Vault Disney

Vault Disney #40 – The Emperor’s New Groove

Original Release: December 15, 2000

Runtime: 78 Minutes

Directed By: Mark Dindal

Notable Actors: David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt, Patrick Warburton and Wendie Malick

Today is an extremely special day for two reasons. The first is that it is my birthday! Today I am 28 years old and while I only have two years left until 30 and I lose my mind, today is not that day so I am thankful. The other great reason is that, as it is my birthday, today’s article is all about my number one favorite movie of all time. I love this movie with a crazy passion. I know all the lines. There was a time in my adult life when I watched it once a month to cheer me up. Parts of my personality were developed from this movie. If a movie could be my spirit animal, this would be it. So sit back, relax, and let me tell you, in a 100% biased way, why this movie is so amazing.

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I too am often thrown off by old men.

But first, some history. Luckily, this film has a super positive history where all the creators got what they wanted and…what’s that? Oh dear, I’ve just been handed a card informing me that the history of this film is quite sordid with lots of drama and tears. Oh geez, and to make matters worse, Sting is involved. Yikes, this is going to be rough. Alright, let’s figure this all out. Originally conceived as the very very different Kingdom of the Sun, Roger Allers and Matthew Jacobs had the idea for a vast and sweeping epic. It dealt with Incan mythology and was a tale of learning humility in a similar way to the Prince and the Pauper. Sure, Yzma was there and so was the fact that the emperor, by the name of Manco at the time, was changed into a Lama. But the story was vastly different and even more so was the tone.

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Don’t forget, this is a story about Kuzco.

By 1998 though, it was clear that Kingdom of the Sun was running behind schedule and that it was not going to meet the summer of 2000 release date. The issue that happens here, when dealing with a big company like Disney, is that corporate sponsorships and advertising deals happen far in advance. This meant that if Kingdom of the Sun missed its date, they would fail to fulfill contracts with McDonalds and Coca-Cola and would thus lose quite a bit of money. At this realization, Allers requested a six month extension. When he was told no, he left the project. At this time, Kingdom had already cost nearly $30 million and was, for all intents and purposes, dead.

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Like this Yzma chicken…

From here, the film would be overhauled. In this time, characters like Pacha and Kronk were added in (Pacha being changed significantly from his original form) and the idea was pitched by David Reynolds, who was a late night comedy writer, to make the film into a buddy comedy, similar to a more updated Chuck Jones cartoon. Manco was also changed to Kuzco as a word very similar to Manco in Japanese refers to a ladies parts. Bullet dodged.

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Um, I’ve been turned into a cow. Can I go home?

Amidst all of this was Sting, who had a documentary made about the songs he wrote for the film, many of which were dropped. The documentary, The Sweatbox, deals with all the craziness of the film and how things were changed and then changed again. He almost left the project several times and by the end, almost left one final time when Kuzco was going to cut down a rainforest at the end of the film. The ending was changed to its current state for this reason.

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A reenactment of Sting’s face after working with Disney.

By February 2000, the film had been completely retooled, and the new film, The Emperor’s New Groove, was announced. There is a lot of history to this one and a lot of shady office politics so I implore you, go do some reading if you are so inclined, as I’ve only touched the surface here in the interest of creating an article and not a book. That being said. Despite the sadness and the missed opportunities, the failures and the anger, when all is said and done, the film we are left with is a film I adore with every part of my being.

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Bet you weren’t expecting this!

The Emperor’s New Groove is the opposite of everything that came before it. It’s the opposite of dark and dreary. There’s little to no darkness here and there is a joke and a laugh around every turn and corner. Not only that, but the main character is absolutely despicable. Unlike other films, which have us loving the main character and how above everyone else they are, Emperor is all about an absolute jerk who we follow as his awful decisions lead him further and further down a rabbit hole of disaster until at last he decides to change his ways. The fact that Kuzco is still so downright lovable is a credit to the writers of the film.

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Uh-huh Uh-huh Uh-huh

On that note, every character in this film is fantastic. Pacha is the kind hearted soul of the film. While Kronk shines as the most ridiculous character, making up his own theme music and always talking to the angel and devil on his shoulder. Not to mention the fact that he talks to squirrels. Kronk is a bit of a show steeler. Every time he showed up while were watching, I would lean to Carl and do the obnoxious thing where I ruin the surprise by saying “Oh this part is funny.” From cooking spinach puffs to waking up in the middle of the night to remember Pacha, Kronk always has a good joke under his belt.

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Look at that guy with his sissy stringy music thingy.

Then there’s Yzma. Oh my God, Yzma. Yzma is everything I love about Disney villains. She’s power hungry, overly dramatic and full of showmanship as displayed by her desire to kill Kuzco by way of turning him into a flee, mailing him to herself and then smashing the box with a hammer. I love that other characters describe as ‘scary beyond all reason’ and I love that there’s this little inside joke that she keeps a young muscle man around as her guard and then replaces him when he gets too old…or dies.

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Pretty much my morning face.

I could go on and on about this film and all the things I love, but as it is my birthday, I’d like to take some time to reflect on just some of the many lines that make this film so hilarious.

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The real jerk of the film…

“Okay, why does she even HAVE that lever?”
“Let’s take a look-see. Hate your hair. Not likely. Yikes. Yikes. Yikes. And, let me guess, you have a great personality.”
“This is Yzma, the emperor’s advisor. Living proof that dinosaurs once roamed the Earth.”

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A quick game of 99 Monkeys before the killing ensues.

“All right. A quick cup of coffee. Then take him out of town and finish the job!”
“You know, it’s a good thing you’re not a big, fat guy or this would be really difficult.”
“Listen up, big guy. I got three good reasons why you should just walk away. Number one. Look at that guy! He’s got that sissy stringy music thing.”
“Squeak squeaker squeakin.”

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And you say he had three…oh FOUR hickies? Go on. Tell me more.

And the list goes on. The Emperor’s New Groove could have been an entirely different film and if I had my way, we’d be able to see both, but as it stands, we only have the one and it’s fantastic. The humor appeals to all ages and never lets off the throttle. This is easily the funniest Disney film and while the animation is never going to be considered the best, it makes up for it with a ton of charm, fantastic characters and brilliant writing. When I am old and gray and walking on some sort of future laser cane, I will still be watching this movie and chuckling when Kuzco exclaims, “No touchie!” To me, this is the film that never ages and every time I watch it, I go in fearing that perhaps the magic is gone and I will no longer find it funny. I am always, ALWAYS proven wrong.

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Happiness comes with having a family…and a pool…and a Lama poncho.

So wish me a Happy Birthday in the comments if you have a second. Thanks for stopping by and here’s to another fantastic year. I’ll be going to see a movie and then playing some board games today with my fiance. You could say “It’s my Birthday gift to me! I’m so happy!”

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Next Up: Atlantis



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NOTE:  Obviously all the photos are courtesy of Disney Entertainment and I would never in a million years claim them as my own.  That being said, all are actually taken with my phone during our viewing in order to capture the moment in a slightly different way than originally intended.

ALSO:  My Fiancee has a blog too and he is talking about all the classics we are currently watching, which involves more than just Disney.  Head overHERE and check it out!

11 replies »

  1. Happy Birthday! I had my first watch of this film a few weeks ago. LOVED it. So funny. And the cast. And exactly as you said, for the first time, the main character is a jerk. It’s one of my new favorites.

  2. For me, Yzma is the best part of the film. She’s probably one of the few antagonists in an animated film whom I’ve actually rooted for. She was treated very well by the writers, and Eartha Kitt’s vocal performance was a riot!

  3. Happy Birthday and Emperor’s New Groove is absolutely fantastic. I didn’t even think about the fact that this is the first Disney movie with a non-heroic main character. Also I love when people write about things they are passionate about. There is nothing better than hearing someone talk about something they absolutely love.

    • Thank you! I’m not sure how the stars aligned to make this the article that would go up on my birthday but I’m so glad they did 🙂 thanks for reading!

  4. Happy happy birthday!!!! 🙂 Have fun at Disney! I’ll be there a few times this week, being a nerd.

    Anyway, I love this film! I first watched it in bits and pieces in the break room at my job back in 2001. That’s when I first fell in love with it. I need to watch it again now!

    Also, why don’t you write a book on this film? Just saying…

    • Hahaha. That would be intense. I will put it this way, my next novel has strong Walt Disney influences. Also. I can’t wait for Disney. The next couple of weeks are going to deal a lot with that on the blog! Thanks for being one of my favorite commenters!!

  5. Aww, you’re welcome! 🙂 your blog has really brought joy to me during a dark, trying time in my life. I look forward to each post! I’ll have to pick up your novels in the very near future (after my next paycheck).

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