The Emperor’s New Groove
Release Date: December 15th, 2000
Inspiration: “Kingdom of the Sun” by Roger Allers and Matthew Jacobs
Budget: $100 million
Domestic Gross: $89.3 million
Worldwide Gross: $169.3 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
IMDB Score: 7.3/10
Storyline (per IMDB): In this animated comedy from the folks at Disney, the vain and cocky Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) is a very busy man. Besides maintaining his “groove”, and firing his suspicious administrator, Yzma (Eartha Kitt), he’s also planning to build a new waterpark just for himself for his birthday. However, this means destroying one of the villages in his kingdom. Meanwhile, Yzma is hatching a plan to get revenge and usurp the throne. But, in a botched assassination courtesy of Yzma’s right-hand man, Kronk (Patrick Warburton), Kuzco is magically transformed into a llama. Now, Kuzco finds himself the property of Pacha, a lowly llama herder whose home is ground zero for the water park. Upon discovering the llama’s true self, Pacha offers to help resolve the Emperor’s problem and regain his throne, only if he promises to move his water park.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on our trek through the Disney canon with a pretty historical moment here as we have the 40th film in the canon which is pretty crazy to think that we’ve had 40 films in 67 years. This is one of the most interesting films in the canon in that it started out completely different from what we ended up getting, and sometimes that can be a good thing though sometimes it isn’t so good. This is a film that is sharply divided as well as some find it underrated and some find it disappointing, and hopefully this will pleasantly surprise me as it was one I never had interest in when it first came out.
Voice Cast: After having one of the smaller casts in history with our last film, we flip the script here as we have a surprisingly large cast for this film even though the majority of them are extremely minor roles and it is a predominantly new cast. We do have a few returning voices as Bob Bergen returns to voice Bucky the Squirrel and John Felder who voices Rudy the old man, and we also have Corey Burton, Jim Cummings, Phil Proctor, Rodger Bumpass, Steve Susskind, Joe Whyte, Patrick Pinney, Kath Soucie, Jess Harnell, and Frank Welker all return in minor roles. Moving onto the newcomers, we have comedian David Spade who voices Emperor Kuzco in one of his first animated film roles, and then we have another famous comedian in John Goodman who voices Pacha though I wonder if he was still alive that Chris Farley would’ve been offered the role to reunite him with Spade. We then have Eartha Kitt who voices Yzma as she was starting to wind down her career by this point, and then we have Patrick Warburton who voices Kronk as he was becoming better known at this time for voicing Joe Swanson in “Family Guy”. Next, we have Wendie Malick who voices Chicha as she was in the prime of her career by this point, and then we have legendary singer Tom Jones who voices the Theme Song guy that is solely here to sing the song “Perfect World”. We then have Kellyann Kelso and Eli Russell Linnetz who voice Chaca and Tipo respectively, and then we have Patti Deutsch who voices the waitress in the café in a small role and Miriam Flynn who voices the Pinata lady. The remainder of the cast was pretty much all returning actors that have been heard in other films though again they were mostly very minor roles, and while I feel not mentioning them is an insult to their work I feel like it would just be bloating up this category though we will see going forward if the casts stay bloated or are more streamlined.
Hero/Prince: This is interesting because we do have a hero to talk about for this film and while we do have an emperor and not technically a prince, he is in a similar spot like the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast”. First, we will talk about the villager Pacha who is summoned to the palace to learn that his home is to be destroyed so Kuzco can build a vacation home for himself, and after Kuzco is turned into a llama and ends up on Pacha’s cart Pacha offers to return him if he changes his mind about destroying his home though Kuzco refuses at first. Pacha eventually rescues Kuzco from the jaguars and they agree to help each other though Kuzco again tries to go back on his deal, but after they save each other again Kuzco agrees to spare Pacha’s home. When they stop at a diner at the same time as Yzma and Kronk, Pacha tries to warn Kuzco that they want to kill him though Kuzco doesn’t believe him until he finds out for himself and he resigns himself to living as a llama for the rest of his life. Pacha finds him and they forgive each other as Pacha’s family distract Yzma and Kronk briefly so they can get a head start, and they reach the lab only for Yzma to try and have them killed on the pretense that they killed Kuzco. They manage to outsmart Yzma by turning her into a kitten and Kuzco is restored to being a human, and he decides to build his vacation home on a hill next to Pacha’s home as he becomes friends with Pacha and his family. Pacha is a gentle giant who has a big heart and cares about his family to the point that he can’t tell them about Kuzco’s original plans, but he believes that Kuzco has some good in him and is eventually able to bring it out which causes Kuzco to have a change of heart. Speaking of Kuzco, he is pretty much a minor version of the Beast in that he is a selfish ruler who only cares about himself though he believes he is beloved by his people, and only after being turned into a llama and knowing that Yzma is plotting to kill him does he realize his folly. After he is turned back into a human, he makes amends with those he hurt including Pacha as he spares his home and builds his vacation home on a nearby hill while also having friends which he didn’t have before. While both Pacha and Kuzco will probably not rank very high against the other heroes, they were both fine enough for this film with Pacha being more of a hero than Kuzco though he does redeem himself in the end.
Villain: After our last film had probably one of the most generic villains in the Disney canon, we go back to having a unique villain here as we have the former advisor to Kuzco and that’s Yzma, and she tries to give orders as she desires the throne for herself when Kuzco relieves her of her duties. She creates a potion to kill him and entrusts her henchmen Kronk to add it to his drink during dinner, but he accidentally puts in the wrong potion and Kuzco is turned into a llama instead of being killed. She instructs Kronk to finish the job though he ultimately can’t do it and ends up losing him to Pacha, and Yzma takes the throne for herself on the pretense that Kuzco is dead until she realizes that he is still alive. She and Kronk search the land for Kuzco though are at first unsuccessful even when they nearly come across Kuzco and Pacha at a diner, but Kronk realizes this and they arrive at Pacha’s home to interrogate his family though Chicha ends up stalling them briefly so Kuzco and Pacha can get to the palace first. Yzma and Krono manage to beat them there and she takes the one potion that can restore Kuzco to a human, and she has the guards attack them by claiming they killed Kuzco though they manage to evade the guards by using the potions on them. Yzma herself ends up being turned into a kitten though she nearly is successful in keeping the human potion, but she is foiled by Kronk as Kuzco is restored and Yzma is relegated to being a Junior Chipmunk under Kronk while still being a kitten. Yzma is a pretty traditional villain in that she longs to be in power and the only thing in her way is Kuzco who gives her extra motivation by being as selfish as he is, but she tends to have ideas and plans that are way beyond her and it doesn’t help her that Kronk is a bit of a dimwit albeit a good-hearted dimwit. She ultimately is overcome by Kuzco and Pacha along with an inadvertent assist from Kronk, and she will probably not rank very high compared to the other villains though she is not the worst one we’ve seen.
Other Characters: Because we have one of the bigger casts than we’ve had in quite a while, you would think that would mean we have a lot of characters to talk about, but in reality we only have a small handful of characters that play a vital role and the rest are just background to the film. The first character to talk about is Kronk who is the henchman of Yzma though he is good-hearted and a bit of a dimwit, and he is tasked with giving Kuzco poison in his drink though he grabs the wrong vial and turns Kuzco into a llama instead. Yzma tells him to kill Kuzco though he ends up saving him and ultimately loses him to Pacha, and when Yzma learns Kuzco is still alive Kronk goes with her to find him though he is more interested in doing other things like cooking and playing with Pacha’s kids when they go to Pacha’s home. They finally corner Kuzco and Pacha in the lab though Kronk has a change of heart and tries to take out Yzma, but fails and is sent into the abyss though he inadvertently manages to stop Yzma from drinking the human potion. We then have Pacha’s family which includes his wife Chicha and their two children Chaca and Tipo, and Chicha is clearly the leader of the family though the kids show great affection to their father. When Yzma and Kronk arrive to interrogate them, Chicha is onto them and plays along with their act though Kronk spends more time playing with Chaca and Tipo, and after she learns about Kuzco she helps him and Pacha get a head start by stalling Yzma before sending her out in a humiliating way. After Kuzco is restored to a human and he agrees to build his vacation home on a hilltop next to Pacha’s, he becomes friend with Pacha and the family who accept him as one of their own. Other than that, the rest of the characters in the film were very minor like the other villagers, members of the palace, and several other random people like the waitress and the cook at the diner. It is always interesting to see a large group of characters with only a handful of them actually being important, but it does help to at least fill out scenes in the film and to provide some brief entertainment if needed.
Songs: When the film was first being created, the idea was that it would be in the same vein of the musical films from the early 1990s, and in a very big move for Disney they brought in music legend Sting to compose several songs for the film in the same way that Elton John worked on “The Lion King”. Unfortunately, after the original film was changed most of the songs had to be cut out and some of them never saw the light of day aside from being featured on the soundtrack. There was one song that did make it into the film which was “Perfect World” sung at the beginning of the film to put over Kuzco, and it is a fine song though it does feel out of place due to the film not being a full musical film. I also will mention the pop single off the soundtrack which is “My Furry Friend and Me” sung by Sting, and it would’ve been interesting to see how the film would’ve looked like if the original incarnation came to be.
Plot: As I mentioned in the previous category, this film was completely different from what we ended up getting and if you want an interesting look at the making of the film, track down the documentary called “The Sweatbox”. At one point, this was supposed to be similar to “The Prince and the Pauper” and serves as a romantic comedy musical, but it was reported that the higher ups felt it needed to be more comedic so it was changed to what we would end up getting. The film is about Emperor Kuzco who is a selfish ruler and he plots to build a summer vacation home on the hill where Pacha lives, and unbeknownst to him his ex-adviser Yzma schemes to have him killed though she and her henchman Kronk inadvertently turn him into a llama. Kronk is tasked with killing him though he saves him at the last minute and he ends up losing him to Pacha, and Yzma is named Empress under the belief that Kuzco is dead though she learns he is still alive and takes Kronk to find. Kuzco demands Pacha return him to the palace though Pacha says he won’t unless Kuzco changes his mind about destroying his village, and Kuzco is reluctant to do so until he learns that Yzma did try to kill him and no one cared that he was gone. He resigns himself to living his life as a llama only for Pacha to bring him back to the palace, but Yzma beats them there and they fight over the vials which results in Yzma being turned into a kitten. Kuzco and Pacha eventually retrieve the right vial and Kuzco is restored to being a human, and he decides to build his summer home on a hill next to Pacha as he becomes close friends with Pacha and his family. While the film ended up doing fine in the end, I do wonder how it would’ve turned out if they went with their original plan and if it would’ve done better or worse than what we ended up getting.
Random Watching Thoughts: “Long ago, somewhere deep in the jungle”; I believe this is the first time that the main character serves as the narrator not counting Dawson in “The Great Mouse Detective”; Kuzco tries to make it seem like he was an innocent victim; Even as a baby, he was a spoiled brat; Kuzco might be the first emperor to have his own theme song guy; The guy got thrown out a window for simply throwing off Kuzco’s groove; The empire must not be seeing a lot of invasions if the guards have been taught to dance rather than defend; Considering the film is called “The Emperor’s New Groove”, you would think that it would serve to be a film featuring a lot of music, but instead “Perfect World” is the only song we get and the “groove” referred to Kuzco’s way of life; Those seemed like some fine women, maybe Kuzco is just way too picky; Kuzco makes himself seem like the victim and Pacha is the villain in his mind; That old man was lucky to get caught in that banner or he was a dead man; Which was worse, Kuzco and his selfishness or Yzma who pretty much acted like a dictator?; Kuzco does have a point about Yzma’s wrinkles; Kuzco had to be through with the number of ways to tell Yzma that she was fired; Kronk is like the most lovable knucklehead you could ever meet; In the original film, there was going to be more of a focus on the Incan influence though that was heavily downplayed when the film was reworked; Kuzco builds Pacha up like he’s important only to tear him back down when he reveals his plans; Kuzcotopia; Yzma just owns numerous statues of Kuzco so she can destroy them out of anger; So Kuzco is 18 years old though he doesn’t look it; If the Emperor didn’t have any heirs, would the advisor automatically be the next in line for the throne or how would that work?; WRONG LEVER!!!!!!!!!!; They had to make their ride down to the lab like a roller coaster; She decides not to do her plan because she wants to save on postage; The song playing at the beginning of the dinner scene is called “The Girl from Ipanema”; I wonder what this dessert is since Kronk is so confident that it will be delicious; It is funny how every ruler in a film assumes themselves to be “King of the World”, like do they not realize there are other rulers around the world?; That’s quite the explosion that the potion made when put in the drink; Gotta save the spinach puffs, Kronk; If Yzma has been fired as advisor, why is she even still in the palace?; Kronk forgets which drink he poisoned so he just improvises and poisons all the drinks though wisely warns Yzma not to drink hers; Kronk was so proud of those spinach puffs; Why did Kuzco pass out briefly and also, wouldn’t he have realized that he was transforming into a llama?; So the vial was supposedly empty at one point yet when Yzma checked the label, there was clearly a liquid in the vial; Yzma was adamant about Kronk finishing the job yet she allowed them time for dinner, dessert, and even coffee; Kronk had to hum a spy song while he was heading out of the palace with Kuzco; While he was trying to hide, the fingers on the wall were literally pointing at him; We never did hear Devil Kronk’s third reason for killing Kuzco; It was weird that we got a shot of a bug and a monkey; Instead of making grunting noises as he’s falling, Kronk shouts out the body parts that are in pain; Of course a big crowd would come through while Kronk is trying to get Pacha’s attention; That’s quite the trek for Pacha from the palace to his village; The kids think they got Pacha to let them stay up only for Pacha to turn the tables on them; Chicha is so angry that she has to wash something to cool down; Kuzco still trying to convince everyone that he’s the real victim; It took this long for Kuzco to finally realize that he’s a llama; Kuzco thinks Yzma will just obey his orders even though he fired her and she tried to kill him; Kuzco’s not in a real spot to be giving out orders as a llama; Pacha really wanted to just let Kuzco go off and suffer in the jungle, but he’s too much of a nice guy to do that; He says he’s born with an inane sense of direction yet this is probably the first time he’s been out of the palace; He’s not seen much if a spider killing a fly is the freakiest thing he’s seen; I know Kuzco was mean to the squirrel, but that was pretty mean to wake all those jaguars up so they can attack Kuzco; The balloon popping doesn’t wake them, but Kuzco’s laugh does; Pacha says they’re safe now as they get tangled up on a log; Kuzco doesn’t even bat an eye when he learns they are about to go over a waterfall which sharp rocks at the bottom; He was trying to listen for a heartbeat yet wasn’t even close to his chest; To be fair, Pacha didn’t even get a chance to attempt mouth-to-mouth; Pacha manages to get a fire going four times on the same log; That was a quick turnaround from mourning Kuzco to Yzma becoming Empress; Kronk is being so calm about things while Yzma is about to blow a gasket; So the kids’ dreams were things that actually happened to Pacha; That awkward small talk; Apparently according to Pacha, shaking hands is the ultimate sign of keeping one’s word; Even though Kuzco is clearly being a dick to Pacha, he does have a point that llamas don’t have hands as they have hooves; They are so concerned with fighting each other that they are oblivious to the fact that they are hovering over certain death; Somehow the bridges collapses first before they start falling; Kuzco’s got a strong neck; Of course that tree would have scorpions in it; After all that, Pacha nearly dies when part of the cliff collapses though Kuzco saves him; They went from getting to the palace in one hour to now taking 4 days; I don’t think you should wear heels in the jungle; Kronk is more interested playing Exotic Bird Bingo; So as a Junior Chipmunk, Kronk can speak fluent squirrel; The squirrel won’t talk unless Yzma is far away from him; Pacha says there’s not a good chance he will carry Kuzco yet he ends up carrying him to the diner; The sign on the diner is striking similar to “Bob’s Big Boy”; You know Pacha would catch shit if Chicha found out about Kuzco posing as his wife; So the waitress is Jewish; Kronk tells Yzma to relax as she bends a fork in half with ease; The chef walks out leaving Kronk confused yet when he hears the order, he jumps right in like he’s been working there the whole time; Kuzco and Yzma keep going in and out of the kitchen yet somehow don’t bump into each other; Even back then, they had restaurants that did something special for someone on their birthday; Of course Pacha cares about his hilltop, that’s his home; That moment of realization for Kuzco that he wasn’t as loved as he thought he was; Narrator Kuzco still tries to make himself the victim, but real Kuzco shuts him down because he knows this was all his fault; Kronk first remembers Pacha because he didn’t pay for his meal only to realize that he was the one he was looking for in the palace; I low key kind of wanted Kronk to pull a Joe Swanson and yell “All right, let’s do it!!!”; Kuzco is at his lowest point that he is willing to remain a llama and even tries eating grass for the first time; Of course Pacha would be there telling his story to the other llamas; Yzma’s trying hard to put up this façade and Chicha just completely sees right through her; Leave it to Yzma to force the pregnant woman to bend down and pick up a cup even though Chicha is onto her; The jump rope was able to keep going even though no one was on the one end; Wouldn’t there be a handle on the inside of the door?; Kronk has great appreciation for the work done on the door; At least they had the courtesy to have a wet floor sign nearby where Tipo was buffing; So the Incan version of tarring and feathering is using honey and feathers; Give Yzma credit for taking that much of a beating from those kids; That was a bit weird that they acknowledge the map paths; A lightning bolt appears out of nowhere to zap Yzma and Kronk and then one little raincloud downpours on them before they fall into the abyss; Even Kuzco fell victim to the wrong lever; Wizard of Oz reference with the lions, tigers, and bears; Yzma using Kuzco’s own words against him; They are more scared of seeing her leg than the fact that she has a knife on her; Angel Kronk just had to be getting his hair done when Kronk needed him; She insults him constantly but when she insults his cooking, now she’s gone too far; Yzma was just skinny enough that the chandelier fell through her without hurting her; The guard who changed into a cow is the only one that gets to go home; To be fair, Pacha got Kuzco to change into an animal with wings; Kuzco keeps the same hair style regardless of what animal he turns into; So when the canals get drained, the water comes out of a nose; How was Yzma turned into a kitten if the vial got shattered?; That’s one strong vial to take some much damage and not break at any point; Kuzco has to choose between the vial and Pacha, and after some teasing he does the right thing by saving Pacha; Yzma should consider herself lucky that the trampoline just happened to be there so she could bounce back up; How lucky were Pacha and Kuzco that Kronk was there to crush Yzma so they could get the vial; I don’t know if that old man should be wanting to get thrown out of any more windows; That was very nice of Chicha to make Kuzco his own poncho; This was the last part of Yzma’s punishment that not only must she remain a kitten, but she must become a Junior Chipmunk under Kronk.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, this was a decent film that was slightly better than Dinosaur, but it was still considerably worse than any of the films during the later Disney Renaissance period. I will say that given the turmoil that had to have been going on during the production of the film, the fact that they were able to get what they did out there on the screen was admirable. Having said that, I do wonder how things would’ve been if the original concept of the film had been seen to fruition and if that would’ve been either better or worse than what we gotten. Coming off a pretty successful decade, the 2000s are off to a bit of a shaky start and hopefully they can turn things around with the next film. As for this film, it is a fairly decent film though I don’t feel it is quite as underrated as some seem to think it is.
Final Grade: 6/10