Hans Zimmer made his biggest pre-Gladiator splash with his Oscar winning score to The Lion King where his synergy with African music paid great dividends - even if it did ride on the back of his equally good African stylings of The Power of One. Working with Zimmer was Elton John, who penned the enjoyable songs, from which the hit Can You Feel the Love Tonight emerged. While Zimmer worked with Stephen Schwartz for Dreamworks' first animated feature The Prince of Egypt, for the somewhat less ambitious The Road to El Dorado, he was re-teamed with Elton John who in turn worked again with lyricist Tim Rice.
As a film, The Road to El Dorado rather unfortunately fell below the radar and consequently didn't really enjoy the huge success it should perhaps have had. It lacked the visual splendour and dramatic gravitas of Prince of Egypt and consequently had no specific draw, despite being a witty and beautifully made animation with the superb combination of Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh as the lead vocals. It seems that you have to be making some kind of technical breakthrough in animation to be of note these days, which is a shame I think. The score album is pitched as Elton John's The Road to El Dorado and indeed is mainly his songs, some of which didn't actually feature in the film at all. The ones that did feature are undoubtedly the best.
Particular favourites include the catchy El Dorado, The Trail We Blaze and the funky 16th Century Man. Some of the more ballady songs are frankly a bit bland. John never seems to quite find the 'big tune' that he did with Can You Feel the Love Tonight. One rather unfortunate inclusion is a due with Randy Newman. Now I'm a huge Newman fan, but frankly employing him purely for his singing is a bit like employing Trevor Rabin to score Shakespeare. The result being that he seems a little ill at ease, his range not really sufficient for the melody and his performance occasionally uncomfortable.
Hans Zimmer's score gets a pretty meager 13 minutes which is a shame since it's an enjoyable, Hispanic flavoured offering. Again guitarist Heitor Pereira's contribution is a crucial ingredient, along with some inventive vocal writing. Being so short, it never quite establishes itself and doesn't particularly gel with the songs. Unfortunately, The Road to El Dorado as a musical offering unfortunately never reaches the enjoyment or memorability of The Lion King. As an Elton John album it's enjoyable with quite a few catchy numbers, although isn't really as consistently good as it ought to be, but those only after Zimmer's score would be advised to seek it for second hand given the amount included on the CD, good though it is.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad