Atlantis: The Lost Empire is a 2001 animated film created by Walt Disney Feature Animation that made $186 million world wide (86 million in North America alone).
A large tidal wave, triggered by a distant explosion, threatens to drown the island of Atlantis. In the midst of an evacuation from the capital city, the Queen of Atlantis is caught by a strange, hypnotic blue light and lifted up into the "Heart of Atlantis", a powerful crystal protecting the city. The crystal takes her and creates a dome barrier that protects the city's innermost district. She leaves behind a young daughter, Princess Kida, and husband, King Kashekim Nedakh, as the island sinks beneath the ocean.
Nearly nine thousand years later in 1914, Milo J. Thatch—a cartographer and linguist at the Smithsonian Institution who is marginalized for his research on Atlantis—believes that he has found the location of The Shepherd's Journal, an ancient manuscript allegedly containing directions to the lost island. After his proposal to search for the Journal is rejected by the museum board, a mysterious woman, Helga Sinclair, introduces Milo to Preston B. Whitmore, an eccentric millionaire. Whitmore has already funded a successful effort to retrieve the Journal as repayment of a debt to Milo's grandfather, and recruits Milo to join an expedition to Atlantis as soon as he deciphers it.
The expedition departs with a team of specialists led by Commander Rourke, who also led the Journal recovery expedition. The crew includes Vinny, a demolitions expert; Mole, a geologist; Dr. Sweet, a medical officer; Mrs. Packard, a radio operator; Audrey, a mechanic; and Cookie, a mess cook. They set out in the Ulysses, a massive submarine, but are soon attacked by the monstrous Leviathan, a robotic lobster-like creature that guards Atlantis' entrance. The Ulysses is destroyed, but Milo, Rourke, and part of the crew escape and make their way to an underground cavern described in the Journal as the entrance to Atlantis.
After traveling through a network of caves and a dormant volcano, the team reaches Atlantis. They are greeted by Kida — who, despite her age, resembles a woman in her early 20s — and discover that the Atlantean language is the basis of many existing languages which allows the Atlanteans to understand English. Kida enlists Milo's aid in deciphering the Atlantean written language, long forgotten by the natives. By swimming deep within the city's submerged ruins and translating underwater murals, Milo helps Kida uncover the nature of the Heart of Atlantis: it supplies the Atlanteans with power and longevity through the crystals worn around their necks. He is surprised this is not mentioned in the Journal, but upon examination realizes a page is missing.
Returning to the surface with Kida, Milo discovers Rourke has the missing page. Rourke and the crew intend to bring the Crystal to the surface and sell it. They offer Milo a chance to join them, which he rejects. Rourke mortally wounds the King of Atlantis while trying to extract information about the crystal's location, but finds its location for himself hidden beneath the King's throne room. The crystal detects a threat and merges with Kida. Rourke and the mercenaries lock Kida in a crate and prepare to leave the city. Knowing that when the crystal is gone the Atlanteans will die, Milo berates his friends for betraying their consciences and ultimately convinces them to leave Rourke and remain in Atlantis. The King explains to Milo that the crystal has developed a consciousness; it will find a royal host when Atlantis is in danger. He admits that he tried to use it as a weapon, but the crystal's powers were too great to control, thus leading to the tidal wave that destroyed the city. This led to his decision to hide it as a precaution to ensure history would not repeat itself, and prevent Kida from meeting the same fate as her mother. He warns Milo that if Kida remains bonded to the Heart of Atlantis, she will be lost to it forever. As he dies, he gives his crystal to Milo, telling him to save Kida and Atlantis. Encouraged by Sweet, Milo rallies the crew and the Atlanteans to stop Rourke.
In a battle inside the volcano, Helga and the other mercenaries are defeated including Rourke, who is killed when Milo slashes his arm with a crystal shard (which gradually turns him to crystal), and then collides with his air ship's propellers, breaking him into pieces of crystal. As Milo and the others fly the crystal back to the city, the volcano erupts. With lava flowing towards the city, Kida (in her crystal form) rises into the air and creates a protective shield. The lava breaks away harmlessly, showing a restored Atlantis, and the crystal returns Kida to Milo. The surviving crew members return to the surface and promise to keep the discovery of Atlantis a secret. Milo, having fallen in love with Kida, stays behind to help her rebuild the lost empire.
Milo James Thatch -
Controversy over Similiaries to another WorkEditPrior to and following the film's release, a number of viewers noted similarities between the film to a popular 1990's Japanese animated television series called Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. These include seemingly identical character designs, story flow, and background settings (Hero is caught up in a quest to find Atlantis. Falls in love with exotic native, who is the Heroine. Heroine's blue cyrstal pendent activates to save Atlantis, and thus she merges with the power source). Co-director Kirk Wise noted that, even though he and co-director Gary Trousdale were anime fans, they were not aware or even heard of Nadia during production of Atlantis. The controversy involving similarities between a Disney film and an anime series was not new to producer Don Hahn, who produced The Lion King which was accused of ripping off Kimba the White Lion.