Growing up I was inundated with Disney. Disney was seemingly the singular source of animated films that were actually good movies. But I find myself to be a part of a lucky generation. A generation where awesome and adorable animated films that aren’t in any way tied to Disney were being made and a released. Unfortunately, since Disney all but had a monopoly on animated flicks, people tend to judge all others with a heavy hand and a snotty attitude.
The Road to El Dorado, much like The Swan Princess, is a traditionally animated film that wasn’t produced, inspired, or in any way related to Disney aside from the fact that the Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO, left Disney and started this company… oh and now they distribute films under Touchtone for Disney… I guess they didn’t get very far. But this is beside the point, this animated feature was in no way related to Disney when it was first released!
The Road to El Dorado is an interesting tale of two men, thieves really, named Tulio (Kevin Kline, who played Captain Phoebus in The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh, who played Professor Gilderoy Lockhart and would go on to direct Thor and Cinderella… for Disney), who are best friends who are cunning and cheerful. One thing that has always drawn me to this movie, which while never mentioned in the final film because of the ‘moral guardians’ is that Tulio and Miguel were, and are, intended to be a couple. Not just partners in crime and best friends, an actual couple. But because this was an animated film in the year 2000 and animation is clearly only for children, it wasn’t stated in the film even though all of the subtext, undertones, and jealousy were left in. Kind of like Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus from the original dub of Sailor Moon (in which almost nothing was removed so we were left with an obviously lesbian couple who were cousins. Way to go America).
The fun part, though, is that because they treat the relationship like any other natural and normal thing, you can simply ignore it for the story and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. The two, surviving catastrophe when their latest plan goes awry, end up on a row boat in the middle of the ocean with a horse, Altivo (Frank Welker who has played too many animals in Disney films for us to name here. Let’s just say most.). With no food, drinkable water, a map that they stole almost by accident, and tensions running high, the two are ecstatic when they wash up on the shores of a tropical beach.
Soon Miguel begins to recognize things on the island as they are on the map, and the three of them end up making their way through the jungle where they run, surprisingly, into a woman being chased by guards. All of their dreams suddenly validated, they are surprised when they are dragged back to the golden city, AKA El Dorado, where native people are aplenty with a source of wealth that is so plentiful it has two forms of meaninglessness to them, because the totem that Miguel and Tulio are riding Altivo in front of is an effigy of their Gods. Enter Chel (Rosie Perez) whom was being chased by the guards. This is where you can ignore the intended romance, as obviously they’re interested in each other and Chel and jealous of one another to the point where I could call this Degrassi or X-men and the relationships would be almost identically convoluted (I kid, I kid. In Degrassi you actually can tell).
Rolling with the God mistake, Tulio and Miguel begin to grow attached to El Dorado and the people within it. Of course, there’s always one bad apple out there to ruin everything.
Check out El Dorado, it’s a fun, entertaining movie with a multiple-choice plan of understanding it!