My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it is mediocre. Not really good, and not really bad. I say this because the story is really basic, the animation is basic, the music is basic (and does not have an Incan theme to it), and the main characters are decent. What I do like are the villains though. I think the fourth wall was very unnecessary and does not make much sense in terms with the plot, and overall; you could tell that this was all done last minute, and Disney was trying hard to be modern and hip (as a last ditch effort to get this film off the ground, and to still be the top company).
This film started production in 1994 (with Hercules and Mulan also starting development), and it was going to be an adaption of the Prince and the Pauper. The original project was called Kingdom of the Sun and was about the Emperor switching places with a peasant that looks just like him (and voiced by Owen Wilson), and learns to be compassionate and ends up falling in love with a peasant woman. They hired Sting to replicate what Elton John did with The Lion King.
While Mulan and Hercules were moving on the production schedule with no ease, and being released in the late 90s, this film went deeper into development hell. The studio was having issues with the story being extremely unoriginal
like the final version is SO original, so they hired Mark Dindal (who wanted the film to be more of a comedy) to work alongside with original director Roger Allers (who wanted an epic film), but those two’s clashing ideas only caused more issues. The film was on life support around the time Mulan was released, with the execs extremely close to shutting down the film, as it would not make the summer 2000 release. Allers asked for 6 months to a year to finish the project in early 1999, but they refused, which left him, Sting’s songs (but 1), the Prince and the Pauper story, Owen Wilson, and the Sun God idea tossed out of the window.
They ended up pushing the date back to December 2000 anyways, and with Dindal in full control of the film, he changed everything into the comedy he wanted it to be. At the end, Eisner was worried that the film would be like Hercules (performing decently in the box office). I think one of the other reasons why we got the film we did today was because it was becoming more and more apparent that the normal animated film was changing into the pop-culture, goofy movie, and the studio wanted to change with the times.
So the film starts with a depressed and sad llama crying in the middle of the forest, and we get the fourth wall broken by Kuzco (David Spade) explaining how he is the ultimate victim, and to see what he is talking about, to rewind the tape back. We see for a few moments that he was always a spoiled brat, before it fast-forwards to the 18 year old, human, emperor Kuzco ordering everyone around, and dancing to his own theme song. This automatically shows us what an entitled, selfish, self-loving person he is, and it also shows that this film is going to be one of those that tries to establish that the humor is the most important part of a film. As he tries to choose a wife, he insults every single one of them, and one is about to beat him up. Onto better things………
She tries to handle the peasant issues (pretending to be ruler), and when Kuzco sees her doing his job, he fires her on the spot. He gets her and Kronk to leave the room, with the peasant Pacha (John Goodman) showing up to discuss a matter with him, bu never gets a chance to because Kuzco tells him that he is going to build a summer palace on Pacha’s village for his birthday, and that they need to leave, causing Pacha to angrily leave.
Yzma lashes out about her firing, as she in a way raised him, but then comes up with the idea to kill him. When her and Kronk take the comedic ride to her liar, they come up with a plan to poison him. Kuzco for some reason joins them for dinner (why would the people he fired not too long ago STILL be in the palace, and why would he entertain that if he wanted them gone so bad), and is soon poisoned, but Yzma and Kronk soon realizes that the poison does not really work, as he wakes up, and eventually turns into a llama. They are freaked out by this, but Yzma tells Kronk to hit him in the head. It is soon realizes that Kronk got the wrong potion, and she demands him to take the emperor out of town to finish the job of killing him.
Kuzco is in a bag, and ends up falling with Pacha’s bag, causing him to be dragged to the peasant’s house. We are introduced to Pacha’s wife Chicha (Wendie Malick) and their children Chaca (Kellyann Kelso) and Tipo (Eli Russell Linnetz), and Chicha wants to know what happened with Pacha and the emperor. She gets really mad when she is told that Kuzco never talked to him (a lie), and is ready to march over there herself. Since the scene becomes about Pacha, Kuzco in the fourth wall yells for the scene to be changed.
So he wakes up, and freaks out when he sees himself as a llama, and lashes out at Pacha for accusing him of stealing him because he was going to build a summer home on his village. He tries to go back, but ends up insulting a squirrel for no reason, which causes it to blow a balloon and pop it, awakening a bunch of jaguars. They chase him around, but is saved by Pacha (who followed him because he is so good-hearted, and wanted to help Kuzco). One thing leads to another, and another, which is Kuzco and Pacha being stranded int he forest.
After his funeral, Yzma finds out that Kronk did not kill Kuzco, and the latter is still alive. It is the next morning, and Kuzco pretends to be a changed man to get Pacha to take him to the palace. He realizes that the emperor lied when Pacha got stuck on a bridge. Kuzco ends up stuck, and they end up fighting.
So Yzma and Kronk are having a hard time looking for the llama Kuzco, but when they bump into a squirrel, it tells Kronk (who can speak squirrel) that he saw the llama go to the diner Mudka’s Meat Hut, which causes the evil duo to head there themselves. Kuzco goes to complain to the chef about the crappy food, which causes the chef to quit. Pacha overhears Yzma complaining about how she should have killed Kuzco a long time ago, which causes him to try to get Kuzco out of there. Kronk becomes the chef, and this leads to a funny but useless scene of Yzma and Kuzco constantly trying to change their menus. Pacha tells Kuzco that Yzma and Kronk are trying to kill him, which causes in the dreaded misunderstanding scene that are in so many films, but he overhears Yzma complaining about him being alive, and how she is going to kill him. This leads to the scene we saw in the beginning of Kuzco crying in the middle of a rainstorm in the night time, and he tells the narration of himself to leave him alone. WTF? Makes no sense.
So it is the next morning, and Kuzco bumps into Pacha again (who was talking to a bunch of llamas about him), and they make amends, and decide to head to the house to get some stuff, and then return to the palace. He is told by his neighbors that his relatives are at his house.
So it becomes a race back to the palace, and Pacha and Kuzco go to the not-so-secret secret lab of Yzma, to only find her with the potion they need in her hand. She throws a knife to Kronk to kill Pacha and Kuzco, but he refuses, which angers her. She calls him stupid, and that she never liked his spinach puffs, which angers him to turn on her.
He is soon tossed out of the building, and this leads into a climactic fight between Pacha, Kuzco, and Yzma for the potion. The emperor and old woman ends up turning into animals as they drink the potions. She turns into a kitty with the second to last potion, and they continue to fight over the final potion (the human potion). Pacha is saved by the emperor, and Yzma is defeated (but not killed) as Kuzco turns into a human again.
So Kuzco makes amends with the old man he has tossed out in the beginning of the film, and he gives Pacha his hilltop back because he feels bad. He tells the emperor that there is an empty home next door he can use for a summer home, which leads to them and their family party by the swimming hole, with Kronk becoming a squirrel talking teacher. Kuzco is a changed man
to only be derailed in the spinoff series.
I have to say that this is a good cast. All the characters have a personality, and all of them have a role and do it well. Some of them are alright, but this is a really good cast, and they work really well together.
What I will say about the animation is that it does really well with the slapstick scenes. Some of the character designs are pretty decent, but otherwise, they do not really impress. You can tell that this was done last minute because there are no big scales, not much detail on…..anything in the film, the background characters being the same 4 people (thanks for the realization Unshaved Mouse), and it being one of most basic animation I have ever seen in a WDAS film thus far.
With most of Sting’s work being gone (except for 2 songs), the soundtrack is a bit dull. I could not really find much of a theme, the score is pretty unmemorable. I wish they really took the time to embrace the Incan music, and really gave us something interesting, but we instead got something so generic, and the songs are just……….eh.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on December 15th, 2000, it was a box office failure. It only made $89,302,687 domestically, and $80,025,000 internationally, with a total amount of $169,327,687. This is an issue because the budget was $100 million, also with the distribution, etc costing many more millions, and Fantasia 2000 also flopping in the box office (Dinosaur was not considered canon at the time), 2000 was a disappointing year for WDAS, and the Post Renaissance era was going at a rapid decline. This would only be the start of the downhill spiral.
It did really well critically though. Many liked the humor, and the characters, with others criticizing for Disney escaping what they are good at and hating the basic-ness in the movie.
It did…..eh with the awards, only winning 3 awards.
Today, it is seen as one of the funniest (if not the funniest) film in the canon, and one of the better films in the Post-Renaissance era. It did well enough to garner a TV show in the mid-late 2000s (which I would watch everyday when I came home from school) called The Emperor’s New School, and garnered a Disneytoon sequel called Kronk’s New Groove. You will not really see this film or merchandise of it in the theme parks though, and is nowhere close to being a classic.
= 26/40 = 65%