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They came for the gold. They stayed for the adventure.

The Road to El Dorado (also known as El Dorado) is a 2000 American animated musical adventure comedy film directed by Eric "Bibo" Bergeron and Don Paul, with additional sequences by Will Finn and David Silverman, starring Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, and Rosie Perez, and produced by DreamWorks. The soundtrack features songs by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, as well as a score by composer Hans Zimmer.

The movie begins in the 16th-century Seville, Spain, and tells about two men named Tulio and Miguel. During a dice game using loaded dice, they win a map that supposedly shows the location of El Dorado, the legendary city of gold in the New World. However, their cheating is soon discovered and as a result, they end up as stowaways on Hernan Cortes' fleet to conquer Mexico. They are discovered but manage to escape in a boat with Cortes' prized war horse and eventually discover the hidden city of El Dorado, where they are mistaken for gods. The film received mixed reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb. To date, it is the only DreamWorks Animation film not to recover its budget.


In Spain 1519, two Spanish con-men, Tulio and Miguel win a map to the legendary City of Gold, El Dorado, in a rigged gambling match (though ironically they end up winning the map fairly). After being accused of cheating with loaded dice, the two evade capture while being chased by a bull and hide in barrels, which are shortly loaded onto one of the ships to be led by Hernan Cortes to the New World. During the trip, they are caught as stowaways but manage to break free and take a rowboat with the help of Cortes' horse, Altivo. They land at an unknown shore at the edge of Mexico, and Miguel begins to recognize landmarks stated on the map. The map leads them to a relief outside of a waterfall where a young woman approaches them, chased by a number of guards. The guards see the image of Tulio and Miguel riding Altivo as the same on the totem, and believing them to be gods, escort them and the woman under the falls and into El Dorado, truly a city made of gold.

Tulio and Miguel are brought to the city's elders, Chief Tannabok and wicked high priest Tzekel-Kan. While Tannabok warmly welcomes them to the city, Tzekel-Kan mainly sees them as a way to enhance his own standing. Tzekel-Kan also believes that with the arrival of the gods comes "The Year of the Jaguar", a year in which the city will be purged of all wicked people. Tulio and Miguel begin to argue on what to do. Everyone is convinced they are gods when as a volcano is beginning to erupt, Tulio yells at Miguel to stop, and the volcano suddenly stops. After celebrations offered by both Tannabok and Tzekel-Kan, the two are taken to private quarters along with the woman they met earlier, Chel, who has seen through their ploy but offers to help maintain it as long as they give her a share of the gold and take her with them when they leave. Tulio tells Tannabok the next day they are only here for a visit but will need a boat built to leave the city with the gifts the city has showered upon them.

Tannabok says it will take them at least three days to construct a vessel to carry both them and the gifts given to them by the people of El Dorado. Chel encourages Miguel to continue to explore the city while she gets close to Tulio. Miguel finds the streets empty and sees an old man being pushed by a guard, who tells him Tzekel-Kan had ordered the streets cleared to prepare for a sacrifice by the gods' orders. Miguel begins playing the guitar and begins to bond with the people. When Tzekel-Kan sees Miguel playing a ball game with the children, he demands that the gods play against the city's best players. Tulio and Miguel are clearly over-matched during the match, but Chel replaces the ball with a rolled-up armadillo, allowing the two to cheat and win the game. However, when Tzekel-Kan offers to have the defeated players sacrificed, Miguel declares there is no need for sacrifices or him.

While leaving, Tzekel-Kan sees a small cut on Miguel's forehead and realizes that he is not a god. Tzekel-Kan conjures a giant stone jaguar to chase them through the city. Tulio and Miguel manage to outwit the stone jaguar, causing both it and Tzekel-Kan to fall into a giant whirlpool, thought to be the entrance to Xibalba, the spirit world. Tzekel-Kan comes outside El Dorado, where Cortes and his men are searching for gold. Thinking Cortes is a true god, Tzekel-Kan quickly offers to lead them to El Dorado. With their boat completed and loaded with gold, Tulio is ready to leave, but Miguel announces that he will be staying because he finds the city peaceful. As Tulio and Chel start to leave, they spot smoke on the horizon, realizing that Cortes and his men are quickly approaching the city with the help of Tzekel-Kan. To protect the city from the Spanish troops, Tulio determines they can use the boat to slam against rock formations under the waterfall path that will cave in and block access to the city.

The city's residents start to pull down a large statue to create a wave to propel the boat, but Tulio cannot get the sails up to give the boat enough speed to avoid the statue. Miguel forgoes his chance to stay in the city and jumps into the boat with Altivo to hoist the sails. The boat clears the statue in time, and Tulio's plan is successful; though the boat and its treasures are lost, the entrance to El Dorado is sealed for good. Tulio, Miguel, Chel, and Altivo hide as Tzekel-Kan brings Cortes and his men towards the waterfall. Once Tzekal-Kan finds out that the entrance has been blocked, an angry Cortes takes this as a lie. Cortes and his men then march away with a humiliated Tzekel-Kan in their hands. Tulio and Miguel, though disappointed they lost their treasure, take off in a different direction for a new adventure (with Chel), unaware that Altivo still wears the golden horseshoes he was outfitted with within the city.



Under the working title El Dorado: City of Gold, the film was originally scheduled for release in the fall of 1999. During production, the filmmakers drew much inspiration for the characters of Miguel and Tulio from those of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby Road to... films. "The 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", remarked one of the film's producers Bonne Radford. Unusually for an animated film, both Kline and Branagh recorded their lines in the same studio together, in order for the two to achieve more realistic chemistry. This proved difficult for the audio team.

In late 1996, Tim Rice and Elton John were asked to compose seven songs, which they immediately worked on. In February 1999, before the release of Tim Rice and Elton John's Aida, it was announced that ten songs have been composed for El Dorado. It was also announced that the release date has been pushed to March 2000.

The creation of the film was a challenge for the studio because DreamWorks Animation had devoted most of its creative efforts to its previous animated film, The Prince of Egypt.


Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews from critics; it holds a 48% "rotten" rating out of 104 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, with 50 positive reviews, making this the first DreamWorks animated film to earn a "rotten" rating; the consensus states: "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".

Paul Clinton of CNN wrote, "The animation is uninspiring and brings nothing new to the table of animation," praising the Elton John/Tim Rice songs, but noting the weak plot.

In contrast, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a thumbs up and commented that it was "bright and zesty," having enjoyed it as a simple comedic farce, while Joel Siegel, on Good Morning America, called it "solid gold," claiming the film was "paved with laughs."

Box office

The film earned $12,846,652 on opening weekend at #2, behind previous year's 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 disaster, unable to recoup its $95 million budget.

Video game

The video game tie-in, released on PlayStation, Game Boy Color, and PC, was named Gold & Glory: The Road to El Dorado. It was developed by Planet Interactive for Game Boy Color and Revolution Software for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation.

Gold and Glory: The Road to El Dorado received mixed reviews Aggregating review website GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PC version 60.40%, the Game Boy Color version 59.20% and the PlayStation version 51.89% and 34/100.

Home media

The Road to El Dorado was released on DVD and VHS on December 12, 2000.

Cultural references

Dreamworks references

  • Tzekel-Kan's sacred book contains a picture of a man fishing from the moon, a parody of the Dreamworks logo.




  • Earth
    • Atlantic Ocean (First appearance)
    • Europe (First appearance)
      • Spain (First appearance)
        • Barcelona (First mentioned)
    • North America
      • Cuba (First mentioned)
      • Mexico (First appearance)
    • South America (First appearance)
      • El Dorado (First appearance)


  • Spanish Empire (First appearance)




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