Kuzco (David Spade) is the self-centered teenaged emperor of the Incan empire brought up by his head advisor Yzma. One day, he summons Pacha (John Goodman), the headman of a nearby village, to inform him that he is building his enormous summer home, Kuzcotopia, on the site of Pacha's house. Pacha attempts to protest, and is dismissed. He also callously fires his ancient, power-hungry advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) for attempting to run the kingdom while he is preoccupied, infuriating her. She, along with her easily-distracted assistant Kronk (Patrick Warburton) then attempt to poison Kuzco so that she can take full and permanent control of the empire.
Yzma invites Kuzco to a "farewell" dinner and he drinks the poison, which supposedly kills him. However, he is still alive and suddenly, his ears become those of a llama. Soon, his neck stretches, his hands turn into hooves, and his face turns into a snout. Yzma orders Kronk to knock the transformed Kuzco unconscious and discovers that the supposed "poison" was actually a potion that turned him into a llama. Yzma orders Kronk to dispose of him, but conscience-stricken Kronk loses the sack holding Kuzco. Kuzco ends up in Pacha's village, accuses Pacha of kidnapping him and demands that Pacha help him return to the palace. Pacha refuses unless Kuzco builds his summer home elsewhere, and Kuzco attempts 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 reveals 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. On their way across a bridge Pacha falls through a weak plank. Kuzco refuses to help him as he says that he was going to put Pacha in prison for life but this was better. Pacha yells at Kuzco saying that they shook hands on it. Kuzco replies that you need hands to do that and that he has no hands. Kuzco then falls through a plank like Pacha and him and Pacha start fighting. The bridge shortly snaps and falls. Kuzco and Pacha fall down the cliff and end up stuck at the bottom. Working together, they climb up the cliff to reach the rope to pull themselves up the cliff. While climbing, Pacha grabs the rope, but it's stuck in a branch which scorpions then fall off onto Kuzco and Kuzco gets scared and falls. Pacha then grabs Kuzco and Kuzcos face gets stuk in a hole. The scorpions then climb up onto Pacha's back. Pacha gets scared and smacks his back onto the wall. This wakes up some bats in the wall with Kuzco they then attack Kuzco and launch him off. Kuzco scared runs up the wall with Pacha and the land back on the cliff. After laughing about it, the cliff side Pacha is on begins to fall, and Kuzco saves him by grabbing onto Pacha's poncho and launching him back. Pacha finds out that Kuzco is starting to change his ways no matter how much Kuzco denies it. Pacha then says they should start going as it's a 4-day walk to the palace with no bridge. Kuzco then questions Pacha about this and Pacha says that he shook hands on it and he will still take Kuzco. Meanwhile Yzma and Kronk are in the jungle looking for Kuzco, and after getting chased by bees, Yzma meets Bucky and screams at him. Buck gets scared and runs to Kronk and they start talking. Yzma is mad only until Kronk translates that Bucky said a talking llama gave him trouble. After asking him for Yzma, Kronk finds out where Kuzco went, and he and Yzma head off. Meanwhile, Kuzco and Pacha are walking until they found a roadside diner, and decide to eat there with Kuzco dressed as a girl since Llamas are not allowed in. After Kuzco goes to talk to the chef about the food Pacha begins to eat until Yzma and Kronk arrive shortly after and he overhears Yzma discussing their plans to kill Kuzco, Pacha goes to 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. After becoming friends again Kuzco and Pacha race back to Pacha's house to get some supplies while going up two old man tell Pacha his realitives came by it turns out to be Yzma and Kronk Pacha warns his wife in private. Pacha's wife and kids then launch Yzma down the hill and ends up looking like a pinata Yzma then sees Kuzco and Pacha running off. She then tells Kronk, and shortly, he and Yzma race back to the palace after Kuzco and Pacha. Yzma and Kronk chase them until the pursuers get hit by lightning and fall into a chasm.
Kuzco and Pacha arrive at Yzma's laboratory only to find that their pursuers somehow got there first (by a method which, humorously, not even they know). Yzma passes Kronk a knife to finish the duo off. Kronk becomes stricken with doubt as his angel and devil appear on his shoulders and converses with them, to the confusion of everyone else. Kronk changes sides after a vicious tongue-lashing from Yzma, and attempted to drop a chandelier on her, but her thin body enables her to escape harm. In retaliation, she drops him down a trap door. Yzma summons the palace guards, forcing Kuzco and Pacha to grab all of the transformation potions they can and flee. After trying several formulas that convert Kuzco to other animals, and then back to a llama, they escape the guards (but not Yzma) and find they are down to only two vials. Yzma accidentally steps on one of the two, turning herself into a tiny kitten. She still almost manages to obtain the antidote, but is thwarted by the sudden reappearance of Kronk.
Kuzco becomes human again and sets out to redeem himself, building a much smaller summer cabin on the hill next to Pacha's home. Meanwhile, outdoorsman Kronk becomes a scout leader, with kitten-Yzma forced to be a member of the troop.
- David Spade as Emperor Kuzco
- John Goodman as Pacha
- Eartha Kitt as Yzma
- Patrick Warburton as Kronk
- Wendie Malick as Chicha
- James Lopez and Kellyann Kelso as Tipo and Chaca
- Bob Bergen as Bucky the Squirrel (Credited as Robert Bergen)
- Tom Jones as Theme Song Guy
- Patti Deutsch as Mata (Credited as Waitress)
- John Fiedler as Rudy (Credited as Old Man)
- Joe Whyte as Official
- Frank Welker as Jaguars/Fly/Bees/Llamas (uncredited)
Kingdom of the SunEarly 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 assigned 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 close to 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 Pachacutec, 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 and is extremely comical and nothing dark and scary happens at all. 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, an environmentalist, protested against the ending because it appeared that Kuzco had destroyed portions of the rain forest to build his park and he also has not truly changed his ways if he still built his excessive mansion. The ending was rewritten so that Kuzco changes his mind about destroying more land, constructs a shack similar to Pacha's and spends his vacation among the villagers.
Home media release
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. It was released on blu-ray on June 11, 2013
The film received tons of positive reviews and currently holds an 85% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus saying that the film "The Emperor's New Groove 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.
|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)
Main Article: The Sweatbox
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.
Sequel and TV spin-off
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 and John Goodman voicing Pacha, 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.
In the Disney Theme Parks
When the film was first released, Kuzco and Kronk were walkaround characters in the parks. Eventually, Yzma would also make appearances in the Disney Parks athough all three characters are rare to find now. For Tokyo DisneySea, an attraction inspired by the Incan settings of the film, Raging Spirits opened in 2005 in the Lost River Delta area of the park. One of the Adventureland missions in Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom features characters from the film (with Patrick Warburton as the only returning voice, due to Eartha Kitt's death in 2008).
- Pam Ziegenhagen was also the editor of Mulan 2, the Sony Animation film, Open Season & the Universal Studios film Despicable Me.
- This movie is not the first Disney production to adapt the story of The Emperor's New Clothes, as Disney's Wonderful World of Reading had previously adapted the story.
- This movie is the first Disney movie not to have logo on the middle of the poster.
- ↑ 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.
Characters: Kuzco | Pacha | Yzma | Kronk | Bucky the Squirrel | Chicha | Chaca | Ms. Birdwell | Papi | Tipo | Yupi | Rudy | Azma | Malina | Guaca | Dirk Brock | Moxie | Mr. Flaco Moleguaco | Kavo | Ozker | Ramon | Yatta | Hucua | Supai | Mick, Bowie and Lemmy | Mata | Homework | Jaguars | Incan Palace Guards | Theme Song Guy