|When I go see a Disney cartoon in the theaters, I expect talking animals, people bursting spontaneously into song, and a light hearted approach to life that'll make you smile when the credits start rolling. And a soundtrack that needs to be in my CD collection. And stuffed animals that beg to be bought at the Disney store. But that's not what happened after I saw Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Much of this film is dark and moody, not at all the usual type of Disney fare. But whether that's a bad thing or a good thing can probably be debated. Those who like Disney may be disappointed at their latest offering, but critics of the happy-go-lucky company might appreciate the darker tone present in this film.|
Personally, I go to disney films specifically to see that overexcited and peachy tune to life. That's why i didn't like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Not only was it too depressing and dark (and they're releasing another one??), but it also fooled too much with the book. This film doesn't have a book to mess with, but it's depressing all the same.
In any case, the Disney animation folks are certainly trying something new with this latest release. The animation is very stylized and it takes a few minutes to get used to the modern-art approach that the animators have taken for this film. One thing that was particularly bothersome was that all of the people in the film had square fingertips. Now I know that the animators were striving for a specific style for the movie, but small animation quirks like this took me out of the movie while I was watching it and it was hard to suspend my disbelief and get back into the game.
The style looks to me to be a cross between Japanese Anime and the Dreamworks style of animating (example: The Prince of Egypt). Atlantis hovers somewhere in the middle, never quite making itself into something new and innovative. It just kind of hovers around the odd. But though the mood of the animation is dark and brooding, there is little to complain about the story. It is a standard Disney hero quest where the unassuming protagonist must find his own self worth to eventually save the day.
And there's nothing wrong with that simple plot; it's worked in stories for thousands of years. And Disney does a good job with the genre. Perhaps itís the proliferation of additional characters in the film that bothered me. There are just too many characters for the story. And every character gets a chance in the film to have their little soliloquy about their life and why they've ended up where they are today. It got to be a little humorous after every character started telling their sob story about their hardships growing up or whatever.
All of the stories seemed a little too "grown up," for lack of a better phrase. It became kind of got tired of hearing about this character's hardships and that characters woes and problems. It really didn't advance the story. These characters were just talking about themselves around a campfire, so the movie seemed to stall during these sequences.
Something that really got me thinking though was the fact that one of the characters was smoking a cigarette. Sure, the realism was right on the money, but isn't it kind of weird that there's a cartoon character smoking in a Disney (of all cartoons) show? There wasn't any specific brand of cigarette advertised or anything, but this character had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth in every scene she was in. Weird. Don't look for the usual Disney in this film. What was attempted here was something different, and although critics should applaud the company for branching out, it hasn't gotten the formula quite right yet.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.