The Road to El Dorado (Movie Review)

The Road to El Dorado

I'm just going to come right out and say it: I favor the DreamWorks animated films over Disney's usual fare. They are unafraid of unusual settings, unconventional characters, and their writing is generally more nuanced. They simply seem able to tap into what the animated medium can do while still maintaining a mainstream appeal. Unfortunately, DreamWorks only ever gave us four traditional animated films, five if you count the direct-to-DVD tripe that was Joseph: King of Dreams. But between the epic Prince of Egypt and the rousing Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is 2000's underrated The Road to El Dorado, which itself stands to be a point in favor of the argument that DreamWorks was dedicated to narrative innovation, even when the results are less than optimal.

Excellent choreography.

The story, after a brief lead-in with Hernan Cortez, follows the exploits of two con-artists as they inadvertently embark on a voyage to the New World. Tulio, the dark-haired Spaniard, is the more realistic and cautious of the duo, generally disinterested in taking unnecessary risks but prone to material greed. The fair-skinned blond, Miguel, on the other hand, looks more Nordic than anything else, but that's mainly for visual contrast; regardless, he is the more romantic of the duo, in it primarily for fun and adventure, and can often disarm Tulio and others with his natural innocence. Upon arriving in the fabled city of El Dorado (an amalgam of Mayan/Aztec/Inca influences), where they are mistaken for gods, as prognosticated by prophecy, not unlike what happened with Cortez himself in real life; the plot then transitions into Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King, in that one of them genuinely enjoys living as a god, unabashedly captivated with the people and culture, whilst the other simply wants to amass vast wealth and promptly take off "like there's no manana." Throw in a female interloper and a villainously fanatical high priest, and hilarity ensues.

First and foremost, it would be advantageous to provide a little background on the movie. The CEO of DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, first conceived the idea when, after studying numerous animated Disney flicks, he observed that the gallant, virtuous, innocent, and courageous hero was often upstaged by the sidekicks, that comic relief that ultimately contribute more to the enjoyment of a story than any bland paragon could possibly muster. Hence, they set out to frame a story around characters that in any conventional kid's film would be sidelined to gags and mere distractions but are now the main characters, establishing that the protagonists could very easily inhabit the comedic role as well. The story was written not only to accommodate this new position, but also to enhance it.

The script itself went through a constant phase of renovation, however, of which some omitted elements give light to the vision the screenwriters, Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot, of Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Planet, and Shrek fame, had in mind for this movie. For starters, the writers had originally intended for some tragic elements concerning the plight of the natives under the conquistador threat. In a very informative interview, Ted Elliot, from the position that the final product was a disappointment, explained the direction the movie was going for in its early stages:

"The problem, obviously, was that the milieu that Jeffrey had chosen - no less than the near-annihilation of the Mezo-American peoples and the destruction of their culture - didn't really lend itself to a flat-out comedy, we thought. There had to be enough depth in these characters to allow us to do a story which would allow for some real drama - tragedy, even.

"And the original story acknowledged the fundamental tragedy of the milieu - the city of El Dorado (which wasn't even the mythical El Dorado, it was just the first city Tulio and Miguel found, which they mistakenly believed was El Dorado) was not saved. The people ended up abandoning it to Cortes, and vanishing into the jungles - the people survived (barely), but the culture did not. This was also accurate to history - Cortes encountered a number of abandoned cities on his way to Tenochtitlan (capital of the Aztec empire), and was our answer to the question 'What happened to the Mayans'"

Even when Tulio and Miguel had been consistently associated with their initial premise---namely, the comic aspect---the writers had aimed for a considerably more mature and driven story, so far as to take on multi-faceted dimensions with regards to its historical consciousness. This is an aspect that is all but gone in the final version. Which is funny, considering the studio actually most likely shot themselves in the foot by limiting their vision to such a degree as to basically retrofit everything into a carefree comedy. The Prince of Egypt assumed a number of dark touches to the basic storyline as provided in the Bible, and I would argue that this is a significant contributing factor its legacy. They also mentioned that they had not planned for songs in the movie, which, keep in mind, would have been a first, for both DreamWorks and Disney. From the start, Ted and Terry displayed genuine interest in a story with the potential for greater narrative depth than what they ended up with, which can be attributed to excessive meddling.

Who could resist that predatory stare?

In the smaller scheme of things, still, is an aspect that is no less intriguing, as it pertains to the very essence of the character relationships in the film. Although this was in itself an element that was being developed over time as the writing process went on, the earlier versions had much more firmly established Tulio and Miguel as lovers. Yes, you read that right: DreamWorks was not too far off from starring characters that were not only homosexual but also completely non-stereotypical in what was intended as a mainstream movie. With the greater scope that the earliest drafts had built on, that relationship was to have taken on additional depth. Of course, this was all implicit anyways, mainly comprised of pet names ("darling" and "lover", to be precise) and subtle interactions. Once again, the suits fretted, cut the idea and apparently forced some more socially acceptable elements, on the basis that modern audiences were open-minded, "but not that open-minded." Truer words were never spoken. Still, there is a lot in the way of suggestive elements, and many scenes subtly evoke what they were originally going for. Some foreign versions of the film even inadvertently used the older draft in translating the subtitles; so if, say, one saw the movie as distributed in Spain, the subtitles would include the endearments and pet names, even if the actual audio did not. The final version did retain many exchanges that gave light to the relationship, as well as many facial expressions and animations. There are few films for which this holds true, but this is one of the rare examples where the subtext truly is there.

This all sounds like I am beating on the actual movie before we even got started, and I concede that I am, in part, working from that angle. But here's the thing: in spite of everything, what the film is left with still really works, albeit in a lesser capacity. That The Road to El Dorado plays out as well as it does should legitimately grant everyone who worked on it some peace of mind.

Sometimes their plan is poorly thought out.

Tulio and Miguel are the protagonists of the film, but more importantly, they are not heroes, at least not in any true sense of the word. As it just so happens, this is one of the great strengths of the story. The screenwriters' focus on the premise that motivated the entire movie to begin with---that they defy the conventions of the flawless exemplar as the hero---serves them extremely well because, suffice it to say, Tulio and Miguel are among the most enjoyable on-screen personalities I have seen yet. They are cheats, scoundrels, and clowns all rolled into one, yet they retain fundamental grounding in three-dimensional characterization, which unfolds in its natural progression as the story goes on. Flawed and imperfect, it is their humanity they retain with the greatest strength, eventually coming out as heroes that which they entered as just another duo of crooks, without compromising the flaws that made them endearing in the first place. As such, they are undoubtedly among the more humanized characters in animation. They are intrinsically relatable, because the audience can empathize with them more than they will sympathize, as well they should. Neither the character arcs nor the comic personalities are sacrificed for the other, thus striking a nice balance; their reactions to situations as they arise are believable, motivations and characterization generally consistent. Bringing them to life are the two voice actors, Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, both Shakespearean actors, who recorded their lines together in the same room (itself a rarity in animation); they went the extra mile to ensure that, while the artists made Tulio and Miguel visually animated, they would in addition be aurally animated. On a somewhat unrelated note, the voice cast in general does not comprise of very big names, which may also have contributed to the film's box-office slump, which is an absolute shame, as they clearly were a talented lot who put a lot of effort into it. Fun, witty, well-rounded and all-around likable, the lead characters are what truly carry the film.

The script is hit-and-miss, although that really depends on what you are looking for. The overall story may be a bit lean for a lot of people's tastes, leaving in only the bare essentials in terms of plot points, but conversely, on a smaller, character-oriented scale, it actually boasts especially strong writing.

I'll start with the overall plot, as it's the appropriate framework for explaining what works with the actual writing. The story starts in Spain, on the eve of Cortez's voyage, as it introduces Tulio and Miguel, already engaged in circumstances that will directly initiate the main plot. After a crooked game of dice, improvisational swordplay, a chase sequence (Tulio and Miguel running from a bull, a symbol of outward masculinity and the macho mentality---make of it what you will), naval imprisonment, and one daring escape later, they finally make it to South America, fifteen minutes into the movie; another five minutes later, they arrive in El Dorado. Some might call this rushed, but I am of the opinion that it's just briskly paced. A little too briskly paced, you could say, but the good thing about this is that the movie, as a whole, is almost completely devoid of filler, a lesson that Disney could, on occasion, stand to benefit from. True, both the build-up and the pay-off or conclusion---which was definitely insubstantial---leave a little to be desired, if only because of how quickly the plot moves, but the middle act is great, finally settling down in El Dorado and developing new conflicts. In comparison, it is only halfway through Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire that the characters actually reach the fabled city, so then they had to rush in order to bring about the rising conflict, as well as the obligatory climax and resolution. There's never any real breathing space for anything remotely resembling characters or conflicts that one could sink their teeth into. The Road to El Dorado, on the other hand, allows the characters to situate themselves comfortably in a fresh batch of challenges and relationships as they take form. Consequently, the movie actually does provide the better part of the running time to content that is allowed to proceed at a suitable pace.

Those cushions look really comfortable.

Even as the general plot tends to fall a tad flat, the writing remains exceptional. This can largely be attributed to the style of humor Ted and Terry have aimed for. The vast majority is dialogue-based, crafted mainly through conversations and a variety of quips, comebacks, and one-liners. It is usually the entirety---the essence, so to speak---of an exchange that involves the viewer, as opposed to any one tidbit. Only rarely does it resort to slapstick, and when it does, it's pretty well-executed. As is to be expected with a focus on dialogue-based writing, it's not an especially laugh-out-loud experience when much of the humor is instead on the more subtle side. Part of what's gratifying is that this humor never stoops down to the lowest denominator---rather, it opts to stay at the same level of the main characters, in that sneaky, smart, and good-natured sense. A factor in this is that, disparate from much comedy nowadays, is that it effectively resists the temptation to telegraph, to present a joke with more emphasis on the punchline than the entire substance of the joke, and in solely exploiting the punchline, amputate the supports upon which the joke is built and undermine the impact of the humor. El Dorado never goes so far as to actually take the viewer out of the experience like that. The (admittedly anachronistic) Shakespeare quote, "To err is human..." is a such example of stuff working beneath the surface, not immediately obvious, but put to dignified use. The comic element fluidly weaves itself through the entire story, as inherent as it is to our protagonists. For the sake of analogy, imagine that, instead of being a slideshow of gags, references, and one-shot jokes, this film is akin to a painting, each stroke bringing the high-end humor back to the center, not whitewashing the background that dispenses the purpose of the comedy in the first place. It's also an experience with layers of droll tinges. Case in point, when Tulio and Miguel are duplicitously explaining to the chief the need for a ship (big enough for their gold) back to Xibalba, the spirit world. As Tulio explicates, "...cuz we're gonna ascend, kinda, uh, in a horizontal pattern first, and then we're gonna go vertical, uh, as we get further out to sea," Miguel is clearly stifling a giggle, privy to the knowledge that his partner is basically making this up as he goes along, all of which adds layers of immersion in the present humor. It also helps a great deal that the animal sidekicks are kept to a minimum, principally because they are silent. In fact, DreamWorks is very good about this when it comes to any animal character. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, for example, got it right when the titular character, Spirit, supplied the narrative wholly through internalized means, by way of voiceover. Tulio and Miguel's own equine accomplice is exactly as understated as he should be, always withholding himself from that fragile line between a believable animal character and character who is so human as to render his being an animal in the first place arbitrary. This is fortunate, as he does not distract from the main characters that, true to their conception, are already more than entertaining enough. Additionally, it provides the animators with the opportunity to use him as a silent vessel for more detached observation and participation; his facial expressions do a lot in conveying emotions that, if communicated in verbal form, would've very much detracted from the movie. The end result is therefore not so much raucous as it is reliably clever, lean and as sharp as a knife, To defend the strength of the overarching story would be an inconsequential gesture, but I fervently posit that El Dorado boasts some strong, witty writing and strikes a near-perfect comedic consistency and balance.

I wonder how soft his beard is.

The supporting characters too have their ups and downs, and the extent to which they are all fairly presented here can occasionally end up feeling a bit wishy-washy. I'll start with their fellow native conspirator Chel. Not even trying to disguise the fact that she's voiced by Rosie Perez, she is, to say the least, an interesting character. I'm not sure at what point they decided to write her into the story, but at any rate, there is always that nagging sentiment in the back of my head that she is superfluous and does not serve the story in any tangible way. After arguing that they, Tulio and Miguel, need her help in order to keep up the god charade, she contributes little to that end, and what little she does could have just as easily been accomplished by the others. Hell, when it comes down to it, Altivo does more in this regard. Take the ball game (known as ullamaliztli, in case you were curious), for example; no one who saw the movie will deny that it was a good move on her part to throw in the armadillo in place of the real ball, but that's a role that Altivo could have easily filled---and when the entire game rests on the winning point, it's Altivo who discreetly and indirectly wins the game for the duo. She doesn't even qualify as a romantic interest; if anything, she's a seductress or femme fatale. It is obvious enough that Tulio doesn't regard her in any romantic sense---just a carnal one, no more. What's more, her real value to him is as a bargaining chip; one major interaction between the two of them surrounds her share of gold versus her coming along with them, and Tulio is almost willing to sacrifice more gold just so he and Miguel don't have to bring her along. Even the larger conflict between Miguel and Tulio is resolved quite bloodlessly, ending almost as soon it began. Also, after the credits, Chel is shown galloping off with the horse and what little gold they were left with, leaving Tulio and Miguel behind in the dust---I guess we know what she was all about this whole time. At the end of it all, she leaves little impression---her presence is unessential and the way in which she affects the plot doesn't really go anywhere. She is not as essential as they made her out to be; she's actually quite ancillary, to tell the truth. That being said, she is still a fun character, in that she has some personality as well as some good interactions with other characters. At least she isn't boring, nor does she merely hang in the background for lack of anything better to do, so she never actually detracts from the experience, even when she neglects to add anything further to it.

The villains are in different predicaments. Cortez is on-screen for the grand total of two and a half minutes, so he barely registers with the audience anyhow, failing to make anything remotely resembling an impression. He has a somewhat menacing gravitas, but that's it. As it stands, he functions only as a plot device for ushering in the main plot and then abruptly bringing it to a close. Now that he's out of the way, on to the real villain, the High Priest Tzekel-Kan! This guy is great; he works on many levels. He's a colorful moustache-twirling baddie but also a textbook case of religious arrogance, a shameless suck-up yet the epitome of self-importance. I relish how he just dominates some scenes with his over-the-top enunciation, his wild gestures, frenzied expressions and his slithering British accent (over 50% of all voice actors will be British, even higher amongst villains---this is a fact of life). The artists and animators clearly had a lot of fun with him; he possesses this sort of elusive aura---sometimes you can tell exactly what he's thinking and at other times not all. He also has some pretty sweet moments, such as his diatribe on the imperfections of Man, all the while verbally leading Tulio, intentionally twisting his words around in order to satisfy his own religiosity; this scene is also topped off with a perfectly delivered line: "Finally...we're connecting." At the same time, there are several aspects to his character that falter upon further investigation. The film goes in with the assumption that the native religion is basically bunk, and for the most part, the story ably establishes that and does not care to divorce itself from a general sense of realism. But if that is the case, why can Tzekel-Kan regularly use magic, to the extent that he actually possesses a stone jaguar and goes on a rampage through El Dorado, all with the help of his own religious texts? Setting aside the fact that this sequence was unneeded, this begs the question: what specifically about the "Mayincatec" faith holds true or not? Do these beliefs only fulfill themselves for true believers like Tzekel-Kan and no one else? Let's not forget that, at the end of the showdown between him and the duo, he is literally flushed down what has been, to him, this whole time, Xibalba, only to find that he is still alive and not too far away from the earth-bound City of Gold. Surely this would have shaken his faith to a considerable degree. Then, right after having been duped in mistaking Tulio and Miguel for gods, he falls for the same trick with Cortez, without skipping a beat, which strikes me as a bit implausible. I don't know, maybe he just has short-term memory loss. All I'm saying is that a little more consistency would have been appreciated. This is not to say that he's a badly written character. On the contrary, he is energetic, fun, and deliciously sinister, all at the same time. In addition, his final demise is especially dark, solely because of the means and the ambiguity surrounding it. We can never determine with any certainty his fate. Will he be slowly and methodically tortured to death? Will he be executed with all readiness? Will he be sentenced to slave away on the sugar plantations until his dying breath? We never know, and that adds to the effect of the scene. Without a doubt, the antagonist in an animated film needs to be memorable, and Tzekel-Kan delivers in spades.

There's a disturbing thought.

Tzekel-Kan's tangential rival, Chief Tannabok, is probably the least problematic of the supporting characters, mainly because he is the least imposing out of them all. He does not have an arc, nor does he develop over the course of the story, which is just as well, because that's not needed, not with this guy. He exists as the benign, roly-poly ally, the guy who neither wants blood to be spilt nor to get in their pants. Instead, he functions as an anchor for Miguel and Tulio in this uncertain new world, and as a result, he more or less blends into the background. He does, however, have some solid moments, such as when he reiterates the "To err is human..." line to great effect in one choice scene with Miguel. There is little more to say about him, other than he's a likable character.

The music is easier to define, because the disparities in quality are distinct. Singer John Elton and lyricist Tim Rice, of The Lion King fame, return to handle the film's songs, which, we must remember, had not even been intended in the first place. Unfortunately, there is nothing here that comes near the mastery of such hits as "The Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata". The first two songs, "El Dorado" and "The Trail We Blaze" are admittedly fun, but all the rest are just plain forgettable. Half the time it sounds like Elton John is just making up the beat as he goes along; the lyrics and the rhythm certainly do not match up in any meaningful way. Moreover, they are just, well...boring. They fail to inject any of their own energy into the movie---the characters already do well enough in that respect---so instead of livening up certain scenes, they only serve to drag them down and to distract from precious screentime that could have been occupied something much more worthwhile. If one cut out all the songs, it is immediately noticeable that El Dorado is a bit on the lean side. Extra material for developing characters and conflicts, as well as more humor, would have been a much more productive use of resources. All in all, it really feels as if Elton John is scraping the bottom of the barrel for this movie. On the other hand, the score is a pleasant surprise by Hans Zimmer and John Powell. I did not immediately warm up to it at first, but that is only because it is so distinct from Zimmer's trademark sound. This is not the epic Prince of Egypt, nor the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean, nor the intense Batman and Dark Knight. Instead, the two make the wise decision to lay back and underscore the proceedings, rather than overtake the sound with dramatic sweeps and charged movements. In lieu of an action or drama-oriented score, Zimmer and Powell go for a more relaxed and lightweight tone, with little in the way of thematic structure, which is actually befitting for characters like Tulio and Miguel, who live their lives in a similarly stress-free and on-the-fly manner. To that effect, Spanish guitars, tambourines, and fiddles are utilized in such compositions as the devilishly catchy "The Brig - Altivo" and the mellow, meditative lulls of "Friends - The Storm". Once the story moves to El Dorado itself, the score transitions seamlessly and comfortably into more dramatic but no less lively and unburdened cues. The guitars return with paced turns from the soothing chorus in "The Gods Are Here!" while the drums offer a counterbalance to the pleasantly soporific effect of the composition. "To Xibalba" is slightly darker, with a restrained but menacing choral motif and thudding percussion interlaced with the familiar guitar strumming. The commercial release of the film's music was titled "Elton John's The Road to El Dorado" and is unfortunately and appropriately titled so. Elton John nearly monopolizes the content on this CD, with 11 of the 14 tracks songs his own material, half of which did not even make the cut in the actual movie. DreamWorks disgracefully marginalized Zimmer and Powell's contribution to this movie, which, without argument, was more effective and unobtrusive than Elton John's stuff. While I admit to being an unabashed Zimmer fanboy, I still feel bad about berating our lovable singing queen---he doesn't immediately appeal to me, but he has done some great work in the past, so it is a shame that it just didn't this time around. As The Lion King and The Prince of Egypt demonstrated, the songs and Zimmer's score have succeeded greatly in integrating the separate spheres of sound into one constant, progressive whole; this was the exception. For El Dorado, Zimmer and Powell are the clear winners.

It's the fingertip that got his attention.

The art direction and animation for El Dorado is about standard for DreamWorks, which was already excellent to begin with. It's lively, colorful, expressive, and dimensional. As I have said before, the character animations are top-notch, and the style of exaggerated humanism---realistic proportions, people at the very forefront---is definitely present, not to mention some beautiful backgrounds, although one rarely notices them due to all the interesting stuff happening in the foreground. One minor pitfall is that the computer animation, at times, is a bit lackluster. The fault cannot rest solely on the fact that that it, at ten years of age, is dated, because The Prince of Egypt featured phenomenal computer animation. Honestly, who here can forget the Angel of Death or the splitting of the Red Sea? Unsurprisingly, that Biblical epic carried a huge budget and made a very satisfying return of investment. El Dorado opened in theaters only two years after, and that project did not enjoy the same extent of resources as the prior. In the movie, the most noticeable shortcoming is with Cortez's ships---they are obviously computer animated and there are no wakes in the vessels trails. Otherwise, it thankfully doesn't stand out, though there is that infinitesimal, nagging in the back of your mind that, as great as the hand-drawn animation is, the three-dimensional stuff does not quite hold up after a decade. It's far from an eyesore, but it is still there. I suppose the saving grace in this case is that the story has no real demand for grandiose visuals. After all, I've established that this is already a character-driven, dialogue-based film anyways, so DreamWorks did deftly avoid shooting themselves in the foot by summoning visuals that would have rendered the disparity all the more noticeable. If you really want crappy animation, go see Joseph: King of Dreams. El Dorado does its job well enough.

The plot works, that much is clear. But here's the problem: I don't think it went in the best direction when it could have very possibly done so. Part of this is due to the setting itself. Pre-colonial Middle/South America is a profoundly fascinating milieu---one that warranted a deeper exploration than was ultimately manifested. The culture, the surroundings, the religion, it all would make for an incredibly interesting movie---animated or otherwise. However, that was never the focus of the movie to begin with; that was the escapades and misadventures of Tulio and Miguel. In the early versions of the script, a story of that sort of scope could have been possible. One of the reasons that El Dorado is a good film is because it does not over-extend its narrative ambitions. But does it narrow its focus enough? In my opinion, it does not. In fact, given how much the movie was internally structured around the two lead characters, there was never any real need for El Dorado to begin with---it was merely peripheral. As long as Tulio and Miguel, with the same writing quality and tone, remained, it could have been set anywhere, preferably with the potential for tighter focus. Among the primary factors in that would be a relative familiarity, so as not to call for introductory or expositional provisions to the story. What follows are just two of my own scenarios that could have worked better.

A plot point early in the movie is that Tulio and Miguel, discovered aboard Cortez's flagship, are to be forced into slavery on the sugar plantations of Cuba. What if they had never escaped (perhaps they still tried but failed---then they could keep some of the same jokes) and instead had actually put to work in the fields, under the hot sun, the intention being that this was to be their fate until they died. A dark turn, understandably, but it's one that could be taken advantage of. Instead of a straight-up travel adventure, it would be a twist on the Great Escape structure, in which the duo, having never done an honest day's work and not about to start now, concoct a plan to escape Cuba and free all the other slaves. Whether it's by digging tunnels, evading guards, getting out of work, or organizing distractions, this scenario has the potential to be more cerebral and methodical, while still retaining the funny. It would also provide Miguel the opportunity to cope with the guilt of getting them into this mess, a turn of events that should have been more than just a negligible footnote in their relationship.

Alternatively, the original storyline could be ditched altogether, and since Tulio and Miguel are not particularly, historically specific characters, there is potential for a story refocused entirely to the two of them scheming to infiltrate the French nobility, passing themselves off as the like, and making off with vast, unrequited wealth. Besides the myriad humorous situations to be gleaned from their attempt at refined, cultured, snobbish and isolated living and thinking as they project the illusions, there are also the religious and political elements that would come into play. During the 1500's, France was rife with political strife over the clashes between the Catholic powers and the burgeoning Huguenots, whereby much blood was spilt until Huguenot Henry IV took the throne and made history by instituting religious liberty with the Edict of Milan in 1958. Given that Tulio and Miguel both hail from Spain, a heavily Catholic country, the situation is ripe for satire.

Tulio's definitely the snorer.

My point being that the story was originally going to go deeper with certain themes, but those were not met even halfway, which may be a plus, given how strong the movie is due to Tulio and Miguel alone. The aforementioned alternatives to plots would hinge on closing doors on elements that would not realistically be dealt with if one considered how the movie was to be paced and where the most attention was being granted. More historical relevance would have greatly advantaged the template for Tulio and Miguel.

Nevertheless, what is present and worked over most thoroughly is excellent. The film is resourceful in that way---not as resourceful as it could have been, but more so than a lot of animated cinema manages. As Ted and Terry said in the interview, the final product was much different from how it started out. But that it's still quite good is testament to how solid the premise was to begin with. Thanks to the refreshing writing and animation, the characters come to life and ride out the story all the way to the end. DreamWorks has always tried to go against the flow in their animated movies, even if only in small ways. This film, still, reminds me of what more can be done with the medium; it is a shame that that this, Spirit, and Sinbad were such flops that DreamWorks abandoned traditional animation altogether and moved on to full-fledged computer-generated animation. Marketing is a decisive factor, but more resourcefulness (Elton John was not needed, now was he?) and less half-hearted innovation would go a long way for traditional animation. The Road to El Dorado is by no means flawless but was also far from a hack job. I would call it a guilty pleasure, but honestly, I don't feel guilty about it. Due to an investment in a worthy premise, tight writing, and vibrant art direction, it is a truly fun, enjoyable experience and a gratifying bit of entertainment.

Which is a lot more than I can say for Joseph: King of Dreams. God, what a piece of shit.

Good review, could have benifitted from being much shorter. I liked this movie as a kid and may re watch it now you have reminded me of it.


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