While Shrek more noticeably marked the infant DreamWorks Animation studios on the map and began a paradigm shift in the world of animation, boasting the studio’s aesthetic and narrative adversity to Disney that characterises their output going forward, one film stands out in the studio’s previous efforts as possessing the same winning formula before it.
Fresh off the relative success of Antz and The Prince of Egypt, 2000’s The Road to El Dorado was DreamWorks first box office bomb but thankfully found its audience much later on. Best described as an anti-hero, buddy adventure comedy in part both a pastiche and evolution of the ‘Road To’ and Carry On film series’, The Road to El Dorado has a comedic rhythm and personality all its own. Whether it’s the continuously resplendent animation that flows with the infectious banter and interactions throughout, or the energetic dynamics between its colourful cast, particularly loveable con-men Tulio and Miguel (voiced to perfection by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh) who easily rank among the best-animated duos, the film is a blast from start to finish with its sublime tapestry of memorable characters and visuals. This is not even to mention the quasi-musical aspect, with a whole array of songs from Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, the award-winning team behind The Lion King, together with a blazing score from Hans Zimmer and John Powell that, along with many of the film’s other features, act as precursors to later collaborations and formulas adopted by DreamWorks partly as the antithesis to Disney long before Shrek.
The simple plotting may not contain the same in-depth concern with themes as a Pixar feature, but The Road to El Dorado succeeds directly because of its singularity. Generating a unique spirit full of fun, friendship and action, the film delivers fully on its promise of adventure at every turn, and one you can return to over and over without it ever faltering. The stars are definitely in position to watch this one.