"Atlantis." "Atlantis."

You read that right: Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the curious 2001 flop from the tail end of Disney’s 1990s renaissance, is “the raddest gem in the Disney canon.” Or so argues Ladynightthebrave, a Youtube critic whose half-hour essay on the film, part of Filmjoy’s reliably absorbing Lessons Animation Taught Us series, is our video of the week.

Her fun, well-researched deep dive explains what sets Atlantis apart from other Disney features. She touches on the absence of cute sidekicks, lack of music, eccentric storyline — which draws on the writings of Plato and madcap philosopher Edgar Cayce — and hugely ambitious production, which involved 350 artists across three studios at its peak. One of her burning questions is: how did directing duo Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise get this greenlit?

In the second half, Ladynightthebrave turns to the characterization. She describes Milo, the floppy-haired explorer at the heart of the film, as a “nerdy nice boy,” placing him in a lineage of similar characters from that era. As for the female characters, she makes a case for why they are both progressive and problematic. She concludes by looking at the plot holes and excesses of the production design.

One effect of the video is to bring home just how much has changed at the House of Mouse — and in animation as a whole — in less than two decades. Atlantis came out just as the cgi revolution was upending the industry; Shrek was considered the height of sophistication, and Disney was fading into irrelevance. That time now seems about as remote as the island of Atlantis itself.

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