The Road to El Dorado

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A traditionally-animated film by DreamWorks. The Road to El Dorado follows the adventures of Spaniards Tulio and Miguel as they try to con and cheat their way to fame and fortune. A game of chance earns them a Treasure Map which seems to point the way to El Dorado: the lost "City of Gold."

The two (mis)adventurers stow away by accident on Cortez's (yes, that Cortez) flagship, and their escape strands them in the New World with only Cortez's horse and the treasure map for company. Seeking enough gold to "buy Spain", they set off into the jungles of Central America, where they'll find something worth much more than treasure.

The film was a pretty big flop, but it shouldn't have been; it's ridiculously fun to watch, especially so if you understand the idea behind the film. According to the producers, after seeing so many animated features whose heroes were upstaged by more memorable sidekicks, they decided to just cut out the typical "hero" characters and center the film on Those Two Guys in the first place. Essentially, the end result is a cartoon version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. With the plot of The Man Who Would Be King. With songs by Elton John.

As might be expected from the title and the two con-artists traveling plotline, the film is heavily influenced by the Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour series of Road To... films of the 1940s.

Tropes used in The Road to El Dorado include:

Tulio: [after Altivo fetches keys for an apple] For Pete's sake, Miguel! He's a ruthless warhorse, not a poodle!

  • Anti-Hero: Miguel and Tulio probably both count as Type II.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Tzekel-Kan and Hernan Cortez until the former meets the latter and becomes subservient to him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When it seems like Tulio and Chel's ship won't make it past the falling pillar, Miguel rides Altivo towards the ship to give him the impulse he needs to jump and pull the sail down so the ship can go faster and avoid certain death.
  • Blood Magic: Tzekel-Kan seems to power his magic with human sacrifice.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Tulio briefly imitates Miguel's British accent at the end.

Tulio: You had to be all 'Oh, look at me, look at me, I'm a god.'

  • Buffy-Speak: Miguel, when trying to explain why the boat is unacceptable.

Miguel: I have been around boats, believe me. And that, um... pointy tall... the-the-the long up and- up and down thing...
Chief: The mast?

    • Also when trying to get Altivo to find them a pry-bar.

Miguel: All you have to do is find a pry-bar! A long piece of iron with a hooky-thing at the end!

  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Both inverted and played straight. Miguel and Tulio do get into serious trouble for using loaded dice, but, on the other hand, if they hadn't cheated they wouldn't have gotten to El Dorado in the first place. Later on, cheating at the ball game saved their bacon. Then again, it only delayed things since it directly led to the Big Bad coming after them.
  • The Chew Toy: Tulio, though mostly during the "Trail We Blaze" sequence.
  • Con Man: Both of the protagonists.
  • Conspicuous CGI: I hear CGI Gold is the best kind of gold.
    • Justified Trope: They wrote special animation software to make the gold look "gold" rather than merely "yellow".
  • Contrived Coincidence: The guy the duo gambles against happens to have a map to El Dorado just as the Spanish Fleet is leaving for South America, the duo happen to wash up right on its shores after days adrift at sea, and a volcanic eruption happens (and cancels itself) just as the duo are asked for proof of their divinity.
  • Convection, Schmonvection
  • Cue the Rain: When Miguel and Tulio are adrift at sea with no food or water.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tulio, Miguel, and Chel. Well, it is a film about the sidekicks instead of the heroes...
  • Death Glare:
    • Tulio gives several of these to Miguel for digging themselves deeper into trouble.
    • Miguel himself gives a truly awesome one after his Shut UP, Hannibal speech.
    • Cortez, too, is good at these.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The "It's Tough to be a god" party sequence. Also a Mushroom Samba and Drunken Montage.
    • To be fair, it doesn't really get that acidy until near the end, where it's implied that they'd had a LOT to drink and smoke, and the wine/alcohol they'd been drinking was probably fairly strong, given that Tulio looks gobsmacked when he first takes a drink and Miguel spits it out.
  • Disneyesque
  • Disney Villain Death: Averted. See "Karmic Death" below.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Chel goes barefoot throughout the film.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The scene where Tzekel-Kan completes the potion that summons the huge jaguar stone-beast-thing. Orgasm much?
    • Speaking of orgasm face, Tulio really gets into that massage he's gives Chel.
  • Double Edged Answer: Tulio and Miguel manage to sneak off Cortez's ship with enough food to get back to Spain, with the unexpected event of Altivo jumping off the ship in chase of an apple. After saving themselves, the horse, and the boat, Altivo eats all of their food within seconds.

Tulio: Did any of the provisions make it?
Miguel: (Looks and sees Altivo eating) Well, yes and no...

  • Ear Worm: The opening theme. It even appears to be one in-universe, since Chel hums it casually while blackmailing Tulio and Miguel.
  • Enforced Method Acting: In a good way--Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline were actually in the recording booth together (which is rare; actors usually record their lines alone with someone else filling in the other characters) so they could play off each other and banter. It worked beautifully.
  • Eternal English: Played completely straight. Everybody - even the people of El Dorado - speaks English (though, being generous, it could be eternal Spanish).
    • Gets confusing when Chel needs to translate certain words for Tulio and Miguel, like the word for "spirit world".
  • Evil Is Hammy: Tzekel-Kan
  • Fan Service: Equal opportunity fanservice, no less. In addition to Chel's many lovely assets, there are plenty of scenes that show off the very nice bodies of the protagonists, including a changing scene bordering on Male Frontal Nudity.
    • They even lampshade it, with Tulio asking Chel (who is watching them change) "Do you mind?" She responds "No", and bites her lip. There's more than one gif that has superimposed the Tumblr logo over her face.
  • Femme Fatale: Chel.
  • Feud Episode: Tulio and Miguel nearly split up over Tulio's relationship with Chel.
  • Flynning: Justified when Tulio and Miguel do it deliberately during a (mostly) slice and dice rapier swordfight with each other, then reveal it's all an act to avoid being arrested.

Tulio: Ladies and gentlemen, we've decided it's a draw!
Miguel: Thank you all for coming! You've been great, see you soon!
Tulio: Adios!

    • The way it's staged suggests that they've done it before, and considering the film being set in the early 1500s (and the rapier being a civilian weapon) it's likely that both are in reality adequate fencers.
  • Funny Background Event: Miguel playing his mandolin during the gambling scenes.
    • Hee hee
    • When they first enter the city, Altivo mouths "El Dorado!" along with Tulio and Miguel.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Chel seduces Tulio.

Chel: (alarmed) The High Priest?! What's he going to think when if he finds one of the gods like this with me?!
Tulio: (dazed) Uh... lucky god?

    • "HOLY... SHIP!"
    • SO MANY lines and moments - but when Tulio starts talking about "Ascending Horizontally," even Miguel gets in on the joke.
    • There's a surprisingly easy-to-miss one right at the beginning: During the opening song, a pair of armadillos meet, sniff each other's noses, and disappear into a bush. The bush shakes around a bit and a moment later the two armadillos pop out again... followed by a bunch of babies.
  • God Guise: The basis of most of the plot. C'mon, it's a Mayincatec classic.
  • God Test: The Doradans challenge the explorers to a ballgame... two gods against 15 mortals.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: By monkeys!
  • Gratuitous Spanish
  • Hair of Gold: Miguel fits almost every aspect of the male version.
  • Hammerspace

Tulio: How did you get those?
Miguel: Where was she keeping them?

    • Played straight when Tzekel-Kan stows his codex under his tunic.
  • Hard Head: In attempting to figure out an escape plan, Tulio bangs his head on a wooden plank so often over a period of (we assume) months it leaves a worn, rounded dent in the shape of his forehead.
  • Hartman Hips: Chel.
  • Head Desk: Tulio is banging his head against a wall to try to figure out a way to escape from Cortez's ship. He appears to get an idea... but just resumes banging.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Miguel and Tulio.
  • Human Sacrifice: Threatened often, performed only once. "It just needs a little more... body.." Doubles as a Kick the Dog moment.
  • I Choose to Stay: Subverted.
  • Idiot Hair: Both Miguel and Tulio have it, though less pronounced.
  • Idiot Hero: Miguel and Tulio.
  • Ignored Enemy: Used twice.
  • I'm Okay: Used when a guard encounters the Jaguars foot. Then he gets stomped:

Guard: I'm still okay!

Tulio: Apparently, El Dorado is native for great...big...ROCK!!!

Miguel: Look on the positive side. At least things can't get--
Massive thunderstorm starts
Tulio: Excuse me. Were you going to say "worse"?
Miguel: Absolutely not. I've revised that whole thing.
Scene ends with a pan out showing sharks approaching.

Tulio: If it's any consolation, Miguel... you... made my life... an adventure! (sobs)
Miguel: And if it's any consolation, Tulio... you... made my life... rich!
Altivo: (rolls eyes)

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both protagonists. Though Tulio is more of a jerk than Miguel, they both end up saving the city from Cortez and Tzekel-Kan.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Everyone speaks English, period. The Spaniards sound like native-born Americans/Brits, most everyone else speaks with a Central American accent, and Tzekel-Kan has a dialect all his own.
  • Karma Houdini: Hernan Cortez. A foregone conclusion, sadly.
  • Karmic Death: Averted. It looks like Tzekel-Kan suffers a Disney Villain Death at one point, but it turns out he survived. Only to suffer a Fate Worse Than Death at the end, if Spanish slavery is anything to go by
  • Keet: Miguel is toeing the line here.
  • Kick the Dog: Tzekel-Kan sacrifices his loyal but not-too-bright right hand man to fuel a spell.
  • Knight Templar: Tzekel-Kan wants to purge the city of, what he believes, the wicked and unrighteous citizens of El Dorado.
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    • "Holy... Ship!"
    • Tulio: "...free from any tempta-- uh, distractions..."
  • Lean and Mean: Tzekel-Kan.
  • Lighter and Fluffier: The plot of the movie is based on Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King," which was made into a live action movie with Sean Connery and Michael Caine. The original story and the live adaptation are significantly darker.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: Chel's a sexier than usual version of this trope.
  • Living Statue: Using powerful magic, Tzkel-Kan brings to life a giant jaguar statue and controls it as a Marionette Master.
  • Loads and Loads of Roles: This films gives you your money's worth of Jim Cummings.
  • Loud Gulp: When Miguel and Tulio have to play a ball game they've never played before against fifteen of the best players in the city, and are expected to win since they are gods.
  • Lovable Rogue: Migel, Tulio, and Chel.
  • Marked Change: Tzekel-Kan gains Tron Lines on his body when he takes control of the stone jaguar.
  • Mayincatec: The native culture is sort of a blend of all the typical Hollywood Aztec/Mayan/Incan traits.
  • Meaningful Echo: "To err is human, to forgive Divine." First used as a means of appeasing Tzekel-Kan when they dismiss his "tribute". Later, said back to Miguel by the Chief all but saying out loud he knows Miguel isn't a god but doesn't care.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Altivo is Spanish for "arrogant".
    • And Miguel means "one who is like God".
    • Tulio means "That who leads".
    • Cortez is Cortés in Spanish, which means "polite".
  • My Grandma Can Do Better Than You Variant:

Miguel: You fight like my sister!
Tulio: I fought your sister; that's a compliment!

Miguel: Tulio, I just want you to know, I'm sorry about that girl in Barcelona.

    • Possibly, Chel's reasons for leaving El Dorado, which are never clarified, but her facial expression is more than a little suspicious in that instance.

Chel: You've got your reasons...and I've got mine.

      • In the junior novelization and storybooks, Tzekel-Kan was about to sacrifice her before the chief stopped him. This scene was the original opening to the movie before it was cut.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: For a Spaniard, Miguel sounds awfully... British. And, come to that, Tulio sounds awfully... American.
  • Not in the Face: Tulio while Flynning.

Tulio: (whispers) Not the face, not the face...

  • The Not-Secret: The Chief knew that Tulio and Miguel weren't gods.
  • Not-So-Great Escape: Takes on a pronounced zig zag through the beginning of the film: Miguel and Tulio avoid arrest through impressive Flynning only to fall into a bull pen. They make a dramatic exit with the bull mowing down some of their pursuers, jumping off of a high wall into open barrels full of water to elude the others. They pull the lids over themselves, only to be hoisted aboard a ship bound for the New World and have a large, heavy chest piled on top to keep them from getting out. At sea, the chest is removed, and they emerge dramatically in full view of the crew, promptly locked in irons for an involuntary audience with Cortez. They are thrown in the brig as stowaways and presumably flogged, eventually sneaking out in the dead of night with the help of Altivo's fetching skills. After another dramatic escape when Altivo jumps overboard, all three wind up at sea in a rowboat, dying of starvation and thirst. Fortunately, they miraculously beach themselves a stone's throw away from a landmark in their map to El Dorado.
  • Nubile Savage: Chel.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Around the middle of the movie Chief Tannabok hints that he already suspected that Miguel and Tulio weren't gods. He probably chooses not to divulge this because the "gods"' presence weakened the high priest's power and put a stop to human sacrificing, which he was clearly against. The fact they were pretty fun anyway probably helped.
  • Ocean Madness: Referenced after Miguel, Tulio, and their horse Al Tivo have been floating for God-knows how long and then suddenly wash ashore:

Miguel: And it is! It really is the map to El Dorado! *he pants with excitement*
Tulio: ...you drank the seawater, didn't you?

"Apparently, El Dorado is native for... "Great. Big. ROCK!!!" (echoes)
"Get. On. The horse."
"WHAT. Do you THINK. You're DOING?!?"
"...On the one hand - Gold! On the other hand (points at mural of an execution) - Painful. Agonizing. FAILURE."

Tulio: We just have to lie low.
Miguel: (beautiful music swells) But Tulio, this place is amazing! I mean I wonder what's-
Tulio: NO! (needle scratch) Don't even move!!!

Miguel: Tulio, look on the bright side! At least things can't get any-
(Cue pouring rain and thunder)
Tulio: Excuse me, were you going to say WORSE?
Miguel: Nnnno...no.
Tulio: You're sure?
Miguel: Absolutely not, I've revised that whole thing.
Tulio: We're at least in a rowboat.
Miguel: We're in a rowboat, exactly.
(Cue Everything's Even Worse with Sharks)

  • Scenery Porn: What'd you expect from the City of Gold? Also present everywhere during the "Trail We Blaze" sequence.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Miguel and Tulio. But, of course, you'd probably react the same way to a giant green stone jaguar breaking out of a temple. But less so when it's Chel.

Tulio: Miguel and Tulio!
Miguel: Tulio and Miguel!
Both: Mighty and Powerful Gods!
Chel: Hello!
Both: *squeal*

Miguel: "Look on the bright side, at least things can't ge-" (immediate thunderstorm)
Tulio: (angry) "Tell me, were you going to say 'worse?'"
Miguel: "Er... no"
They argue as the camera pulls out to show at least a half dozen sharks following their boat.

  • Thwarted Escape: After their impressive display of Flynning to avoid being arrested, Miguel and Tulio drop behind a stone wall, only to find they have fallen into the pen of a huge bull that doesn't seem too happy to see them.
  • Threat Backfire:

Miguel: That's right, do not question us! Or we shall have to unleash our awesome and terrible power, and you don't want that!
Tzekel-Kan: Well yes! We do!
Miguel: ...You do?...

Miguel: You fight like my sister!
Tulio: Ah ha! I've fought your sister! That's a compliment!

Miguel: You fight like my sister!
Tulio: Ah ha! I've fought your sister, but with my best sword!