rapid conclusion of the movie, and it ends up leaving the viewer a bit blasé about the fate of those characters.
As for the animation, I found it to be a pleasant change. The character animation style is similar to that in Tarzan and Hercules, but it is taken to an extreme that may be more of a distraction to some people than to others. Additionally, the movie is very heavy on special effects, and just about every shot in the movie contains both cel and computer- generated animation. Fortunately, unlike a number of recent animated movies from other studios, most of the scenes blend the various animation techniques surprisingly well. Altogether, the bold saturated colors and the wide variety of characters, vehicles, and settings make for an impressive visual presentation. Just be prepared for something different than you might be used to.
As with all of Disney’s recent collector’s edition DVDs, there is a wonderful selection of background information. The first disc alone contains a nice array of items. First, there is an interesting, full- length audio commentary by the production team, which it truly helps you understand where this movie came from. After listening to it and having some additional context, the production team’s efforts seem to make a bit more sense. In addition to the audio commentary, there is a “video commentary” option that plays in concert with the audio commentary. At several points in the movie, you are presented with commented deleted scenes, alternate ideas, and so on, displayed in storyboards or partial animation. It is a fun addition that helps put the bonus material into the context of the movie, rather than the other way around. The last item of interest is the DisneyPedia, which provides a series of short video clips about the facts and fiction of Atlantis.
On the second disc, you have a choice:
One cool thing about the documentary is that much of it is presented in anamorphic widescreen rather than the typical full-screen format.
If you are pressed for time or not interested in poking around to find a certain clip, the Tour Mode presents a slick and comprehensive way to view much of the material on the disc, but it bypasses all of the still frame galleries. The File and Explore modes are the only way to access the numerous art galleries, storyboard reconstructions, and 3D models. As for the material itself, the best nuggets beyond the two hour Tour Mode documentary are the a few other abandoned sequences and the abundant 3D model turn- arounds, including digital extras, vehicles, and creatures. For those of us that crave the behind- the- scenes scoop, there is plenty here to satisfy.
The standard edition DVD is no slouch, though. Equipped with the audio commentary, the Viking Prologue deleted scene, the DisneyPedia, and a couple of the 3D model tours, there is plenty for those more interested in the movie than the behind the scenes. If you are not a big fan of collector’s editions but you enjoyed the movie, the standard edition should keep you in good stead.
The Video, Audio and Interface
Simply put, the video and audio on both editions of this DVD are top- notch. The video is presented in amazingly crisp, clean, THX-certified, digital- to- digital anamorphic widescreen, and on the standard edition you also get a pan- and- scan version. The highly saturated color scenes, as well as the darker cave and submarine scenes, are wonderfully presented with impressive detail. Likewise, the audio simply sucks you into the movie. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has abundant surround and panning effects, and the dialog is clear and nicely staged. The musical soundtrack is also a pleasure to listen to. In addition to the Dolby Digital soundtrack on the collector’s edition, a DTS 5.1 soundtrack is available for those with DTS decoders, and I imagine it too sounds equally good.
Disney has been doing a fantastic job at providing user interfaces that draw you into the disc and get you in the mood even before you watch the movie, and Atlantis is no exception. On the movie disc for both editions, there is a nice opening animation that develops into the main menus, and just about every menu screen features some sort of animation and music from the movie. Both DVD versions provide fun and enveloping interfaces that should please just about everyone.
In addition to the movie discs, Disc 2 of the collector’s edition provides you with the three ways you can experience the bonus material that I mentioned in the Goodies section. The Tour Mode, by definition, is minimally interactive since the focus is on presenting the goodies for you. The Explore Mode is interesting but not terribly groundbreaking, and I found it to be quite similar in style to other recent Disney DVD titles, such as Tron. When I read about this mode, I was hoping that the menus were going to be spread throughout the Ulysses, with cool 3D animation linking them together, but it turns out that all the menus are presented on the ship’s bridge.
Finally, the File Mode is purely utilitarian, but it allows direct access to all of the features without having to drill down through a series of menus. As an advanced DVD user, I found this last mode pretty handy and would like to see it as an option on more releases. I love perusing the animated menus, but sometimes I just want to find one particular clip or gallery without spending a bunch of time skipping through menus trying to find which menu the producers decided to put it.
Overall, this is probably one of the best user interface experiences that I’ve seen, and I hope to see it in future Disney releases.
The Final Evaluation
For a movie that got a pretty bad rap before and during its theatrical release, I actually found it to be a rather fun fantasy- adventure movie. The animation is impressive, and the combination of CGI and traditional animation is much better than I have seen in the past. Yes, it has its occasional moments, highly stylized character designs, and story flaws, but maybe the extensive background information and commentary on the DVD helped put the movie in a better context than the movie presents by itself.
Regardless, if you enjoyed the movie, you will want to get one of the DVD versions. Both of them provide a wonderful home video presentation, and the only decision that you need to make is how much bonus material you want or need. I am partial to the collector’s editions, and would like to encourage Disney to continue producing these high quality sets.
Michael J. Fox - Milo Thatch
Cree Summer – Princess Kida
James Garner – Commander Lyle T. Rourke
Claudia Christian – Helga Sinclair
Don Novello – Vincenzo Santorini
Florence Stanley – Wilhelmina Packard
John Mahoney – Preston Whitmore
Jim Varney – Cookie
Phil Morris – Dr. Joshua Sweet
Jacqueline Obradors – Audrey Ramirez
Corey Burton – Gaetan Moliere
Kashekim Nedakh – Leonard Nimoy
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Producers: Don Hahn, Kendra Halland
Art Director: Dave Goetz
Production and Character Design: Mike Mignola
Linguist: Marc Okraud
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