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The Road To El Dorado Has A Secret Homage To Steven Spielberg & Jaws

For the attentive Steven Spielberg fan, The Road to El Dorado (2000) makes a secret homage to 1975's classic man-vs-nature thriller Jaws. Recently re-evaluated as a cult classic comedy in the streaming age, following poor box office results during its initial release, The Road to El Dorado follows the adventures of blonde and brunette Spanish con-artists Miguel (voiced by Kenneth Branagh) and Tulio (voiced by Kevin Kline) to the legendary City of Gold: El Dorado. Self-interested and anti-heroic, Miguel and Tulio con their way from the streets of Spain to the luxurious quarters of El Dorado, with the intent of stealing a boatload of gold from the New World.

As the film that put Spielberg on the map and arguably pioneered the American blockbuster, Jaws was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean. Due to the slippery shooting location and a malfunctioning mechanical shark, Spielberg had to get creative with his depiction of the titular shark. Rather than explicitly showing the shark, as was common of the "creature feature" genre up to this point, Spielberg decided to give the shark a more terrifyingly, ominously suggestive presence, an effect achieved in large part by composer John Williams' now-famous score. Through countless parodies, such as the shark's easter egg cameo in The Road to El Dorado, the shark's ominous presence has since permeated much of pop culture.

Related: Is Steven Spielberg's Jaws A Horror Movie Or Not?

The homage to Spielberg's Jaws occurs in The Road to El Dorado roughly 13 minutes into the movie, while the two con-artist protagonists are traveling by rowboat to the new world. Hungry, haggard, and lost at sea, Miguel and Tulio are fortuitously presented with a mouthwatering sea-bird perched on the end of one of their paddles. Unfortuitously, this feathery snack is immediately snatched away by a large shark. The shark appears in the fashion of the classic Jaws movie poster and book cover, its underside facing us as the great white shark ascends menacingly towards its prey.

No doubt, as the movie that made director Spielberg the quintessential American blockbuster filmmaker, Jaws holds a special place in the director's heart. As co-founder of DreamWorks Animation, which produced The Road to El Dorado, Spielberg likely had an influence over many of DreamWorks' productions. Four years after The Road to El Dorado, the link between Spielberg and DreamWorks is made even more explicit in DreamWorks' Shark Tale (2004), which opens with the lunar boy fisherman on the DreamWorks' logo tempting a shark with worm-bait, the worm anxiously shivering on its hook as a shark approaches singing John Williams' suspenseful theme song from Jaws.

As one of the more adult-themed animated films, The Road to El Dorado is stock-full of jokes and references that flew over the heads of its kid audiences. Initially intended as a PG-13 flick, The Road to El Dorado had to scale down its risqué themes and visuals to a PG rating level. Even so, The Road to El Dorado preserves much of its PG-13 maturity, perhaps explaining why this film achieved greater success later as its kid audience grew up to become Jaws-watching adults.

Next: Every Steven Spielberg Sci-Fi Movie Ranked From Worst to Best

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