You ask any hardcore Disney fan what’s the one movie that deserves to be made into a live-action film and the response will be the same, The Little Mermaid. But aside from that (which is in the works and will be out before we know it), they’ll say Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Released in Disney’s experimental era, Atlantis follows linguist Milo Thatch (Michael J. Fox) who uses an ancient manuscript to bring his eccentric crew to the forgotten continent of Atlantis.
The animated feature is a high-stakes adventure that feels reminiscent of Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones. But it’s also a stab in the dark at a non-traditional Disney princess film. Atlantis is many things at once. And because of that, it’s often misunderstood or forgotten in the stockpile of more popular films. While Atlantis: The Lost Empire may not be the most widely spoken about Disney property, its cult-classic nature, and enthusiastic fans keep its namesake afloat (lol, afloat).
The art style of Atlantis has a comic book quality that pairs perfectly with the larger-than-life characters of the film. Gaetan “The Mole” (Corey Burton) has an affinity for digging and is an expert mineralogist. Vinny Santorini (Don Novello) is an Italian explosives enthusiast whose family owns a flower shop. And Princess Kida (Cree Summer, also the voice of Susie Carmichael of Rugrats) is a brave and independent royal who aims to restore Atlantis to its original valor. With characters so rich in diversity and personality, the job of casting them in a hypothetical live-action setting was pure fun.
The idea of a live-action Atlantis is not something the Twitter community and Tumblr kids haven’t beaten to death with persistent fandom wishlists. It’s taken me months and an epic note on my phone (that I touch almost anytime I’m in transit) to craft a cast that is realistic, sensible, and probable.
Please remember before you embark on your Atlantean voyage ahead, these are my casting choices. So, it’s awesome if you want Milo to be played by a de-aged Rick Moranis, but you’re going to have to Little Shop around for someone else to listen, I’m too busy submerged in the depths of my own imagination over here.
Tom Holland as Milo Thatch
Milo needs to be equal parts smart and likable, and able to pull off a striking pair of oversized glasses. In short, anyone who has played Peter Parker would be a great candidate. Tom Holland is my first choice. Andrew Garfield almost took the top spot, but Tom is beloved by Gen Z and would bring a very specific type of viewership a lot of the other potentials could not. We need to stay relevant with the kids. Am I right “Hollandberries”? What are Tom Holland stans called? “Hollandaise-ers”? Forget it.
Michael Douglas as Preston B. Whitmore
A dear friend of Milo’s departed grandfather, Preston B. Whitmore is a zany millionaire who sets the entire Atlantis expedition in motion. Michael Douglas’s grounded nature and exemplary acting abilities could sell viewers on the reality of a lost continent while maintaining a softness towards Holland’s Milo. It could be a shot in the dark, but I feel like there could be an on-screen mentor-like chemistry here?
Kiana Ledé as Princess Kida Nedakh
Kiana Ledé is an incredible singer and actress. I first saw her in the short-lived Scream on MTV and her performance was absolutely scene-stealing. Kida is a fierce warrior but she’s also incredibly empathetic. It was tough trying to find a candidate who could fit the mold perfectly, but I think Ledé hits the nail on the head. The photo on the right (above) really has big Kida energy with the white/gray braids and oversized necklace. There’s no denying the resemblance.
Jack Black as Gaetan “Mole” Molière
Mole is the humor of Atlantis. He needs to be portrayed by a full-time funnyman but also someone who will fully commit to the grubbiness and oddity that is Gaetan. Jack Black is our man. Physical comedy, a master of accent work and he exudes a similar personal stature (it works for him). With Black behind the wheel of Mole’s Digger machine, I’m sure the writers would give this filthy character a larger role and all the family-friendly dirty jokes one could ever want.
Milo Ventimiglia as Vincenzo “Vinny” Santorini
I’m going to be transparent here folks; when I saw Milo Ventimiglia with a mustache in This Is Us promotional material I exclaimed aloud that he’d make an awesome Vinny. That’s how we got here. Although I don’t watch that show, I’ve seen him in so many projects and he acts with such sensitivity and complexity which would translate well for this character. It’s a dynamite match. Ventimiglia, shave the mustache and I’m picking someone else.
Jenna Ortega as Audrey Ramirez
Audrey is one of the most underrated characters in Atlantis. When the crew decides to abandon Rourke’s evil plan and side with Milo, she’s the first to join his side. Jenna Ortega was my only choice for Audrey the engineer. She literally looks like the animated character come to life. The more you look at it, the creepier it is. In an impressive way, of course.
Terry Crews as Doctor Joshua Sweet
Terry Crews isn’t just my top choice for this role, he’s everyone’s top choice. Every single fancast I’ve ever seen has Crews as Doctor Sweet because he embodies the character perfectly. So I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m leaving a good thing alone. “A doctor to play keeps the Terry Crews fans at bay.” That’s what I always say.
Willie Nelson as Jebidiah “Cookie” Farnsworth
Cookie doesn’t know what lettuce is but Willie Nelson knows what the devil’s lettuce is. I think audiences would get a chuckle seeing Nelson take on this character. The role is small enough to pull off for a busy musician but big enough to still be memorable. Maybe we can give Cookie a good ol’ campfire song? While casting Willie, the thought of a potential musical number was… always on my mind. The puns keep on coming.
Lily Thomlin as Wilhelmina Packard
To say that Lily Thomlin is a comedy legend would be a massive understatement. Her chops are out of this world. I would bet money on Thomlin effortlessly landing every uplifting Wilhelmina Packard one-liner, such as “We’re all gonna die.” Someone please give Lily the headset and let her brash humor echo over the intercom.
Jennifer Lawrence as Helga Sinclair
If there’s going to be a paragraph to get me cancelled in this article, its this one. JLaw is kind of hit and miss for me (being nice) but she could handle the intrigue of Helga Sinclair with flying colors. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Helga was Ruby Rose in other drafts of this article, but is it me, or does Ruby Rose quit everything? Batwoman on the CW. Her relationship with one of the Veronicas?
Jennifer Lawrence is reliable. She has star quality, can do the stunts and more than anything I’d believe her as a stern and self-concerned baddie. Like Mystique could have been if she was played differently. And by “differently” I mean correctly. I know I should blame the writers, but I’m salty.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Commander Lyle Rourke
Jeffrey Dean Morgan knows how to play a compelling villain. As Negan on The Walking Dead, we’ve seen JDM use charisma, sarcasm and muscle to captivate and scare audiences. Commander Lyle Rourke has the same kind of threatening energy about him. I don’t like to typecast actors but they look too much alike to ignore this opportunity.
Morgan Freeman as King Kashekim Nedakh
Morgan Freeman might as well be real-life royalty in my book. Picking Freeman as King Nedakh was a no-brainer. His mere presence has an elevated, regal-feeling. He’s a leader by nature, may as well channel his gifts into the soul of an ancient Atlantean.
More BTB Live-Action Fancasts
Thanks for reading. Leave a comment below suggesting which animated movie I should make a live-action fancast for next.
Stream Atlantis: The Lost Empire now on Disney+