As Fox's animation arm goes into a kamikaze spin, DreamWorks steps up to bat with this ambitious, road movie-style, knockabout adventure. Here, the revolutionary idea is to promote the comic sidekicks to leading men. Drawing their inspiration from the Hope and Crosby road movies of 40 years ago (right down to the title), the producers aimed to produce a distinctly different type of animation.
It would be fair to assume that executive producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, the man who assembled the award-winning Lion King (1994) , would be the one who could make this happen, and all the necessary boxes have been ticked: Tim Rice and Elton John doing the main songs, Hans Zimmer to do the orchestral score, respected actors like Branagh and Kline, another Disney veteran, lining up to take voice talent credits, and a whole collection of respected animators, many nabbed from the Disney lot.
But instead of improving on the Disney animation experience, El Dorado proves to be inferior in every way. Hell, forget Disney - even as a stand-alone animated feature, El Dorado leaves a lot to be desired.
Nothing seems to fit. There are cute animals who disappear from scenes without explanation. Love interest Chel goes far beyond Jessica Rabbit in terms of cartoon sexiness, and little girls will be far less impressed by her character than the dads in the audience. But strangest of all is that the two anti-heroes, Miguel and Tulio, seem far more interested in each other than in Chel, or anyone else. Oh, there's cursory kissing, but the love songs are more about losing each other's friendship. And playful naked bathing scenes between the two of them don't help. While it would be extremely liberating to think that an animated feature might blaze a banner for homosexual relationships, it's hard to believe that this was what this group of filmmakers intended.
Clearly Kline and Branagh had chemistry because the dialogue crackles, but maybe the translation to screen didn't quite work. Throw in some unmemorable songs, and the result seems to be one big mistake.