The Emperor's New Groove: David Spade and John Goodman Delight
|"The Emperor's New Groove" (2000).|
At that time, in 1998, the project had the tentative title "Kingdom of the Sun," with a convoluted plot about witches stealing the sun because it bothered them and other twists. The project was being guided by Roger Allers, who had helped direct "The Lion King," contributed to many of the Disney Renaissance and previous successes, and who was well-respected by all.
|"The Emperor's New Groove" DVD cover.|
Dindal was brought in to add some jokes, Allers left because they wouldn't allow him six additional months to do the job right (which ultimately happened anyway, but Hollywood isn't high school, you don't always get extensions), and the project got a new name, script, composer (John Debney), characters and animation. Basically, the entire "The Emperor's New Groove" project came to a dead halt and then veered off in a completely new direction just two years before it was released - an amazingly abrupt and quick turn-around for an animated Disney movie.
|"This will be my fine new vacation villa! Oh, and you have to move."|
What resulted is better than might have been expected under the circumstances, but "The Emperor's New Groove" has no clear focus or satisfactory resolution and wound up being the first Disney movie aside from special project "Fantasia 2000" to lose money - a lot of money - in many years. So, what did "The Emperor's New Groove" finally become? A hilarious comedy, with lots of sight gags, word-plays, and the kind of manic fun that had been missing during an era of serious - almost reverent - themes such as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Pocahontas." There's nary a song to be heard, it's all just fun and games.
|Kuzco is an arrogant young scamp.|
|David Spade is a hoot as Kuzco the llama.|
Kronk returns to the palace and tells Yzma, who has taken over because everybody thinks Kuzco dead, what happened. They set out to find Kuzco and finish the job. The pair wind up at the same roadside diner as Kuzco and Pacha. Pacha tries to warn Kuzco about Yzma, whom he has overheard discussing her plans, but Kuzco doesn't believe him. Pacha, annoyed, leaves, but Kuzco finds out the truth. After a lonely night alone, Kuzco finds Pacha again, and they head back to the palace, with Yzma and Kronk still in pursuit.
|Patrick Warburton plays Kronk as an overgrown kid.|
|If it's a Disney movie set in South America, there has to be a rickety bridge.|
|Pacha hauling Kuzco the llama.|
|Wendie Malick plays Pacha's pregnant wife.|
With a bit more complication, "The Emperor's New Groove" could have turned into an interesting story that draws the viewer in, which undoubtedly was Allers' idea all along. As it stands, the plot could have been told in an hour-long television episode without too much trouble - and, what do you know, Disney, always working hard to change lemons into lemonade, did just that, spinning "The Emperor's New Groove" off into an animated series, "The Emperor's New School."
|Yzma is up to no good.|
As with every Disney movie, "The Emperor's New Groove" has its diehard fans, and they take great comfort in the spin-off television series and the sequel to "The Emperor's New Groove" called "Kronk's New Groove." Those two later productions, though, are much better thought out than "The Emperor's New Groove" and have their own unique styles. In "Kronk's New Groove," for example, Kronk breaks the fourth wall and makes sarcastic asides to the audience and becomes much wackier, such as dressing in women's' clothes and the like. That sort of tone works better on television, while "The Emperor's New Groove" retains some elements of seriousness. Allers originally planned out a serious epic, not a comedy, while Dindal came in and was all about the comedy aspect. Unfortunately, Dindal's comedy sense is more of an adult nature, which is the current style, so many of the jokes will fly right over kids' heads. The styles clash and that problem is resolved in the free-wheeling style of the later versions, but it hurts "The Emperor's New Groove."
|Patrick Warburton is the best thing about "The Emperor's New Groove."|
There are lots of great lines in "The Emperor's New Groove" that may not look particularly sharp on paper but are delivered well and funny in context. What there is of the story really is innovative and fresh - you don't see a lot of Disney projects about the Incan Empire. There also are echoes of events of the Roman Empire in "The Emperor's New Groove," as Roman Emperor Nero supposedly burned down half of Rome to build himself a giant villa on a hill. So, there are lots of neat historical references in the script for us nerds to appreciate.
|The theme of working together and getting along is hammered home.|