Disney makes me a very happy man by releasing “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” and “Atlantis: Milo’s Return” on Blu-ray. The 3-Disc Special Edition includes both movies on a single Blu-ray and separately on regular DVDs. Recognized as Walt Disney Feature Animation’s first science fiction film, it underperformed at the box office despite good word-of-mouth from audiences. An extended life on video and DVD has garnered it as one of Disney’s most overlooked gems of a bygone era.
In “Atlantis: The Lost World,” historian Milo Thatch leads a crew of the world’s greatest archaeologists and explorers in a search for the lost city of Atlantis. They travel through the depths of the dangerous sea aboard the submarine Ulysses. Only expecting to unearth ruins and artifacts, the team is astonished to find the ancient city still thriving with life.
This is one of my all-time favorite animated Disney features. It’s a masterful blend of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” is an adventure tale mixed with everything you could ever want in a fantasy film. There are elements of science fiction, mythology, and mystery all combined to form a highly exciting and entertaining tale.
Steampunk fans will find something to enjoy in the film, as well. All sorts of interesting advanced mechanical technology appear that shouldn’t exist in the early 1900s. It has a “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” vibe to it as well, which isn’t surprising since comic book artist Mike Mignola was one of the production designers for the movie.
The reformed crew from the first film returns to the ancient underwater city and recruit Milo and Kida to help them battle a sea monster in “Atlantis: Milo’s Return.” The two are eager to return to their world, but keep getting drawn into different adventures by eccentric Preston B. Moore. They find themselves going up against vicious coyote specters, a vengeful spirit, and a madman who believes he’s the god Odin.
“Atlantis: Milo’s Return” suffers from being a compilation of the three episodes finished for a television series which was scrapped after the first movie didn’t perform as well as Disney expected. They’re interesting yarns somehow all connected to Atlantis. Ultimately, they fall short of living up to the greatness of their predecessor.
The animation for “Atlantis: Milo’s Return” is way below that of “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.” It resembles the Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the late 1990s / early 2000s, which isn’t bad. It’s just not what you expect from Disney. The different episodes reduce Milo, Atlantean Kida, and the rest of the rehabilitated mercenaries from the first movie to a sort of “Scooby-Doo” gang of mystery solvers.
Both films are presented in 1080p High Definition (2.35:1) and feature 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. While “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” shines brightly from its upgrade, “Atlantis: Milo’s Return” suffers because more of its flaws are obvious thanks to the HD clarity. That’s not to say it’s not better to see it this way. Just don’t expect the sequel to look as good as the original. The 5.1 surround sound will thrill home viewers with a barrage of great sound effects accompanied by James Newton Howard’s powerful musical score in the original movie.
An adequate amount of special features can be found inside this release. Audio commentary is provided for “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” by Producer Don Hahn and directors Gary Trousdale, and Kirk Wise. An hour long documentary entitled “The Making of ‘Atlantis'” is included. Two short featurettes, “How to Speak Atlantean” and “Atlantis: Fact or Fiction?,” are here as well. Deleted scenes for “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” are also featured. Three “Atlantis: Lost Empire” trailers round out the bonus material for the first film. The one extra for “Atlantis: Milo’s Return” consists of a deleted scene.
Any fan of hand-drawn animation and Jules Verne will love the blend of science fiction, action, and fantasy you’ll get from “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.” It’s definitely worthy of its title as a cult classic. “Atlantis: Milo’s Return” is a nice added bonus to an already strong Disney Blu-ray premiere.
“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” / “Atlantis: Milo’s Return” 2 Movie Collection 3-Disc Special Edition is available now on Blu-ray.
For more articles by Eric Shirey, check out:
Blu-ray Review: “Oz the Great and Powerful”
Blu-ray Review: “Jack the Giant Slayer”
Japan Gets a Taste of Comic Book Convention Life