- The Emperor's New Groove
The Emperor's New Groove
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Dindal Produced by Randy Fullmer
Screenplay by David Reynolds Story by Mark Dindal
Narrated by David Spade Starring David Spade
Music by John Debney Studio Walt Disney Feature Animation Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Buena Vista Distribution
Release date(s) December 15, 2000 Running time 78 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $100 million Box office $169,327,687
The Emperor's New Groove is a 2000 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures through Buena Vista Distribution on December 15, 2000. It is the 40th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics. The title refers to the Danish fairy tale The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen, though the two have little else in common. A comedy produced by Randy Fullmer and directed by Mark Dindal, The Emperor's New Groove was altered significantly over six years of development and production from its original concept as a more traditional Disney musical entitled Kingdom of the Sun, to have been directed by Dindal and Roger Allers (co-director of The Lion King).
Kuzco is the selfish teenaged emperor of the Inca Empire. He summons Pacha, the leader of a nearby village, to inform him that he is building his enormous summer home, Kuzcotopia, on the site of Pacha's house, thus rendering Pacha and his family homeless. Pacha attempts to protest, but is dismissed. Kuzco's advisor Yzma and her dim-witted right-hand man Kronk then try to poison Kuzco so that Yzma can take control of the empire, but the supposed poison turns out to be a potion which turns Kuzco into a llama rather than killing him.
Kronk knocks out the transformed Kuzco, then Yzma orders him to take Kuzco out of town and finish the job, but conscience-stricken Kronk accidentally loses the sack holding Kuzco. Kuzco ends up in Pacha's village, accuses Pacha of turning him into a llama and kidnapping him, and demands that Pacha help him return to the palace. Pacha refuses unless Kuzco builds his summer home somewhere else, and Kuzco tries to find his own way home. He ends up surrounded by a pack of jaguars, only to be saved by Pacha. Meanwhile, Yzma assumes command of the nation, but when Kronk tells Yzma that he never killed Kuzco, the two head out and begin to search the local villages for him.
Kuzco feigns agreement with Pacha's demand, and Pacha leads him back toward the palace. They stop at a roadside diner, and Yzma and Kronk arrive shortly after. Pacha overhears Yzma discussing their plans to kill Kuzco, and attempts to warn him. Kuzco, convinced Yzma is loyal, berates Pacha and returns to Yzma, only to overhear Yzma and Kronk discussing that they are seeking to kill him, and that the kingdom doesn't miss him. Kuzco realizes Pacha was right, but Pacha has left. After a repentant Kuzco spends the night alone in the jungle, the two reunite with Pacha having forgiven Kuzco. They then go to Pacha's house. They find that Yzma and Kronk are there searching for Kuzco (and claiming that they're distant relatives of Pacha). Chicha, Pacha's wife, and Pacha's kids Chaca and Tipo keep Yzma and Kronk at bay; first by locking them in the closet, then by turning Yzma into a piñata. This gives Kuzco and Pacha a headstart, but Yzma sees them disappearing over the horizon. A frantic chase between Kuzco, Pacha, Yzma, and Kronk ensues, such that Yzma and Kuzco are almost within eyeshot. Kuzco and Pacha use a rope to cross a gorge, and then Kuzco cuts it in an attempt to keep the villains at bay, but Yzma's transport tent sprouts wings, and she and Kronk begin to sail over the gorge. They appear to have succeeded, but all of a sudden, they are struck by lightning and fall into a chasm.
Kuzco and Pacha arrive at Yzma's laboratory only to find that Yzma and Kronk somehow got there first (by a method, which, humorously, not even they know). Kronk changes sides after a vicious tongue-lashing from Yzma who insults his cooking. Kronk then tries to trap Yzma by cutting a rope to a chandelier, but because Yzma is so skinny, it falls around her instead of on her. In return, Yzma sends Kronk down a trapdoor. After a brief struggle for the vial, Yzma knocks over a cabinet of potions and calls the palace guards to kill Kuzco and Pacha, forcing the duo to grab all of the transformation potions they can and flee. After trying several formulas that turn Kuzco into other animals (and then back to a llama), they manage to escape the guards (but not Yzma) and find that they are down to only two vials. Yzma accidentally steps on one of the two, turning herself into a tiny cat. She still almost manages to obtain the antidote, but is thwarted by the sudden reappearance of Kronk, who has emerged from the other end of the trapdoor. Kuzco becomes human again and sets out to redeem himself, building a small summer cabin on the hill next to Pacha's home at the peasant's invitation.
Meanwhile, Kronk becomes a Junior Chipmunk scout leader, with Yzma, now a cat, forced to be a member of the troop.
- David Spade as Emperor Kuzco. He is the selfish, 18-year-old emperor of the Inca Empire and the protagonist of the film.
- John Goodman as Pacha. He is a portly peasant and the deuteragonist who serves as a foil for Kuzco.
- Eartha Kitt as Yzma. The main antagonist who wants to get rid of Kuzco so she could take over.
- Patrick Warburton as Kronk Pepikrankenitz, the secondary antagonist, even though he reforms in the end.
- Wendie Malick as Chicha, Pacha's frustrated wife. Throughout the film, she is pregnant with child, and her newborn baby is born at the film's climax.
- Kellyann Kelso and Eli Russell Linnetz as Chaca and Tipo, Pacha's kids.
- Bob Bergen as Bucky the Squirrel, Kronk's companion who dislikes Yzma.
- Tom Jones as Theme Song Guy, Kuzco's personal theme song conductor.
- Patti Deutsch as Waitress
- John Fiedler as Old Man, later named Rudy in the sequel.
- Joe Whyte as Official, the man in charge of finding Kuzco a bride.
- Frank Welker as Animals' vocal effects (uncredited)
Kingdom of the Sun
Early in development, the film was titled Kingdom of the Sun, later Kingdom in the Sun, with Roger Allers as the film's director and Randy Fullmer as producer. Among those on Allers's production team were supervising animator Andreas Deja, who was in charge of the witch character of Yzma, and pop musician Sting, who, in the wake of Elton John's success with The Lion King's soundtrack, had been convinced to write several songs for the film.
Kingdom of the Sun was to have been a tale of a greedy, selfish emperor who finds a peasant who looks just like him; the emperor swaps places with the peasant for fun, much as in author Mark Twain's archetypal novel The Prince and the Pauper. However, the evil witch Yzma has plans to summon a dark spirit named Supai and capture the sun so that she may retain her youth forever (the sun gives her wrinkles, so she surmises that living in a world of darkness would prevent her from wrinkling). Discovering the switch between the prince and the peasant, Yzma turns the real emperor into a llama and threatens to reveal the pauper's identity unless he obeys her. The emperor-llama learns humility in his new form, and even comes to love a girl llama-herder. Together, the girl and the llama set out to undo the witch's plans.
Development suffered from several attempts at trying to make the plot more original, and also from a general lack of direction. Upper management felt the plot was too similar to any number of other "Prince and Pauper" stories, and test screenings of the work-in-progress generated poor feedback. Disney hired Mark Dindal, director of Warner Bros.'s comedic animated musical Cats Don't Dance, in hopes that Dindal would be able to punch-up Allers's epic, yet uninvolving, story. The result was that Dindal and Allers essentially began making two separate films, with Dindal pushing his scenes toward comedy and Allers pushing his toward drama.
Disney chief Michael Eisner and his studio executives were not pleased at the uneven story, the lukewarm test-audience response, and the slow pace of production. However, the executives were at first reluctant to intervene because of Allers's success with The Lion King, which had also had a troubled time in production. In addition, most of Allers's crew had complete faith in the director, who was determined to create a sweeping epic on the scale of The Lion King.
By the summer of 1998, it was apparent that Kingdom of the Sun was not far along enough in production to be released in the summer of 2000 as planned. At this time, one of the Disney executives stormed into Randy Fullmer's office and, placing his thumb and forefinger a quarter-inch apart, angrily remarked that "your film is this far away from being shut down". Fullmer approached Allers, and informed him of the need to finish the film on time for its summer 2000 release (crucial promotional deals with McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and others were already established and depended upon meeting that release date). Allers acknowledged that the production was falling behind, but was confident that, with an extension of between six months to a year, he could complete the film. When Fullmer denied Allers's request for an extension, the director quit the project.
Eisner, hearing Allers had quit, became furious, and gave Fullmer two weeks to prove the film could be salvaged or else Eisner would personally shut down production. Fullmer and Dindal halted production for six months to retool Kingdom of the Sun, while their animators were reassigned to work on the Rhapsody in Blue segment of Fantasia 2000. In the interim, Dindal, Fullmer, and writers Chris Williams and David Reynolds overhauled the film completely.
When work on the film resumed, it had a new title and a new story. Gone were the sun-capturing plot, the look-alike peasant, and the llama-herder love interest. Now the film was a buddy movie, with Yzma depicted more as a mad scientist. The co-lead became Pacha, a portly farmer from the countryside. Eisner worried that the new story was too close in tone to Disney's 1997 film Hercules, which had performed decently but yet below expectations at the American box office. Dindal and Fullmer assured him that The Emperor's New Groove, as the film was now called, would have a much smaller cast, making it easier to involve audiences.
Andreas Deja declined to return to the film, and moved to Orlando, Florida to work on Lilo & Stitch, instead. Sting's songs, related to specific scenes that were now gone, had to be dropped. Sting was bitter about the removal of his songs (which are available on The Emperor's New Groove soundtrack album). "At first, I was angry and perturbed. Then I wanted some vengeance."
The title of the film is derived from that of the popular Danish fairy tale The Emperor's New Clothes. Similarly, the personality of a self-obsessed ruler who puts himself first to the detriment of his own people is also based on the fairy-tale.
The setting and culture of The Emperor's New Groove are based on the Inca Empire that developed into what is now modern-day Peru. Along with the architecture, roads, intricate waterworks, sun worship, and llamas as domestic beasts, Kuzco's name is similar to Cusco, the Peruvian city considered the capital of the Inca Empire, and Pacha's name is drawn from Pachacuti, considered the most important ruler of the Inca Empire, and a historical figure. Names and imagery mingle elements of Incan culture with elements from pre-Incan Peruvian cultures and non-Incan cultures of Central and South America. There are also incongruities and anachronisms (most notably wheels), some for humorous effect and some simply the result of not prioritizing historical authenticity. While the animators made a research trip to Peru for inspiration, the film and its publicity are notably non-specific about the geographical or historical setting of the story.
Unlike many previous Disney animated films, The Emperor's New Groove is almost completely devoid of musical numbers. It is the first Walt Disney Feature Animation film since 1990's The Rescuers Down Under not to be a musical, and the start of a larger trend where the studio began to move away from musicals.
The standard DVD release includes a nearly complete deleted scene, in which Pacha witnesses a practice attack by royal guards on a mock-up of his village. Much of this scene is seen as complete animation in full color. The 2001 two-disc collector's edition DVD includes several other scenes which did not make it past the storyboarding phase, including Kuzco (as a llama) meeting Pacha's sitcom-esque extended family.
The film's ending originally had Kuzco building his Kuzcotopia amusement park on another hill near Pacha's, and inviting Pacha and his family to visit. Sting sent a note to the producers that Kuzco had not really learned from his experiences if he still built his excessive mansion, and in the midst of the peasant community. (Although Sting is well known as an environmentalist, the filmmakers clearly considered it a story and character development issue rather than concern over rainforest destruction.) The ending was rewritten so that Kuzco constructs a shack similar to Pacha's and spends his vacation among the villagers.
The standard VHS and DVD was released May 1, 2001 at the same time the "2-Disc Collector's Edition" was released but with more Bonus Features. The standard VHS and DVD & The 2-Disc Collector's Edition are now discontinued. Disney re-released a single-disc special edition called "The New Groove Edition" on October 18, 2005.
The film received positive reviews and currently holds an 85% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus saying that the film "isn't the most ambitious animated film, but its brisk pace, fresh characters, and big laughs make for a great time for the whole family."
The Emperor's New Groove made $89,302,687 at the U.S. box office, and an additional $80,025,000 worldwide; totals lower than those for most of the Disney Feature Animation productions released in the 1990s. New Groove and all but two of the five future traditional Disney Feature Animation films—2002's Lilo and Stitch and 2003's Brother Bear—would sustain losses during their theatrical releases.
Result Award Winner/Nominee Recipient(s) Nominated Animated Theatrical Feature Nominated Individual Achievement in Directing Mark Dindal (Director) Nominated Individual Achievement in Writing Mark Dindal (Story)
Chris Williams (Story)
David Reynolds (Screenplay)
Nominated Individual Achievement in Storyboarding Stephen J. Anderson (Story Supervisor) Nominated Individual Achievement in Storyboarding Don Hall (Story Artist) Nominated Individual Achievement in Production Design Colin Stimpson (Art Director) Won Individual Achievement in Character Animation Dale Baer (Supervising Animator—Yzma) Won Individual Achievement in Voice Acting - Female Eartha Kitt ("Yzma") Nominated Individual Achievement in Voice Acting - Male Patrick Warburton ("Kronk") Won Individual Achievement in Music Sting (Music/Lyrics)
David Hartley (Music)
Trudie Styler, a documentarian, had been allowed to film the production of Kingdom of the Sun/The Emperor's New Groove as part of the deal that originally brought her husband Sting to the project. As a result, Styler recorded on film much of the struggle, controversy, and troubles that went into making the picture (including the moment when producer Fullmer called Sting to inform the pop star that his songs were being deleted from the film). Styler's completed documentary, The Sweatbox, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 13, 2002. Disney owns the rights to the documentary and has not released it on home video or DVD.
A direct-to-DVD sequel titled Kronk's New Groove was released in December 2005, and a Disney Channel cartoon series, The Emperor's New School followed, but without David Spade voicing Kuzco (J. P. Manoux took over the role) and John Goodman voicing Pacha (Fred Tatasciore voiced Pacha in season 1), as they had in the original film and sequel. Patrick Warburton, Eartha Kitt, and Wendie Malick reprised their roles for the series. John Goodman has subsequently reprised his role for the current season of The Emperor's New School.
Kuzco was featured as a guest in Disney's House of Mouse and Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.
Two video games were developed and released concurrent with the film. The first, for the Sony PlayStation, was developed by Disney Interactive and published by Sony Computer Entertainment of America. The second, for the Nintendo Game Boy Color, was developed by Sandbox and published by Ubisoft. Both titles were released in PAL territories the following year. The PlayStation version was re-released for the North American PlayStation Network on July 27, 2010.
- ^ Jim Hill, "The Long Story Behind the Emperor's New Groove". Part 1, page 3. 
- ^ (Dec. 14, 2000). "Studio Briefing: How Sting Spun Out Of The Groove". Internet Movie Database. 
- ^ See Helaine Silverman, "Groovin' to ancient Peru: A critical analysis of Disney's The Emperor's New Groove" in Journal of Social Archaeology 2002, 2: 298-322.
- ^ Emperor's New Groove DVD commentary 1:11:50-1:13:35
- The Emperor's New Groove at the Internet Movie Database
- The Emperor's New Groove at AllRovi
- The Emperor's New Groove at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- The Emperor's New Groove at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Sweatbox at the Internet Movie Database
- TVGuide.com/movies: The Emperor's New Groove
- Designing the Emperor's New Groove Disney’s 39th Animated Feature Film is previewed by taking a look at the production designs, background art and character designs that went into creating the mythical South American world of The Emperor’s New Groove. (Until 2008, Dinosaur was not part of Disney's canon.)
Related 1990sCats Don't Dance (1997) 2000sThe Emperor's New Groove (2000) · Chicken Little (2005) 2010sMe and My Shadow (2013)
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