The Road to El Dorado (2000) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Two swindlers get their hands on a map to the fabled city of gold, El Dorado.

  • The story is about two swindlers who get their hands on a map to the fabled city of gold, El Dorado, while pulling off some sort of scam. Their plan goes bad and the rogues end up lost at sea after several misfortunes. Oddly enough, they end up on the shores of El Dorado, and are worshipped by the natives for their foreign appearances.

  • The story is about two swindlers Miguel and Tulio, two wanted conmen who gets their hands on a map to the fabled city of gold, El Dorado. After they are shipwrecked in the New World with a scene-stealing horse. The pair follow a map to the secret city where their loyalty will be tested: do they return home rich men or continue to live in this paradise? Of course there are some obstacles: a high priest is locked in a power struggle with the benevolent chief and the perfunctory girlfriend puts the two friends at odds. But in the end, they must make a huge moral decision that leads to a swashbuckling conclusion.

  • In 1517, Spanish-wanted street swindlers Miguel and Tulio's uncanny luck gets them a map to El Dorado, and a stowaway passage, albeit in Cortez's stocks destined for floggings and slavery in Cuba. They escape, thanks to the war horse Altivo; a storm brings them onto a Mexican shore fitting the map, so they enter the city, where High Priest Tzekel-Kan welcomes them as the prophesied gods, accidentally confirmed by a volcanic rumble. Only temple thief Chel sees trough their game, so she's allowed into the scam to steal the golden treasure. They abolish human sacrifices and learn the High Priest rivals for power with the Chief, so they play them against each other. Meanwhile, Cortez arrives and follows the tramps' trail. When Tzekel-Kan tricks Tullio into reintroducing sacrifices, the river of blood tradition requires to start the jaguar age, Miguel braves him, making a dangerous enemy who uses black magic having realized they're mortal. Now two major dangers attack the city and its"'patron gods".


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The Road to El Dorado

    This is an animation and the voice actors are credited. The songs, by Elton John and Tim Rice, are usually known by titles other than their first lines: both are referenced.

    The movie opens with the legend of the creation of El Dorado, the city of Gold, by the Divinities, a thousand years ago (Song: 'El Dorado, The Magnificent' ('Our glorious city')).

    In Spain, 1519, Cortez (Jim Cummings) is preparing to set sail. Playing dice with Zaragoza (Tobin Bell), one of his crew - and with loaded dice! - are con-men Tulio (Kevin Kline) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh), who win a map showing the location of El Dorado, but who are then discovered and, faking an argument between them to distract the crowd, flee: through a set of misadventures involving an escaped bull and a set of narrow streets, they end up inside two water-barrels which are loaded onto Cortez's ship.

    Discovered at sea, Tulio and Miguel are locked in the brig, but manage to escape with the aid of Altivo, Cortez's horse (Frank Welker), who fetches them the keys in return for an apple. They steal a boat, and (along with Altivo) try to reach land: when they do so, they realize they are at the first marker on the map (a stone shaped like an eagle's head) and so decide to follow the trail to El Dorado (Song: 'The trail that we blaze' ('Look out, New World, here we come'). En route they come across an armadillo, which they save and which accompanies them, and various other markers (the shadow of an eagle, a weeping face, a dragon, etc.) until they come to the final marker, a stone stele bearing an image of the Divinities of El Dorado and their steed, which closely resemble Tulio, Miguel and Altivo.

    Here Tulio angrily offers 'his half of the big rock' to Miguel: but they are interrupted by a girl, Chel (Rosie Perez), who is running away from El Dorado closely pursued by guards. The guards take everyone by a secret waterway-passage hidden behind the waterfall to the city of El Dorado, where they are met by Chief Tani (Edward James Olmos) and the High Priest, Tzekel-kan (Armand Assante). Hailed as gods (helped by a short start-and-stop of the local volcano) at the coming of the Age of the Jaguar, Tulio and Miguel are taken to their quarters in the temple atop one of the pyramids. Chel, who wants to leave El Dorado, agrees to help them with their scam.

    The Chief organizes a splendid party for everyone that evening (Song: 'It's good to be a god' ('I hardly think I'm qualified'), which Tulio and Miguel thoroughly enjoy, but they interrupt and stop Tzekel-kan's intended human sacrifice at dawn, also preventing too much of the gold being also tossed into a whirlpool (supposedly the gateway to the spirit realm of Shivalva). The gold is taken to the temple, (there is a cut to Cortez landing and finding the trail), and Tulio and Miguel negotiate a ship from Chief Tani, to be built in three days. At the temple, Tulio is becoming increasingly nervous about the success of the con: he is relaxed by Chel, whilst Miguel sneaks off to see the city (Song: 'The more I learn' (ibid)), where he makes friends with the people. Spotted by Tzekel-kan, Tulio is interviewed by him about how he wants his sacrifices: Tulio and Miguel are then challenged to an Aztec football match, which they win by substituting the armadillo for the ball: however, when offered the sacrifice of the losing team, Miguel reacts angrily, and dismisses Tzekel-kan. The two friends are now drifting apart: Miguel, in an interview with the Chief about the ship, reveals he really wants to stay, and Tulio, increasingly in love with Chel, wants to take her and the gold and leave.

    Tzekel-kan has however noted that Miguel has cut himself, and 'the gods do not bleed': using a book of magic potions, and the body of his acolyte (Duncan Majoribanks), he brings the giant stone statue of a jaguar to life and under his control. The jaguar pursues Tulio and Miguel across the city and through the volcano to the place of sacrifice above the whirlpool: using a variant of their escape in Spain, Tulio and Miguel trick Tzekel-kan and the jaguar so that both fall into the whirlpool. Tzekel-kan fetches up at the feet of Cortez, and agrees to show him the secret way to the city.

    In El Dorado, Miguel has decided to stay, and Tulio and Chel to go (Song: 'Friends never say goodbye' ('There isn't much I haven't shared')), and the farewell celebrations and the ship-load of gold are ready when news comes of Cortez's and Tzekel-kan's approach. Tulio decides the only way to save the city is to block the waterway-passage by crashing the ship into its roofs' supporting pillars: to provide extra impetus it is decided to overturn one of the great cisterns near the tunnel entrance. Unfortunately this starts to move faster than expected, and to get the ship clear Miguel has to dive from Altivo's back onto the ship to free the sail. The ship then races down the passage and destroys the roof supports as planned: Miguel, Tulio, Chel and Altivo (and the armadillo) hide to see Tzekel-kan faced with the blocked passage, and Cortez's anger. The guys are saddened at the loss of the treasure - it was SO MUCH GOLD! - but ride off to other adventures. (Credits' song: 'Here comes the night' (ibid)).

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