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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 comments.

"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 was…but maybe if we could


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