Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Emperor’s New Groove

Walt Disney Animation Studios 39th feature film.
Walt Disney Animation Studios 40th feature film.

http://www.cornel1801.com/disney/Emperors-New-Groove-2000/movie-film.html

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).

Production

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.

Story

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………

The emperor's advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her assistant Kronk (Patrick Warburton) are the best things in the film. They are hilarious, and are actually well rounded characters. I could watch a spinoff with these two. THEY are who I find comedy gold, not Kuzco.
The emperor’s adviser Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her assistant Kronk (Patrick Warburton) are the best things in the film. They are hilarious, and are actually well rounded characters. I could watch a spinoff with these two. THEY are who I find comedy gold, not Kuzco.

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.

Kronk feels bad for what he has done, so he goes to saev Kuzco, but to onyl lose him anyways. I really want to know why Yzma hired him, and why Kronk even works for her. That would be some great information to kno, since he is clearly a good guy, and he knows she is evil and crazy.
Kronk feels bad for what he has done, so he goes to save Kuzco, but to only lose him anyways. I really want to know why Yzma hired him, and why Kronk even works for her. That would be some great information to know, since he is clearly a good guy, and he knows she is evil and crazy.

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.

Okay, I have to complain about this. the fourth wall adds absolutely nothing to the film. Not only does is Kuzco NOT narrating it the entire film through (would stop 3/4 int he movie), but it makes no sense. How would he know about the camera crew being there? At least with Winnie the Pooh, we know it is all a fake world, and the anrrator is reading it TO him, but this? What si the point? I get it that it is a comedy, and that is apparently more important than logic in this film, but there needs to BE logic and reasoning for things.
Okay, I have to complain about this. The fourth wall adds absolutely nothing to the film. Not only does Kuzco NOT narrate the entire film through (would stop 3/4 in the movie), but it makes no sense. How would he know about the camera crew being there? At least with Winnie the Pooh, we know it is all a fake world, and the narrator is reading it TO him, but this? What is the point? I get it that it is a comedy, and that is apparently more important than logic in this film, but there needs to BE logic and reasoning for things.

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 the bridge breaks off, and they have to climb these rocks, which leads to the usual bonding between the men that hate one another.
So the bridge breaks off, and they have to climb these rocks, which leads to the usual bonding between the men that hate one another.

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.

Chicha knows something is off with her husband`s "relatives" and tries to get rid of them. Her husband tells them that the relatives are frauds, so they get rid of Yzma and Kronk in a deceptive manner. I really like this family. They feel realistic.
Chicha knows something is off with her husband’s “relatives” and tries to get rid of them. Her husband tells them that the relatives are frauds, so they get rid of Yzma and Kronk in a deceptive manner. I really like this family. They feel realistic.

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.

The film is entertaining. The characters are all likable (some more than others), but almost everything else is REALLY basic. It is done well, but I would prefer if there was a bit more to it, and if it was not so simple and basic. It is so not Disney, and I felt like they acknowledged that a lot in this film does not make sense, so they can have an excuse at the final product of the rushed final draft. Things will only get more non-Disney and worse.
The film is entertaining. The characters are all likable (some more than others), but almost everything else is REALLY basic. It is done well, but I would prefer if there was a bit more to it, and if it was not so simple and basic. It is so not Disney, and I felt like they acknowledged that a lot in this film does not make sense, so they can have an excuse at the final product of the rushed final draft. Things will only get more non-Disney and worse.

Characters

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.

He is overly selfish, and over-the-top. He is not really that funny to me, and I barely laughed with anything he said. He learns his lesson at the end, but he is not the most engaging character to me. He is done decently.
He is overly selfish, and over-the-top. He is not really that funny to me, and I barely laughed with anything he said. He learns his lesson at the end, but he is not the most engaging character to me. He is done decently.
I like him; I really do, but...something is holding me back from him. Maybe it is because he is NEVER wrong, and seen as a freaking angel (too much so), but he is still a likable character, and he is very humble and grateful, which I can appreciate.
I like him; I really do, but…something is holding me back from him. Maybe it is because he is NEVER wrong, and seen as a freaking angel (too much so), but he is still a likable character, and he is very humble and grateful, which I can appreciate.
She is really funny, and a really good villain as well. She is a bit careless and not the most deceptive villain, but she is determined and power-hungry. She is not the best villain, but pretty good.
She is really funny, and a really good villain as well. She is a bit careless and not the most deceptive villain, but she is determined and power-hungry. She is not the best villain, but pretty good.
Kronk is hilarious. What I found a bit weird is that he has almost no issue or struggle going with the evil stuff., but he is such a good person, and never has an evil thought himself. He is more about his cooking than anything.
Kronk is hilarious. What I found a bit weird is that he has almost no issue or struggle going with the evil stuff, but he is such a good person, and never has an evil thought himself. He is more about his cooking than anything.
She is not jsut the generic wife. She is a bit pessimistic, loving but a bit emotional (probably has to do with being pregnant), and not all rays of sunshine. Her kids are decent enough.
She is not just the generic wife. She is a bit pessimistic, loving but a bit emotional (probably has to do with being pregnant), and not all rays of sunshine. Her kids are decent enough.

Animation

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.

Music

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.

Reception Today

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.

Final Score

Story: 6.5/10

Characters: 8/10

Animation: 6/10

Music: 5.5/10

= 26/40 = 65%

Next Time…

Review: September 22nd, 2014
Review: September 22nd, 2014
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19 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: The Emperor’s New Groove

  1. Good review! After reading it, I do see where you’re coming from concerning issues you pointed out, but I still enjoy it. It’s a movie my family and I love to watch whenever we get together. One of my personal favorite scenes is where Pacha tries to resuscitate Kuzco. Love it.

    I think the biggest problem test audiences and studio executives had with Kingdom of the Sun was its predictability. But, admittedly, The Emperor’s New Groove isn’t exactly unpredictable itself. Do you think they should have stuck with Kingdom of the Sun, despite the story problems it was reported to have, or do you think Emperor’s New Groove was a better way to go, flaws and all? I find the whole Kingdom of the Sun production fascinating and I’m curious to see what the final version would have been like, given more time and changes to the story. I was lucky to watch the Sweatbox documentary while it was still uploaded online, and the original concept art and storyboards looked good. I know you’ve heard the song already, but this is just a piece of the documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAt9ovvKgCU It’s the best I can do for now until another leak of the full documentary pops up again sometime.

    Well, we all know what you think about Atlantis, so now you can go into more detail as to why elements of the movie don’t work (ex: what makes you think Milo is a Gary Stu). I know why people dislike it, but it’ll be interesting to read your take on it (ripping it limb from limb along the way). I can wait until then. Keep up the good work!

    1. I wasn’t trying to get you to to enjoy the film. I like that Pacha tried that, but he came off as way too perfect of a character, as he was trying to make Kuzco develop.

      I think a combination of the films would have been the best. This film just seems so rushed and halfassed, but I do get that they wanted to get out of the Renaissance era films, especially because of when it was in production. Thank you for the link.

      Yes, Atlantis is definitely a film that gets me so frustrated with Disney. We will get into the film week. Thank you so much.

  2. I think the purpose of the breaking the 4th wall is not only to show that the story is about Kuzco, but to elaborate on his selfishness. He makes the story all about him, even pointing out what’s wrong with the other characters and how they all ruined his life, particularly Pacha. But we begin to learn that’s not the case. And his narration actually ends at the moment he realizes how self-centered and wrong he’s been.

    Overall, I love this movie because it’s so hysterical. I agree that the cast is great and how the characters suit their personalities well. I think that’s why the film works for me because the actors just seemed to have fun with it. I didn’t know the history behind the making of this film, so that was really interesting to read!

    1. I guess that is what the 4th wall is about. I just wished they made it more organized, and it still does not make much sense to me.

      The characters are truly the best thing in this film, and the actors are definitely having a lot of fun with it. Thank you so much. There is definitely a lot that went down with the production of this film, but with when it was in production, the choices they made in the film made sense, as to what was going on at the studio.

    2. Aww I’m disappointed you didn’t find the movie funny enough to redeem some of its mediocre story elements. I’m with Brittany in this one–I think Emperor’s New Groove is about the comedy, and it does that well. Good review, though.

      1. Thank you. I found Yzma and Kronk funny, but a lot of Kuzco’s jokes felt stale to me. The story is something that I always focus on, and because the humor was hit or miss for me anyways, it was a lot easier to give it a lower mark. You aren’t the only one who is disappointed with my ranking of this film, but it is fine.

  3. I think it is the best Disney parodie out there. forget Shrek, forget Enchanted, this is the movie which really comments on the most common tropes in Disney movies and not on some sort of Disney movie which doesn’t exist or hasn’t exist for 70 years or so. It starts slow, but becomes funnier and funnier with every minute until the final fight, which is just hilarious.

    1. I haven’t watched Enchanted, so I do not know how well that parodies Disney. I will say that this film is a better parody (not film) than Shrek, because the latter constantly says “fuck you” to Disney, while this film is a bit smarter than its parodies.

      1. What bothers me about Shrek is that the movie pretends to subvert the usual storytelling, but broken down to its bones, it has exactly the same “hero meets girls and they life happily ever after” plot. And yes, it’s really mean spirited.

  4. Yeah if this film doesn’t make you laugh a lot, it is mediocre. Humor is so subjective. I’ve had things I thought were hilarious that others don’t get a chuckle. I think this is really funny.
    I think low expectations helped this movie at least initially. I mean it’s about a guy who turns into a llama. I thought it was going to be terrible, so when I liked it, I liked it a lot.

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