Despite getting alot of flack from animation buffs, Disney made a genuine effort to make a musical-free adventure movie in the spirit of Raiders. Even though very influenced by the works of Jules Verne, and the art stylings of Mike Mignola(Hellboy), this steampunk film was brilliantly animated and delivers in ways that the last Indiana Jones movie didn't.
Taking place in 1914, Milo Thatch is an expert in cartography, but unfortunetly stuck working in the boiler room of a history museum. After failing to convince his curators to investigate some recent findings he believes will proove the existence of the lost kingdom of Atlantis, he is luckily hired an eccentric millionaire who was an old explorer buddy of his grandfather. Milo becomes part of an excavation team going in a totally ahead of its time submarine to find Atlantis, commanded by the opportunistic Rourke. Using an ancient journal, they track their way underwater to a tunnel that is supposed to lead to their goal, but they're attacked by a giant mechanical sea monster and have to abandon their submarine into smaller mini-subs. They manage to find a series of underground caverns, which eventually leads to the actual city of Atlantis. Milo and the others are shocked to discover that there is an actual living civilization of people there who can conveniently speak English. They are turned away by the xenophobic Atlantian king, but his daughter Kida(who is Disney's finest Princess, and the first black one!)befriends the nerdy-as-hell Milo, and together they manage to decipher where the mysterious power source that supports their society, and has kept them alive for the last few millenia. However, its revealed that Rourke and most of his team were really looking for the power source too, which is a mystic floating crystal, and after taking the king hostage, they make their way to the crystal chamber. Kida becomes infused with the crystal's powers, and Rourke makes off with her, leaving the king dying of a gunshot wound. Milo gets some of the remaning crew along with the other Atlanteans to go after them with some reactivated flying machines. After a pretty intense chase scene, they catch up with Rourke and stop him. The crystal is restored, and Kida becomes the new tribal leader. Milo decides to stay behind(who wouldn't want to spend eternity with a hot bikini babe?!)while the other explorers make it back to the surface with a bunch of treasure.
Atlantis was a serious step up from some of Disney's other action/adventure films. Granted, ones like Aladdin, The Black Cauldron, and Treasure Planet had decent elements of thrills & spills, but Atlantis went that extra couple of yards to make it real swashbuckling ride. There's a fine use of CGI along with traditional 2d Disney animation, although its one of the few ones they did in anamorphic widescreen which totally broadens the scope of visual experience for an underwater adventure. The movie also has one of the finest casts in a Disney film, with Michael J. Fox as Milo, James Garner as Rourke, veteran voice actress Cree Summer as Kida, Leonard Nimoy as the king, and Jim Varney in his last film role. If you passed on this film when it was in the theatres, make sure to catch it on DVD(and hopefully soon on Blu-Ray). Even though you can sorta skip on the sequal.