The Road to El Dorado

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The Road to El Dorado
Road to el dorado ver3.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
  • Bonne Radford
  • Brook Breton
Written by
Story byPhilip LaZebnik
Narrated byElton John
Music by
Edited byVicki Hiatt
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release date
  • March 31, 2000 (2000-03-31)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$95 million[1]
Box office$76.4 million[1]

The Road to El Dorado is a 2000 American animated adventure-musical[2] comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and released by DreamWorks Pictures. It was directed by Bibo Bergeron and Don Paul (in their feature directorial debuts) and additional sequences directed by Will Finn and David Silverman. The film stars Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Rosie Perez, Armand Assante, and Edward James Olmos.

The soundtrack features songs by Elton John and Tim Rice, as well as composers Hans Zimmer and John Powell. John is also credited periodically narrating the story in song throughout the film. The film follows two con artists who, after winning the map to El Dorado, escape from Spain. After washing ashore in the New World, they use the map to lead them to the city of El Dorado, where its inhabitants mistake them for gods.

The Road to El Dorado was released on March 31, 2000, to mixed reviews and was a box office failure, grossing $76 million worldwide on a production budget of about $95 million.


In 1519 Spain, two con artists, Miguel and Tulio, win a map to the legendary City of Gold, El Dorado, in a rigged dice gamble (though they ironically win the map fairly). After their con is exposed, the two evade the guards and hide inside barrels, which are then loaded into one of the ships to be led by conquistador Hernán Cortés for the New World. During the voyage, they are caught as stowaways and imprisoned, but break free and take a rowboat with the help of Cortés' horse, Altivo.

Their boat reaches land, where Miguel begins to recognize landmarks from the map, leading them to a totem marker near a waterfall that Tulio believes is a dead end. As they prepare to leave, they encounter a native woman, Chel, being chased by guards. When the guards see Tulio and Miguel riding Altivo as depicted on the totem, they escort them and Chel to a secret entrance behind the falls, into El Dorado. They are brought to the city's elders, kindhearted Chief Tannabok and wicked high priest Tzekel-Kan. The pair are mistaken for gods and are given luxurious quarters, along with the charge of Chel. She discovers that 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 and Miguel instruct Tannabok to build them a boat so that they can leave the city with all the gifts they have been given, under the ruse that they are needed back in the 'other world.' During the three days the construction will take, Miguel explores the city, and Chel gets romantically close to Tulio. Miguel comes to appreciate the peaceful life embraced by the citizens; by then, he reconsiders leaving, especially after overhearing Tulio telling Chel that he'd like her to come with them to Spain, before adding he'd like her to come with specifically him and to forget Miguel – straining the relationship between the two.

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 outmatched, but Chel can substitute the ball with an armadillo named Bibo, allowing them to win the rounds until the final one, where Bibo is replaced with a real ball, but once again, the two ironically win the game fairly. 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 in the game and realizes the pair are not gods since gods do not bleed, hence the reason for the sacrifices. Afterward, Miguel and Tulio enjoy a party being thrown for them but sooner or later begin to argue about Tulio and Chel's conversation and Miguel's desire to stay. However, before they can continue, Tzekel-Kan conjures a giant stone jaguar to chase them throughout the city. Tulio and Miguel manage to outwit the jaguar, causing it and Tzekel-Kan to fall into a giant whirlpool, thought by the natives to be the entrance to Xibalba, the spirit world. Tzekel-Kan then surfaces in the jungle, where he encounters Cortés and his men. Believing Cortés to be the real god, Tzekel-Kan offers to lead them to El Dorado.

With the boat completed, Miguel decides to stay in the city. As Tulio and Chel board the boat, they see smoke on the horizon and realize Cortés is close. Knowing what will happen if Cortés discovers the city, Tulio suggests using the boat to ram the 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. Giving up on staying in the city, Miguel and Altivo jump onto the boat to unfurl the sails, assuring the boat clears the statue in time. The group successfully crashes against the pillars, causing a cave-in but losing all their gifts in the process. They hide near the totem just as Cortés' men and Tzekel-Kan arrive. When they find the entrance blocked, Cortés brands Tzekel-Kan a liar and takes him prisoner as they leave. Tulio and Miguel, though disappointed they lost the gold (unaware that Altivo still wears the golden horseshoes with which he was outfitted in El Dorado), head in a different direction for a new adventure with Chel, presumably also looking for a way back to Spain.

Voice cast[edit]

  • Kenneth Branagh as Miguel, one of the con artists who pretend to be gods so they can get gold. He is more relaxed and easygoing than his con-partner Tulio.
  • Kevin Kline as Tulio, one of the con artists who pretend to be gods so they can get gold. He is the strategic planner, often becoming anxious and overthinking things.
  • Rosie Perez as Chel, a beautiful native woman from El Dorado who discovers Tulio and Miguel's con and decides to play along to get out from El Dorado. She is also Tulio's love interest.
  • Armand Assante as Tzekel-Kan, the fanatically vicious high priest who has a religious fixation for human sacrifices. He initially believed Tulio and Miguel are gods until he discovered the truth.
  • Edward James Olmos as Chief Tannabok, the skeptical, yet kind chief of El Dorado who questions that Tulio and Miguel are gods, though he allows them to stay out of kindness and hospitality, and because of the kindness Miguel and Tulio show to his people.
  • Jim Cummings as Hernán Cortés, the merciless and ambitious conquistador leader of the expedition to find the empires of the New World.
    • Cummings also voices the cook on Cortés's ship, a warrior who gets stepped on by Tzekel-Kan's stone jaguar, and the native who warns Chief Tannabok about Cortés.
  • Frank Welker as Altivo, Cortés' horse who befriends Tulio and Miguel.
    • Welker also voices the Bull that chases Miguel and Tulio at the beginning of the movie.
  • 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 a game of dice.
  • Elton John as The Singing Narrator.



Shortly before the public announcement of DreamWorks SKG in October 1994, former The Walt Disney Company chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg had met with screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio and gave them a copy of Hugh Thomas's book Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes and the Fall of Old Mexico, desiring to make an animated film set in the Age of Discovery. By the spring of 1995, Elliott and Rossio devised a story treatment inspired by the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road to... films with self-interested, comedic anti-heroes who would set out to find the Lost City of Gold after acquiring a map to its location.[3][4] Will Finn and David Silverman were originally the film's directors with a tentative release scheduled for fall 1999.[5] 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 lighthearted 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 scanty clothing designed for Chel.[6] In Elliott and Rossio's treatment, the film was meant to end with Miguel and Tulio saving the Mayan people from Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés as it would abandon its civilization to live in the nearby jungle amidst the tragic backdrop of the destruction of its culture.[3]

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 an adventure comedy.[7] 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.[6] Miguel and Tulio were rewritten as petty swindlers, and the setting of the film was changed to a more luscious paradise.[7] Additionally, the romance was toned down, and new clothing was designed for Chel. Producer Bonnie Radford explained, "We originally thought it would be rated PG-13 and so we skewed it to that group...But then we thought we could not exclude the younger kids so we had to tone the romance down."[6] Finn and Silverman left the project in 1998 following disputes over the film's creative direction,[4] and were replaced by Eric "Bibo" Bergeron and Don Paul.[6] Additionally, Katzenberg reportedly co-directed the film albeit uncredited.[8]


On August 15, 1998, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, and Rosie Perez had signed onto the film.[9] 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.[10]


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.[6] By January 1997, one hundred animators were assigned onto the project.[11] However, because the animation department was occupied with The Prince of Egypt, the studio devoted more animators and resources on that film than on Road to El Dorado.[4][6]


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.[12] In late 1996, Tim Rice and Elton John were asked to compose seven songs, which they immediately worked on.[13] 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."[12] 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.[14]


The Road to El Dorado
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMarch 14, 2000
GenreRock, pop
LabelDreamWorks Records
ProducerPatrick Leonard, Hans Zimmer, Gavin Greenaway
Elton John chronology
The Muse
The Road to El Dorado
Elton John One Night Only – The Greatest Hits
Singles from The Road to El Dorado
  1. "Someday Out of the Blue (Theme from El Dorado)"
    Released: 2000
  2. "Friends Never Say Goodbye"
    Released: 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 film. 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.

The Backstreet Boys provided uncredited backing vocals on "Friends Never Say Goodbye",[15] the group is "thanked" by John following the credits in the CD booklet. The Eagles members Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit are credited as background vocalists on the song "Without Question".

Track listing[edit]

1."El Dorado"Elton John, Tim Rice4:22
2."Someday Out of the Blue (Theme from El Dorado)"Elton John, Patrick Leonard, Tim Rice4:48
3."Without Question" (featuring Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit)Elton John, Tim Rice4:47
4."Friends Never Say Goodbye" (featuring Backstreet Boys)Elton John, Tim Rice4:21
5."The Trail We Blaze"Elton John, Tim Rice3:54
6."16th Century Man"Elton John, Tim Rice3:40
7."The Panic in Me"Elton John, Tim Rice, Hans Zimmer5:40
8."It's Tough to Be a God" (Duet with Randy Newman)Elton John, Tim Rice3:50
9."Trust Me"Elton John, Tim Rice4:46
10."My Heart Dances"Elton John, Tim Rice4:51
11."Queen of Cities (El Dorado II)"Elton John, Tim Rice3:56
12."Cheldorado" (with Heitor Pereira)Hans Zimmer4:26
13."The Brig" (with Triology)Hans Zimmer2:58
14."Wonders of the New World (To Xibalba / Save El Dorado / The Ball Game)"John Powell5:56
Best Buy exclusive tracks
15."Perfect Love"Elton John, Tim Rice4:09
16."Hey, Armadillo"Elton John, Tim Rice3:46



The film was first revealed in a double trailer with fellow DreamWorks animated feature Chicken Run on the home video of The Prince of Egypt. It was accompanied by a promotional campaign by Burger King.[16]

Home media[edit]

The Road to El Dorado was released on DVD and VHS on December 12, 2000. There was also an event in El Dorado, KS in which the streets were painted gold and gold coins were donated to the city to build a movie theater. 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.[17] In July 2014, the film's distribution rights were purchased by DreamWorks Animation from Paramount Pictures (owners of the pre-2005 DreamWorks Pictures catalog)[18] and transferred to 20th Century Fox before reverting to Universal Studios in 2018. Because of this, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment subsequently released the film on Blu-ray on January 22, 2019.[19]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 48% based on 105 reviews and an average rating of 5.49/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Predictable story and thin characters made the movie flat."[20] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 51 out of 100 based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[21] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[22]

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."[23] 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."[24] 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?"[25] 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.[26]

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."[27] Joel Siegel, reviewing on the television program Good Morning America, called it "solid gold," claiming the film was "paved with laughs."[28] Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel stated "The Road to El Dorado is borderline 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."[29]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $12.9 million on opening weekend ranking second behind Erin Brockovich's third weekend.[30][31] The film closed on June 29, 2000, after earning $50.9 million in the United States and Canada and $25.5 million overseas for a worldwide total of $76.4 million. Based on its total gross, The Road to El Dorado was a box-office bomb, unable to recoup its $95 million budget.[1]


Award Category Winner/Nominee Recipient(s) Result
Annie Awards[32] Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Theatrical Feature Nominated
Individual Achievement in Storyboarding Jeff Snow (Story supervisor) Nominated
Individual Achievement in Production Design Christian Schellewald (Production Designer) Nominated
Individual Achievement in Character Animation David Brewster (Senior Supervising animator - Miguel) Nominated
Individual Achievement in Character Animation Rodolphe Guendonen (Supervising Animator - Chel) Nominated
Individual Achievement in Effects Animation Doug Ikeler (Effects Lead - Crashing the Gate) Nominated
Individual Achievement in Voice Acting Armand Assante ("Tzekel-Kan") Nominated
Individual Achievement in Music Hans Zimmer (Music)
John Powell (Music)
Critics' Choice Awards[33] Best Composer Hans Zimmer Won
Saturn Awards Best Music Hans Zimmer and John Powell Nominated

Internet popularity[edit]

20 years after the film's release, The Road to El Dorado had an unexpected rise in popularity as an Internet meme.[34]


  1. ^ a b c "The Road to El Dorado (2000)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  2. ^ Scahtz, Sharon (April 1, 2000). "Paving the Musical Road to El Dorado". Animation World Network. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (April 27, 2013). "Interview: Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio" (Interview). Interviewed by MJ Simpson. Blogger. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Laporte, Nicole (May 4, 2010). "Rolling". The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks. Mariner Books. pp. 208–9. ISBN 978-0547520278.
  5. ^ Aleiss, Angela (January 24, 1999). "Animated Features of a Different Hue". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 24, 2014. The movie features the voices of Edward James Olmos, Armand Assante and Rosie Perez and is tentatively scheduled for a fall release.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Munoz, Lorenza (March 29, 2000). "Bumpy Road to 'El Dorado'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Pezsko, J. Paul (March 1, 2000). "El Dorado: The Old World Meets the New in Tradigital Animation". Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  8. ^ Solomons, Jason (July 5, 2004). "Me and my troll". The Guardian. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  9. ^ Beck, Marilyn; Smith, Stacy Jenel (August 6, 1998). "Heard But Not Seen". Los Angeles Daily News. Archived from the original (Subscription required) on March 12, 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2017 – via HighBeam Research.
  10. ^ Barbara and Scott Siegel (March 29, 2000). "Theater News: Kevin Kline & Kenneth Branagh".
  11. ^ Fabrikant, Geraldine (January 20, 1997). "Despite a Sluggish Beginning, DreamWorks is Viewed as a Potential Hollywood Power". The New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Schatz, Sharon (April 1, 2000). "Paving the Musical Road to El Dorado". Animation World Network. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  13. ^ "The Road to El Dorado". Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  14. ^ "Rocket to Launch Tim Rice, Elton John's 'Aida'". Billboard. 118 (8): 76. February 20, 1999. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  15. ^ "The Road to El Dorado". Archived from the original on April 4, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  16. ^ "Travel Down 'The Road To El Dorado' With BURGER KING(R) For An Exciting Adventure Full Of Fun And Glory" (Press release). Miami: PRNewswire. Burger King. March 30, 2000. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  17. ^ DeMott, Rick (December 13, 2000). "The Road To El Dorado Leads To Home Video". Animation World Network. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  18. ^ Chney, Alexandra (July 29, 2014). "DreamWorks Animation Q2 Earnings Fall Short of Estimates, SEC Investigation Revealed". Variety. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
  19. ^ "The Road to El Dorado Blu-ray",, retrieved November 23, 2018
  20. ^ "The Road to El Dorado (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  21. ^ "The Road to El Dorado Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  22. ^ "Home - Cinemascore". Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  23. ^ Wilmington, Michael (March 30, 2000). "Taking The High 'Road'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  24. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (April 7, 2000). "The Road to El Dorado". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  25. ^ Solomon, Charles (May 31, 2000). "For Good Animation, It's Always a Question of Character". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  26. ^ Clinton, Paul (April 3, 2000). "Review: Little gold in this 'El Dorado'". CNN. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  27. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 31, 2000). "The Road To El Dorado". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  28. ^ "The Road to El Dorado newspaper ad". Los Angeles Times. April 8, 2000. p. 75. Retrieved May 9, 2019 – via open access
  29. ^ Boyar, Jay (March 31, 2000). "Road Trip With Few Surprises". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  30. ^ Natale, Richard (April 3, 2000). "A 'Beauty' of a Weekend for Oscar Winner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  31. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for March 31-April 2, 2000". Box Office Mojo. April 3, 2000. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
  32. ^ "Legacy: 28th Annual Annie Award Nominees and Winners (2000)". The Annie Awards. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  33. ^ Armstrong, Mark (December 19, 2000). "Broadcast Critics Eat Crowe". E! Online UK. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  34. ^ Radulovic, Petrana (April 1, 2020). "The great kids movie Road to El Dorado found a future in positive memes". Polygon. Retrieved May 17, 2020.

External links[edit]