Sometimes people should wonder whether there are two Disney corporations. There's the Disney that moviegoers love and that consists of the classic titles that revolutionized the way people saw family and children films. Then there's the other side of Disney where it acts as a sellout / cash cow that churns out Direct-to-DVD sequels of their various popular films. Most of which these particular sequels either nobody asks for or just end up being despised by fans of the original. It makes no sense how such a well- respected company could have such split personality in goals. This is not to say that all of their DVD sequels are terribly made but to some, it would seem the mouse house operates solely on monetary impulse. The other odd thing is when sequels are produced to films that didn't even perform well. Of the early 2000's, Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) was one of them. Originally its sequel was for a TV series but was scrapped. Thus, this sequel feels more episodic in storytelling than a movie.
Directed Victor Cook, Tad Stones and Toby Shelton (who have all worked on various Disney DVD sequels) and penned by six writers from various TV shows and genres, this sequel is okay but that's all that it is. Although the title suggests it's "Milo's return", the story is actually about Milo's original crew having him come back to the surface in order to understand and resolve strange occurrences happening with no reason in the country. Kida's thoughts are that they are somehow connected to Atlantis; once weapons of destruction that her father had locked away hoping modern day man would not find. These events in question are that of a small town being terrorized by a deep sea kraken, a dust storm of spirit wolves and a mad man looking to start the end of the world. Of these separate cases, none of them truly give any explanation to how their Atlantian connection affected history. They're really just lazy tie- ins with Atlantis and nothing more.
The voice cast behind the characters thankfully help make the viewing relatively tolerable. There's only a few replacements; for Milo, James Arnold Taylor takes over Michael J. Fox and instead of Jim Varney, Steven Barr fills in as Cookie. Every other character remains the same. Cree Summer, John Mahoney, Jacqueline Obradors, Don Novello, Corey Burton, Phil Morris and Florence Stanley all return to reprise their roles and their exchanges are still commendable as the slew of personalities they make up. There are additional voices too and they consist of Frank Welker playing Obby (a three legged volcano dog,...precious), Jeff Bennett, William Morgan Sheppard, Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman, Thomas F. Wilson and Clancy Brown. The unfortunate part is that with these new additions, somehow not all the main characters make it into every story. Characters like Vinny and Sweet disappear at times with no notice and don't come back until another story finishes. Strange.
Another component to the writing that doesn't exactly make sense are some of the character motivations. Some of which these motivations completely contradict beliefs from the prior movie. It's another thing to also think that sharing the gift of Atlantis will bring about good and everyone will be accepting of it. If this were a real world event, the newbies to the world should think twice. Animation was handled by Toon City, a contracting company that has frequently worked with Disney in several animated TV show spinoffs and direct- to-DVD sequels. For what it's worth, the animation is nowhere close to its predecessor's quality but it isn't garbage either. There are few relaxed scenes that have some decent fluidity to them and the action scenes are engaging too. For the action there are explosions and various other character movements (kraken, dust storms or protagonists) that have natural movement to them. The difference in quality to this is more texture display than anything else.
Of the animation, if there's one thing that really stands out, it's all the continuity errors that litter the screen. There are a considerable number moments when these problems develop. Parts of it show up for certain sections of backgrounds, while other times it's as simple as animating characters' mouths when clearly there's voice over work being played. It's moments like those that just feel sloppy and cheap. Also when Milo's friends come back to Atlantis, they arrive via plane. However the first movie had everyone go underwater; great job guys. The music to this feature is adequate though. Don Harper, who normally is the conductor to score recording sessions and who's best work would come later in The Lion King 1 1/2 (2004), composed the music. Occasionally, Harper does reference James Newton Howard's theme from the original but it's not around for long. The music itself is also not as grand but this is probably due to the constraints of the budget itself. It's just okay.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) was one of those Disney films that didn't need a sequel. Is this worth any of your time - not really but it's not a total disgrace either. The music, most of its animation, and voice acting is praise worthy. Its weak plot threads are more of the problem.