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Pet Sins March 2001

The Road to El Dorado

Dreamwork's 2nd cartoon feature, The Road to El Dorado is a fictional account of two Spanish conmen who stowaway on a ship bound for the New World. Miguel and Tulio reach the legendary city of gold before the evil Spanish conquistador Cortez.

There, the scrawny Tulio takes up with a native temple attendant Chel. Chel, voiced by Rosie Perez, offers to help the Europeans con the locals if they would take her away from El Dorado when they leave. This seems to be recurring theme in American movies: the woman of color is portrayed as more closely allied with the interests of white men rather than with the interests of her own community.

el dorado
To be fair, there were some less stereotypical things about the film: the 2 white guys were drawn as scrawny and weak compared to the strong strapping First Nations men, who soundly trashed them at a ball game. This is a nice change from other cartoon features that draw side characters sloppily. Compare this with Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame the gypsy men who were minor characters were all drawn as scrawny or fat, with not much attention to facial detail or personality. Of course the white hero Phoebus was drawn as a hunk. The Road to El Dorado reversed this phenomenon.

But one wonders how can a scrawny white guy like Tulio gain the affections of the voluptuously-drawn Chel without much effort. Chel offers her affections without Tulio's asking. Perhaps an idea rooted in the stereotype of the permissive native woman eager to please white men? Chel is one of a long line of female cartoon heroines of color paired with a white male love interest. The reverse - a man of color paired with a white woman - is much rarer in cartoons.