The Road to El Dorado (2000) was one of the first animated films brought out by DreamWorks Animation, who beforehand came out with The Prince of Egypt in 1998. I loved both films as a child, so when I saw The Road to El Dorado on Netflix I decided to give another view as an objective adult. Does this animated competition to Disney hold up after fifteen years? Let's find out.
What is it about?
The Road to El Dorado is about con-artist friends Tulio and Miguel who try to swindle their way to riches in 16th century Spain. In a game of dice, Miguel and Tulio win a map that supposedly can lead them to the fabled treasure of El Dorado. After they are caught cheating, the duo hide out in crates that ended up on the ship of Hernando Cortes. With the help of a horse named Altivo, they escape the ship only to get caught in a storm that washes them up on an island shore. Turns out this island of the famed city El Dorado, and our swindlers embark on a quest to find the gold. Once they get there, they are mistaken by people to be gods. Miguel and Tulio go along with this ruse in order to get their gold with the help of the feisty and beautiful Chel, who falls in love with Tulio and him with her. Just like their other scams, the two were eventually caught in the lie by the evil Chief Tzekel-Kan. Tulio's thirst for gold and Miguel's growing love for the ancient city drives them apart until Cortes becomes a threat to the people. Our heroes cleverly blocks the entrance to El Dorado even though they lost the gold in the process. In the end, they learn that their friendship and sense of adventure is more rich than any amount of gold in the world.
Kevin Kline (Tulio) and Kenneth Branagh (Miguel) voiced the leading characters. Kline did well at bringing the charm and sarcasm to up tight Tulio. Branagh made Miguel naive and fun, perfectly being the fitting counter part to Tulio. Rosie Perez voiced Chel who is the perfect choice for a leading lady so sassy and mischievous yet sexy. I know that is a strange thing to say about a kid's film, but then again this is rated PG. Experienced voice actor Jim Cummings was nicely intimidating and cool as Cortes. Overall, the voice acting was on point.
Bibo Bergeron, Jeffrey Katzenburg, and Don Paul all took part in directing. Having more than one director is actually pretty common for an animated film. In this case, it did work out. They created an epic buddy, comedic road trip inspired by road trips comedies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Sometimes seeing an overload of road trip movies get boring, but these three directors gave this ride an epic spin.
The films was written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot, both of whom also wrote for Pirates of the Caribbean. This may be a family film, but it seems more geared to older children , teens, and adults. Some of the humor is a bit mature for young kids, but it is not always obvious enough for them to be shocked. There is one line where Tulio shouts out "holy ship!" This of course, sounds very similar to holy sh*t. Parents should only worry about if their child has heard that naughty word before, otherwise the little ones wouldn't notice. Rossio and Elliot wrote that tale of an epic buddy road trip with fun and humorous characters.
The animation is beautiful. It is full of bright colors that are easy enough on the eyes such as the opening sequence. There is a mix of 2D and 3D animation involved that blend together nicely. Whoever drew Chel gave her some funny facial expressions. However, I couldn't help but wonder if this would have worked better as a live action. Of course, some of the scenes could have only worked animated, especially during the song "It Is Tough to be a God." But otherwise, watching this made me imagine a live action version. People have been doing with Disney films DreamWorks! Why not you guys?
The musical score is composed by Hans Zimmer and John Powell. There was a bit of a Spanish style to add to the atmosphere. However, the songs were in the talented hands of Elton John who also sang songs for Disney's The Lion King. Talk about competition! Songs such as "El Dorado", "The Trail We Blaze," and "It's Tough to be a God" (sang by Kline and Branagh) were memorable unlike the mediocre "Friends Never Say Goodbye."
So overall, great acting, stellar animation, refreshing direction, humorous yet mature writing, and decent music. It is worth a look.