The film follows two con artists, who after winning the map to El Dorado escape from Spain. After being stranded on the island, they use it to lead them to the city of El Dorado, where its inhabitants mistake them for gods. Released on March 31, 2000, The Road to El Dorado grossed $76.4 million worldwide on a $95 million budget.
In Spain 1519, two con artists, Tulio and Miguel, win a map to the legendary City of Gold, El Dorado, in a rigged gamble. After their con is exposed, the two evade the guards and hide aboard one of the ships to be led by Hernán Cortés for the New World. During the voyage, they are caught as stowaways and imprisoned, but manage to break free and take a rowboat with the help of Cortés' horse, Altivo.
Later, they land on an unknown shore at the edge of Mexico, and Miguel begins to recognize landmarks from the map, leading them to a totem marker near a large waterfall which Tulio believes is a dead end. As they prepare to leave, they encounter a native Thief woman named Chel being chased by guards. When the guards see Tulio and Miguel riding Altivo as depicted on the totem, they escort them to a secret entrance behind the falls, along with Chel, and into a city truly made of gold, El Dorado. They are brought to the city's elders, kind-hearted Chief Tannabok and wicked high priest Tzekel-Kan. Tzekel-Kan, seeking to seize the city from Tannabok, insists that the two, mistaken as gods, demonstrate their powers. Tulio and Miguel bicker between themselves while a nearby volcano begins to erupt. When Tulio yells at Miguel to stop pestering him, the volcano suddenly stops erupting and the citizens take it as proof of their godhood. Celebrations are held, and the pair are given luxurious quarters to stay, along with the charge of Chel. Chel discovers the two are conning the people but promises to remain quiet if they take her with them when they leave the city. The two are showered with gifts of gold from Tannabok, but disapprove of Tzekel-Kan attempting to sacrifice a civilian as the gods' ritual.
Tulio asks Tannabok to build them a boat that will allow them to leave the city with all the gifts they have been given, which will take three days. Miguel explores the city, allowing Chel to get romantically close to Tulio. Miguel comes to appreciate the peaceful life that the citizens seem to enjoy, and joins in with some of their activities. When Tzekel-Kan sees Miguel playing a ball game with children, he insists the gods demonstrate their powers against the city's best players in the same game. Tulio and Miguel are far outmatched, but Chel is able to substitute the ball with an armadillo, allowing them to win. Miguel spares the ritual of sacrificing the losing team and chastises Tzekel-Kan, much to the crowd's approval. Tzekel-Kan notices Miguel received a small cut and realizes the two are not gods, because gods do not bleed. Tzekel-Kan conjures a giant stone jaguar to chase them through the city. As Tulio and Miguel argue over their differences, they manage to outwit the jaguar, causing it and Tzekel-Kan to fall into a giant whirlpool, thought to be the entrance to Xibalba. Tzekel-Kan then surfaces in the jungle, where he encounters Cortés and his men, thinking Cortés is a god. He offers to lead them to El Dorado.
With the boat completed, Miguel states his intention to stay in the city. Tulio and Chel board the boat, when they see smoke on the horizon and realize Cortés is close. Tulio and Chel make a strategy using the boat to ram rock pillars under the waterfall and block the main entrance to the city. The plan succeeds with the citizens pulling over a statue in the boat's wake to give it enough speed. As the statue starts to fall too quickly, Tulio has difficulty in preparing the boat's sail. Deciding not to stay in the city, Miguel and Altivo jump onto the boat to unfurl the sails, assuring that the boat clears the statue in time. The group successfully crashes against the pillars, collapsing the cave but causing them to lose all of their gifts in the process. They end up near the totem and hide, just as Cortés' men and Tzekel-Kan arrive. When Tzekel-Kan finds the blocked entrance, Cortés accuses him as a liar, and Tzekel-Kan is taken prisoner as they leave.
Tulio and Miguel, though disappointed they lost the gold, take off in a different direction for a new adventure with Chel, unaware that Altivo still wears the golden horseshoes he was outfitted within El Dorado.Kevin Kline as Tulio, one of the con artists who pretend to be gods so they can get gold. He is the planner who wants to leave El Dorado with the treasure.
Kenneth Branagh as Miguel, one of the con artists who pretend to be gods so they can get gold. He is the fun-loving one who wants to stay in El Dorado.
Rosie Perez as Chel, a young beautiful native girl from El Dorado who discovers Tulio and Miguel's con and decides to play along.
Armand Assante as Tzekel-Kan, the fanatically vicious high priest who has a religious fixation for human sacrifices.
Edward James Olmos as Chief Tannabok, the kind chief of El Dorado who believes that Tulio and Miguel are gods, though he at one point implies that he has figured out Miguel is not actually a god, though only after Miguel demonstrates kindness to his people.
Jim Cummings as Hernán Cortés, the merciless and ambitious leader of the expedition to find the empires of the New World.
Frank Welker as Altivo, Cortés' horse who befriends Tulio and Miguel.
Tobin Bell as Zaragoza, a sailor on the voyage to the new world of El Dorado and the original owner of the map, which he loses to Tulio and Miguel after the rigged dice game.
Duncan Marjoribanks as Acolyte.
Elijah Chiang as Kid #1.
Cyrus Shaki-Khan as Kid #2.
The idea for The Road to El Dorado began with Jeffrey Katzenberg who envisioned the film as a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby-style buddy comedy about two con-men who set out for the Lost City of Gold after acquiring a map to its location. The film entered development in 1995 with Will Finn and David Silverman originally as the film’s directors with a tentative release scheduled for a fall 1999 release. Originally, the story was conceived as a dramatic film due to Katzenberg's penchant for large-scale animated films, which conflicted with the film's light-hearted elements. This version of the story had Miguel initially conceived as a raunchy Sancho Panza-like character who died, but came back to life so much that the natives assumed he was a god, as well as steamier love sequences and scantly clothing designed for Chel. However, while The Prince of Egypt was in production, Katzenberg decided that their next animated project should be a departure from its serious, adult approach, and desired for the film to be a comedy adventure. Because of this, the film was put on hold, where it was jokingly referred to as El Dorado: The Lost City on Hold due to several rewrites. Miguel and Tulio were rewritten as petty swindlers, and the setting of the film was changed to a more luscious paradise. Additionally, the romance was toned down, and new clothing was designed for Chel. Finn and Silverman left the project in 1998 following disputes over the film's creative direction, and were replaced by Don Paul and Eric "Bibo" Bergeron.
In August 1998, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh and Rosie Perez had signed onto the film. Because the characters and film drew from the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road to... films, producer Bonne Radford remarked that "[t]he buddy relationship [between the duo] is the very heart of the story. They need each other because they're both pretty inept. They're opposites — Tulio is the schemer and Miguel is the dreamer. Their camaraderie adds to the adventure; you almost don't need to know where they're going or what they're after, because the fun is in the journey." Unusual for an animated film, Kline and Branagh recorded their lines in the same studio room together, in order for the two to achieve more realistic chemistry. This resulted in a good deal of improvised dialogue, some of which ended up in the film.
Early into production, a team of designers, animators, producers, and Katzenberg embarked on research trips to Mexico where they studied ancient Mayan cities of Tulum, Chichen-Itza, and Uxmal in hopes of making the film's architecture look authentic. By January 1997, one hundred animators were assigned onto the project. However, because the animation department was occupied with The Prince of Egypt, the studio devoted more animators and resources on the film than on Road to El Dorado.
Marylata Jacob, who started DreamWorks' music department in 1995, became the film's music supervisor before the script was completed. Consulting with Katzenberg, Jacob decided the musical approach to the film would be world music. In late 1996, Tim Rice and Elton John were asked to compose seven songs, which they immediately worked on. Their musical process began with Rice first writing the song lyrics, and giving them to John to compose the music. John then recorded a demo, which was given to the animators whom storyboarded to the demo, as the tempo and vocals would remain intact. Eventually, the filmmakers decided not to follow the traditional musical approach by having the characters sing. Co-producer Bonne Radford explained, “We were trying to break free of that pattern that had been kind of adhered to in animation and really put a song where we thought it would be great...and get us through some story points." On February 20, 1999, before the release of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, it was announced that ten songs had been composed for El Dorado, and that the release date had been pushed to March 2000.
The Road to El Dorado is an album released by singer Elton John to accompany the DreamWorks animated motion picture The Road to El Dorado. The songs were composed mainly by John with lyricist Tim Rice, with score contributions by Hans Zimmer and John Powell. John, Rice and Zimmer had previously collaborated on the soundtrack to Disney's The Lion King, another animated movie. Zimmer had also previously composed the music score to The Prince of Egypt.
In some instances (such as "The Trail We Blaze"), the songs have been altered musically and vocally from the way they appeared in the film. A "Cast & Crew Special Edition" recording of the soundtrack exists, but was never released to the public. It includes the theatrical versions of the songs, including "It's Tough to be a God" recorded by Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, and several of the score tracks by Hans Zimmer.
Backstreet Boys provided backing vocals on "Friends Never Say Goodbye", but were uncredited due to record label problems. The group is "thanked" by John following the credits in the CD booklet. Eagles members Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit are credited as background vocalists on the song "Without Question".
The film was accompanied by a promotional campaign by Burger King.
The Road to El Dorado was released on DVD and VHS on December 12, 2000. The DVD release includes an audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, music video of "Someday Out of Blue", production notes, interactive games, and trailers and television spots.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported this film has a 48% approval rating based on 104 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Predictable story and thin characters made the movie flat." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 51 based on 29 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Reviewing for the Chicago Tribune, Michael Wilmington summarized that "This movie is fun to watch in ways that most recent cartoons aren't. It's also more adult, though it's the same cartoonish sensuality as the original "Road" movies, with their heavily coded prurience. It's a high-spirited movie, though it's not for all tastes. The John-Rice score isn't as rousingly on-target as The Lion King. The script, while clever, often seems too cute and show-biz snazzy, not emotional enough." Lisa Schwarzbaum, reviewing for Entertainment Weekly, remarked that "this trip down The Road to El Dorado proceeds under the speed limit all the way. Our Tulio and Miguel aren't big enough, nor strong enough, nor funny enough to buckle any swashes. They're as lost to us as the lost city into which they stumble." Similarly, animation historian Charles Solomon remarked on the lack of character development writing "Tulio and Miguel move nicely, but the animators don't seem to have any more idea who they are than the audience does. Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh supply their voices, but the characters say and do similar things in similar ways. Who can tell them apart?" Paul Clinton of CNN wrote, "The animation is uninspiring and brings nothing new to the table of animation magic," praising the Elton John/Tim Rice songs, but noting the weak plot.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four and commented that although it wasn't "as quirky as Antz or as grown up as The Prince Of Egypt", it was "bright and has good energy, and the kinds of witty asides that entertain the adults in between the margins of the stuff for the kids." Joel Siegel, reviewing on the television program Good Morning America, called it "solid gold," claiming the film was "paved with laughs." Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel stated "The Road to El Dorado is borderline [sic] entertaining, I suppose, with animation that is, at times, truly impressive. And if the six Elton John/Tim Rice songs are thoroughly forgettable, they lack sufficient distinction to actually become annoying."
Olin Tezcatlipoca, director of the Mexica Movement, heavily criticized the historical inaccuracy and urged for a boycott during the film's release.
The film grossed $12,846,652 on opening weekend ranking second behind Erin Brockovich's third weekend. The film closed on June 29, 2000, after earning $50,863,742 in the United States and Canada and $25,568,985 overseas for a worldwide total of $76,432,727. Based on its total gross, The Road to El Dorado was a box office bomb, unable to recoup its $95 million budget.
Gold and Glory: The Road to El Dorado was the video game tie-in, released on PlayStation, Game Boy Color, and Microsoft Windows.
The PlayStation & Microsoft Windows version of the game is drastically different to the Game Boy Color version. The main difference between the two games is that the PlayStation & Microsoft Windows version is a 3D adventure game with similarities to Resident Evil, while the Game Boy Color version is a more traditional 2D side-scrolling platformer.
Versions of the game were intended to be released for the PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast, but were eventually cancelled.
The PlayStation version received "unfavorable" reviews according to the review aggregation website Metacritic.
This version of the game is an 8-bit 2D side-scrolling platformer, where the player takes control of either Tulio or Miguel. The main objective in the first part of the game is to find nine separate map pieces that will eventually lead to the lost city of El Dorado. The player explores many settings in each different level such as a Spanish town, a ship, jungles, caves or the city of El Dorado. During the gameplay, there are two choices for weapons, a sword, the close range option, or bags, which can be thrown at enemies from a distance. Throughout each level, there are many bags which can be picked up, and replenish the "ammunition" count of the player. While moving through the different settings, you must fight off animals, plants, human enemies, or evading natural dangers. Inside each level there are many things to collect such as extra lives, or coins, which help boost your score.