Nadia vs. Atlantis, Revisited!

by Lee Zion, Jul 19th 2001

Nadia vs. Atlantis, Revisited!

A few months ago, I wrote an article about the uncanny similarities between the classic Japanese animation Nadia and the new Disney movie Atlantis — the first one to go in-depth in doing a side-by-side comparison, and pointing out that the two were far too similar to be a coincidence.

Although I would like to believe that the article was well researched — with commentary from the filmmakers at Disney — there was something missing. Both Nadia and Atlantis were inspired, in part, by Jules Vernes' 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Since I had neither read the book nor seen the Disney movie, I had no way of knowing how some comparisons between Nadia and Atlantis stacked up against the original source material.

For example, in both Nadia and Atlantis, the main characters start out on an American ship before boarding a futuristic submarine. Well, that happened in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — both the book and the movie. Also, in both Nadia and Atlantis, the ship passes through an underwater cavern — again, something that happened in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I even found at least one example where Nadia borrowed from Disney! In the movie version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nemo goes to his secret island base to destroy his power source — a scene not in the original book. That power source, from what little we see of it, consist of a few low generator buildings and a series of massive cables running up the mountainside. Nadia, which came out 30 years later, has a very similar-looking power source in episode 8.

To help make things clearer, here are the plots of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — both the book and the movie — along with the plots of both Nadia and Atlantis. A comparison chart is also included.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the book): Professor Arronax, while studying the mystery of an alleged sea monster attacking ships, gets knocked overboard his ship, when he is rescued, along with his manservant Conseil and harpoonist Ned Land. The three end up on a submarine — the machine that had been mistaken for a sea monster. Nemo, the captain of the Nautilus, considers them prisoners, but treats them with great civility. They go on hunts together, have a number of adventures together, and so forth. The structure of the novel is very episodic, and at no point is it revealed why Captain Nemo attacks only certain ships. All we know is that he is out to free the oppressed races of the Earth, and that the men who serve under him are unswervingly loyal in their quest. Arronax, Conseil and Ned eventually make their escape by using a boat attached to the submarine, just as Nemo, apparently suicidal over his mistakes as captain, aims his vessel for a massive whirlpool which seems to destroy the ship.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (the movie): Professor Arronax, while studying the mystery of an alleged sea monster attacking ships, gets knocked overboard his ship, when he is rescued, along with his manservant Conseil and harpoonist Ned Land. The three end up on a submarine — the machine that had been mistaken for a sea monster. Nemo, the captain of the Nautilus, considers them prisoners, and even threatens to throw them overboard. The Nautilus has a number of adventures, and over the course of time, Nemo gradually reveals why he attacks ships. He discovered a massive power source, similar to modern-day nuclear power. But when an unnamed warlike government found out about it, they tortured his wife and child to make him reveal the secret. Instead, he and his friends escape; they build the Nautilus, operating it with that mysterious power source. They then go on to attack ships of that government when they are laden with gunpowder; these ships explode with the collisions and sink. But Nemo, heartened by his conversations with the great professor, asks Arronax to be his emissary to the terrestrial nations, even offering his great power source as a gift. Unfortunately, Ned Land and Conseil, who have been working on an escape plan, have managed to communicate to the outside world the location of Nemo's secret base on the island of Volcania. Nemo arrives to find his island surrounded by the ships of this unknown government; he runs the blockade and enters a complex of small industrial buildings to blow up the power source so it won't fall into enemy hands. The troops arrive; Nemo is shot fatally as he makes his way back to the Nautilus. The sub escapes; Nemo announces his intention to scuttle his vessel. Everyone is with Nemo on this except for Arronax, Conseil and Ned Land, who escape in the confusion as the ship sinks for the last time and the entire island blows up.

Nadia: Jean, King and Nadia are hunted by international jewel thieves who are after Nadia's mysterious jewel. On the run, they end up aboard an American battleship pursuing a mysterious sea monster allegedly attacking ships. Eventually, they find themselves aboard a submarine called the Nautilus, whose commander, Captain Nemo, is fighting against a fleet of subs commanded by the evil Gargoyle. His “Garfish” have been mistaken for the sea monster. As Jean and Nadia travel with Captain Nemo, they learn that the jewel that Nadia wears around her neck is connected to the power source for Atlantis, which is why Gargoyle and his henchmen are so interested in it. Eventually, a combined force of Garfish and air attacks come close to destroying the Nautilus. As the vessel sinks, never to rise again, Nemo places Nadia, Jean, King and new friend Marie into a special compartment and jettisons them. The four of them make it to the surface and have additional adventures on a series of mysterious islands before they finally go off into outer space.

Atlantis: Milo Thatch, a young man who's an expert at archeology and language, is invited to join an expedition, commanded by Captain Roarke, to find the lost city of Atlantis. He boards a sub to take him there; but along the way the vessel is attacked by a giant crustacean-like creature. The few that survive travel through underground caves, which lead them to a lost civilization. As Milo investigates the area with one of the women of the tribe, Princess Kida, he finds a massive power source — a large round floating thing that Milo calls a jewel. He also discovers that the small jewel Kida wears around her neck — along with the jewels everyone else in Atlantis wears — is connected with that power source. But then, Captain Roarke reveals his true intentions. He's out to steal that power source and bring it back to the surface, selling it to the highest bidder. Ultimately, Kida bonds with the massive jewel and is taken prisoner by Roarke; Milo mounts a rescue. After a climactic battle at the base of a dormant volcano, Milo brings Kida back to Atlantis, where she uses the power of the jewel to save the city.

Now, let's take a look at that comparison chart:

 

 

20K (book)

20K (movie)

Nadia

Atlantis

Year story takes place

1867

1867

1889

1914

Action begins

on board American ship, before action moves to sub

on board American ship, before action moves to sub

on board American ship, before action moves to sub

On board American ship, before action moves to sub

Submarine's name

Nautilus

Nautilus

Nautilus

Ulysses

Sub commander

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo

Captain Roarke

Other crew members

Undefined

Mostly undefined, except for Christopher Lee-like first mate

Blonde lady second-in-command, plus bald black doctor and a few other characters

Blonde lady second-in-command, plus bald black doctor and many other motley characters

Nationalities of sub's crew?

Undefined; supposedly international

Crew looks suspiciously Caucasian

International

International

Funeral held for...

Crewman killed in fight with unknown ship, underwater in coral reef

Crewman killed in fight with Arronax's ship, underwater in coral reef

Crewman killed after fight with American ship, in Atlantis

Many crewmen killed after battle with sea monster, on shore in cave during trek to Atlantis

Sub battles with sea monster

Giant squid

Giant squid

Giant mollusk of some kind; possibly squid

Giant mechanical beast that looks like a crustacean

Sub passes through underwater tunnel

Between Red Sea and Mediterranean

To center of lagoon leading to Nemo's secret island base

To Nemo's secret base in Antarctica

To Atlantis

Submarine finds Atlantis

Underwater; dead civilization

N/A

Below water surface in large chamber filled with air; dead civilization

Below water surface in large chamber filled with air; living civilization

Futuristic, industrial power source on...

N/A

Nemo's secret base — an island with lagoon; cables run up mountainside

Gargoyle's secret base — an island with lagoon; cables run up mountainside

N/A

Crystalline power source

N/A

N/A

In Atlantis; large rhomboid jewel linked to small, blue jewel worn around neck of heroine

In Atlantis; large round glowing thing linked to small, blue jewel worn around neck of heroine

Sub destroyed by...

Nemo; heroes escape in attached craft as vessel seems to sink for the  last time

Nemo; heroes escape in attached craft as vessel sinks for the last time

Gargoyle; heroes escape in attached craft as vessel seems to sink for the last time

Giant mechanical beast; heroes escape in miniature pods as submarine explodes

So, having said all this, can we still suspect that the makers of Atlantis copied Nadia? Well, as I said earlier, there are too many similarities not connected with 20,000 Leagues for the whole thing to be coincidence. (The oversized round glasses of the hero in both stories, the fact that the dark-skinned heroine wears a jewel around her neck which is connected with the power source of Atlantis, and the similarities of 3 members of the Sub's crew). However, it's harder to make the case for outright plagiarism. I'm curious to hear your opinion.


When not watching anime, Lee Zion writes about small business, environmental and transportation issues for the San Diego Business Journal. He is also the author of Ferriman's Law, a murder mystery with several anime references. The book is available at Amazon.com; more information about the author is available at leezion.com.
Editor's Note: For the best researched counterpoint to this article, please read Dr. Marc Hairston Disney's Atlantis and Nadia.

bookmark/share with:

Feature archives

Around The Web