THE ROAD TO ELDORADO
Finding El Dorado
For the filmmakers, the journey to El
Dorado began with two research trips to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The
trips were led by the film's historical advisor Dr. John Pohl, an
archaeologist with the Fowler Museum of Cultural History at UCLA, and a
recognized authority on American Indian civilizations. With a joint doctorate in
archaeology and film production, Dr. Pohl was eminently qualified to guide the
filmmakers in their quest to be faithful to the Indian civilizations of what is
today Mexico and Central America—the most prevalent of which were the Mayans.
Radford recalls, "Going to the
Yucatan was extremely significant to the foundation of the story and the script.
It was very informative to soak up the culture, to see how those civilizations
existed and experience what it was like to physically be in those places. From
an art direction standpoint, the colors in the foliage and even the animals are
almost magical. It was a challenge to get it all on the screen because there's
so much beauty in even the smallest details. It was important to us to be
faithful to all the research that was done, and I think it's paid off."
Christian Schellewald, the film's
production designer, remembers, "Standing on top of a pyramid in the middle
of a rainforest, you see this eternal jungle, this enormous green ocean. It was
breathtaking. That's something you can't see in pictures, and can't
understand unless you've seen it for yourself. That's why we went."
"A great deal of research went into
this film, but we had to keep in mind that it's set in a mythological place. A
lot of the design was inspired by the Mayan civilization and other cultures, but
it's not meant to be an exact reflection of any one culture," Paul
"This is a fantasy," producer
Brooke Breton agrees. "We applied what we learned of the civilization and
the surroundings and took it to a surreal realm, weaving in the fantasy elements
to achieve a look that is really original."
The design of the film did not only apply
to the backdrop. Schellewald and art directors Raymond Zibach, Paul Lasaine and
Wendell Luebbe subtly utilized color to gauge the emotional life of the main
characters. Red and black were used to accentuate danger and fear, as in the
jaguar sequence when Tulio and Miguel are running for their lives from Tzekel-Kan's
incarnation of evil. Lighter, brighter colors were incorporated for happier
sequences. The challenge came in blending conflicting emotional cues for the two
main characters, especially during scenes when they had very different moods.
To accentuate the brilliant colors of El
Dorado, the design team established a striking contrast between it and Spain. In
Spain, the colors are much more muted, with almost no foliage to shade buildings
that are sun-bleached and rough-hewn. Arriving in El Dorado, the palette
explodes with vivid colors and bold graphic shapes.
Bergeron expounds, "We wanted Spain
to be almost monochromatic. Then, as Tulio and Miguel find their way through the
jungle, we integrated more color as the characters discover a new world.
Finally, when they come to El Dorado, we see every color of the rainbow."
Katzenberg concludes, "One of the
most important things for me in making an animated movie is to take the audience
someplace they've never been before. The inspiration for this story is a
magnificent culture of which only the tip of the iceberg still exists. It's a
world that once wasâ€¦but maybe if we could
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