- “It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say!”
- ―Yzma, referring to her plot
Originally, The Emperor's New Groove was Kingdom Of The Sun, a film of a more serious nature, similar in scale to The Lion King. Yzma was still voiced by Eartha Kitt, but at this point, was animated by Andreas Deja. Her role in Kingdom of the Sun was similar in some ways; she was still the villainess, and was a member of the royal court, but was a sorceress (rather than a mad scientist). Kingdom of the Sun's story was similar to that of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper; the Emperor (here, called Manco) switched places with Pacha (at this point, voiced by Owen Wilson), who, in this version, was physically identical to Manco. Once famed for her beauty, the very old Yzma blamed her now hideous appearance on the sun, and planned to release the dark entity Supai to plunge the kingdom into eternal darkness in exchange for eternal youth (illustrated in the song, Snuff Out The Light, which can be found on the The Emperor's New Groove soundtrack). She draws Pacha into her plan through blackmail (she witnessed the 'switch' of Manco and Pacha). Kronk was not in the story; instead, Yzma's henchmen consist of a talking talisman named Hucua (voiced by Harvey Fierstein and animated by Nik Ranieri), and three mummies named Mick, Bowie and Lemmy. The climax involved Yzma summoning Supai to engulf the kingdom, but being killed by the sun itself, which Pacha lassoed and pulled down to Earth.
When Kingdom of the Sun eventually became The Emperor's New Groove, Yzma became a more comical character, and her motivation changed from vanity to lust for power and revenge. Reputedly, animator Andreas Deja was furious at this change, thinking the idea for the new version of the film to be a step backward, and left not only the project but Burbank entirely, moving to Florida to animate Lilo for Lilo & Stitch. Dale Baer took over animation duties for Yzma.
Aside from "Snuff Out The Light", Eartha Kitt also sang a reprise of opening number Perfect World; this would have been performed by Yzma when she became Empress and was intended to show that she had not only stolen Kuzco's Empire and Palace, but also his theme song. "Perfect World (Yzma's Reprise)" was ultimately cut from the film, as it was believed to slow down the story. But scenes of it were used in the Theatrical Trailer of the movie.
As the main villain of the Emperor's New Groove franchise, Yzma is malicious and power hungry. However, early in the first movie, it seems that she raised Kuzco, rather than his parents, and has been an advisor and the chemist to his family for many years. It is only when Kuzco abruptly and callously fires her that she turns on him, deciding to kill him, then fill the power vacuum left in his wake and become empress. It's also implied that her being the one who raised him is part of the reason for Kuzco's negative personality traits.
At the same time, Yzma is rather comically eccentric. She sees herself as the most beautiful person in the land, despite her obvious age and others often compare her to an ugly dinosaur, some even going so far as to call her "scary beyond all reason". In her youth, she appeared quite attractive, as shown when she turns into a teenager using the fountain of youth, but her age has since reduced that. When making plans to harm Kuzco, she often tries to create overly unnecessarily complicated plans, before settling on a simpler version. For example, one of her plans was to turn Kuzco into a flea and put him in a box and put that box in another box and mail it to herself and smash it with a hammer when it arrives but changes her mind in order to "save on postage" (when she could have just smashed Kuzco as soon as she turned him into a flea). However, she usually fails to pay attention to minor details, which results in her plans being thwarted.
Her catchphrases are "It's brilliant, brilliant, brrrrilliant!", "To the Secret Lab!", "Pull the lever, Kronk!", and "Wrong lever!" (when Kronk pulls the wrong lever and results in her getting injured).
Shades of purple in The Emperor's New Groove are almost exclusively reserved for Yzma and her world (her Secret Lab, and the Palace when she is briefly Empress). These colours were chosen because they are generally considered the colours of madness. Yzma's angular shape is intended to suggest her evil nature; early designs depict an even more jagged, pointed figure. Yzma's design is also inspired by that of Cruella De Vil, who boasts similarly angular hips and shoulders. Dale Baer commented that Eartha Kitt's actions when voicing Yzma inspired many of the character's physical mannerisms. Yzma was also based on singer Yzma Sumac, the "Inca princess of Hollywood"; Sumac may have inspired Yzma's extravagant and varied wardrobe.
On her first appearance, she wears a black and purple dress with a purple wig and mane. When she crushes statues of Kuzco with a mallet, she wears a long-sleeved skintight grey dress with a black-feathered wig and jewel. On her final appearance of the film, Yzma takes a purple dress with a bowl-like wig with a violet jewel and purple shoes. She always wears black sandals and has sharp, long fingernails.
Introduced as the Emperor's advisor, Yzma is first seen in the movie sitting in Emperor Kuzco's throne and making decisions for him behind his back. Kuzco discovers that she has been meddling in his affairs, sees her doing it again, and without thinking, he fires Yzma as a result.
Later on, she vents her rage by smashing busts of Kuzco (whom she has now turned on and who she claims to have raised thus being his adoptive mother) with a giant hammer (with Kronk, her right-hand man, putting out more and more busts for her to destroy). However, a careless comment by Kronk gives her the idea to kill Kuzco with Kuzco out of the way and no heir to the throne, as well as her then-recent firing not being fully disclosed to the public yet, Yzma would automatically take over the position and rule the empire. She and Kronk go to Yzma's laboratory known as the Secret Lab using a roller coaster, where Yzma decides to turn Kuzco into a flea, then put that flea in a box, put that box inside of another box, mail that box to herself, and upon its arrival, smash it with a hammer; a plan she announced to be brilliant (just before accidentally knocking the flea concoction into a nearby flower, destroying it instantly), but in order to save on postage, she decides to just poison Kuzco instead. She arranges to have a dinner with Kuzco that night.
That evening, Yzma and Kronk get everything ready for dinner (including the potion used to kill Kuzco). Suddenly, Kuzco slams the door open, and Yzma tells Kronk to get the Emperor a drink. Even though Kronk's more interested in cooking dinner than carrying out Yzma's orders, he tells her that the poison's ready. Kronk poisons Kuzco's drink, but he forgets whose drink is whose, so he mixes all three drinks together. And he and Yzma stealthily throw away their drinks as Kuzco downs his. Even though it may look like the Emperor was killed at first, he suddenly perked back up and started turning into a llama. So Yzma orders Kronk to knock out Kuzco with the bowlful of broccolis, take him out of town, and finish the job. However, when Kronk asks for dessert and coffee, Yzma replies with, "All right. A quick cup of coffee. THEN TAKE HIM OUT OF TOWN AND FINISH THE JOB!"
Taking the llama's unconscious body to the edge of the city in a big red bag, Kronk throws Kuzco into the river, but after talking to his conscience, Kronk has a change of heart at the last minute and rushes to save Emperor Kuzco before he falls to his apparent death, and succeeds. Walking down the stairs and asking himself what he should do with the body, Kronk accidentally steps on a cat's tail (thus waking it up) and lets go of the bag, which falls down the stairs and onto the cart of a fat peasant named Pacha, just as he's leaving the city with his pet llama Misty.
As everyone, including Yzma, believes that Kuzco is dead, Yzma arranges a (Very half-hearted) funeral for Kuzco, but then quickly ends it and becomes empress and redecorates the palace (cut from singing her own version of "Perfect World").
When Kronk reveals that he never killed Kuzco and that he was still alive, the two of them set off to find him, with Kronk carrying Yzma on his back in a specially built miniature tent.
They search every village surrounding the palace (with no success), and Yzma loses her temper when they reach the jungle. So Kronk uses his Junior Chipmunk skills to ask Bucky the Squirrel which way the talking llama went, and Bucky points left and chitters.
Shortly after, Yzma and Kronk arrive at Mudka's Meat Hut, a small roadside diner where Pacha and Kuzco have coincidentally stopped to eat when their blood sugars getting low and disguised themselves as a married couple after seeing that there are no llamas allowed. When Pacha overhears Yzma and Kronk talking about their plans to kill Kuzco, he tries to warn Kuzco and get him out of the diner. Kuzco and Yzma both go to the kitchen to request special orders to Kronk (who is replacing the previous chef who quit). When Yzma enters again, Pacha stops short and imitates the picture of the diner's icon behind him. However, Kuzco and Yzma narrowly avoid seeing each other. Ultimately, Pacha distracts Yzma by telling the diner staff that it is her birthday, and he takes Kuzco out just as Yzma is receiving her birthday greetings, to Yzma's displeasure.
When Pacha tells Kuzco that Yzma and Kronk are trying to kill him, Kuzco, convinced that Yzma is loyal, does not believe Pacha and falls out with him, believing Pacha's claim to be a plan to save his hilltop from destruction, and then orders Pacha to go. When Kuzco goes back to Yzma, he overhears the villains discussing their plans to track him down and kill him. Kuzco finally realizes Pacha was right and searches frantically for him, but Pacha has already left.
Having lost all hope of ever returning to the palace and regaining his human form, Kuzco resigns himself to the fate of an ordinary llama.
That night, Kronk suddenly remembers Pacha's face and links him to Kuzco.
The next morning, Kuzco finds Pacha in the llama herd and makes up with him, and then they both go to Pacha's house. They find that Yzma and Kronk are there searching for Kuzco (and claiming that they are distant relatives of Pacha). Chicha, Pacha's wife and the kids 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, and a frantic race 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 with his mouth in an attempt to keep the villains at bay. However, Yzma's transport tent sprouts wings, and she and Kronk begin to sail over the gorge. They seem to have succeeded, but before they get to the other side, they are struck by lightning and then fall into a chasm.
Kuzco and Pacha reach the palace, only to find that their pursuers somehow got there first (by a method which, humorously, not even they know). Yzma then orders Kronk to kill the duo after throwing a knife at him, but her henchman once again has a change of heart and after Yzma, upon seeing Kronk talking to himself, berates him on his incompetence and his cooking (the latter insult ultimately hurting his feelings), he cuts the rope to a chandelier, but it falls around Yzma instead of on her, and then she sends Kronk down a trapdoor, along with his Shoulder Angel and Devil. After a brief struggle for the vial, Yzma knocks over the potions cabinet so that Kuzco and Pacha cannot tell which is the antidote, and calls the palace guards to kill the peasant and the talking llama, claiming them to be Kuzco's murderers. Pacha throws the potions onto the guards, turning them into various animals. After the guard who has turned into a cow is excused, the chase continues as Kuzco tries every potion, transforming into various creatures before transforming back into a llama.
They outwit the guards, but Yzma continues to pursue them until they reach the palace roof, and only 2 potions remain for Kuzco to try. Yzma snatches one of them, but it is the wrong potion, and she turns into a cat. When Kuzco takes the potion, she attacks him. When Pacha tries to help, she scratches him, causing him to fall. Kuzco hits Yzma on the wall, knocking her out. Once Yzma recovers, she quickly snatches the potion away from Kuzco, declaring that she will turn herself back into a human and kill Emperor Kuzco. She finds that she cannot open the vial, and her frustration makes her fall from the roof; while Kuzco is saving Pacha, the vial also falls. However, both Yzma and the vial return to the roof, with the help of a giant trampoline. Yzma reaches the vial before Kuzco and Pacha and seems to have won until she is knocked out by Kronk, who has just emerged from the other end of the trapdoor.
Kuzco turns back into a human and sets out to redeem himself, building Kuzcotopia on the hill next to Pacha's home.
Meanwhile, outdoorsman Kronk becomes a scout leader with the help of Bucky, and Yzma, now a cat, is sentenced to the torture of being taught squirrel language by Kronk as a Junior Chipmunk.
In Kronk's New Groove, Yzma returns as the sole antagonist. However, her role is much smaller than in the first film. She appears in one of Kronk's flashbacks, wherein she has returned to human form but still has the tail of a cat. During the first half of the film, she sells sewer sludge to the old people, telling them that it is a youth potion, singing the song "Feel Like a Million" and using a reformed Kronk to advertise the product, promising to help him purchase a mansion to impress his father, while the empire elects Yzma as empress (her primary goal). However, Kronk finds out her potion is a fake, and soon the old people chase her down, where she uses a potion to transform herself into a rabbit, to prevent them from attacking her. She is then snatched and carried away by a falcon. At the end of the movie, in a nest outside the Mudka's restaurant, Yzma witnesses chicks being hatched. Initially finding the moment to be cute, Yzma screams in terror as the chicks instantly become savage-like birds.
In the spinoff, The Emperor's New School, Yzma, having somehow survived her encounter with various Hawk chicks and regained her human form, once again plots to take the throne from Kuzco. The show's premise is that Kuzco must attend school and pass all of his classes in order to remain Emperor. If he fails even one class, he will not be able to retake the throne. In order to make Kuzco fail, Yzma poses as Principal Amzy, the principal of Kuzco Academy. With the assistance of Kronk, who constantly fails to recognize her until she drops her disguise, she comes up with various schemes (most involve potions that transform Kuzco into an animal, similarly to the film) in order to make Kuzco fail one of his classes. Several episodes reveal members of Yzma's family, including her mother Azma who, according to Yzma, nags her incessantly, forcing Yzma to carry out her plots. Yzma also apparently has siblings, as she has two nephews: Zim and Zam.
A few times, Yzma had come close to claiming the throne. In "The Bride of Kuzco", when Kuzco has second thoughts of marrying Princess Lalala, instead of telling her "no", he goes to Yzma, agreeing to cede the throne to her for a day in exchange for turning Lalala into a frog. After doing so, Yzma redecorates the palace in time for her mother's arrival, to prove to Azma that she achieved something. She then goes back on her words and was about to imprison Kuzco when Lalala turned back to human, due to Kronk putting extra ingredients in the potion to make it taste better. With their deal null and void, Kuzco drops Yzma down a trapdoor.
In the series' finale "Graduation Groove", Yzma carries out one final plot to stop Kuzco from graduating. Turning the royal record keeper into a bird and disguising herself as him, she placed doubts in Kuzco's mind about the pressures of leadership and later gave him an everlasting chicken potion. With her victory all about certain, she fired Kronk. Just as she was finally about to become Empress, Malina and Kronk arrive with chicken-Kuzco to expose Yzma's evil plot. Yzma was quick to deny the use of animal-transformation potions, the royal record keeper appears to support their claims. After everyone gasps in shock, Yzma reminds that Kuzco technically did not graduate as she had his diploma in her hand. Kronk then threw Kuzco at Yzma before tossing the antidote into his mouth, turning Kuzco human, allowing him to catch both the crown and the diploma. Her plot foiled, Yzma is once again dropped down a trapdoor. During the credits, Yzma was demoted to Kronk's secretary by Kuzco's order.
Besides animation, Yzma also made some appearances in Emperor's New Groove-based comics in Disney Adventures Magazine. Some portray her as a minor character not in direct conflict with Kuzco, while others depict her as the main antagonist.
After Kuzco was forced to call in sick due to a rasping throat, he assigns Yzma with managing the Kuzcofest, although she secretly intended to change it to Yzmafest, which included depriving the food. Despite this, however, Kuzco managed to return from his illness and trick Yzma into doing things his way by supplying the banquet to the people.
In another comic, she led her team of Llama football against Kuzco's team. Secretly, however, she fed some of her minions extract of llama to ensure they win against Kuzco. Kuzco grows suspicious from the llama's suspicious resemblance to some humans he knew and decided to test his theory by drugging the water cooler with her potion. It resulted in all of Yzma's team, Yzma included, transforming into llamas in the middle of the game, thus resulting in her being disqualified due to attempted cheating.
During the initial release of the film, Yzma made appearances as a walkaround character but was eventually retired.
The park version of Yzma also attended the red carpet premiere of the film alongside her original voice actress Eartha Kitt.
In Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, Yzma makes a deal with fellow villain Hades (in the guise of local Underworld god Lazuli) to become Empress of Adventureland in exchange for part of the crystal of the Magic Kingdom. Yzma also plots to turn the villagers into alpacas...and make nice sweaters, too. She orders Kronk to poison the village's food with her potions. Unfortunately for Yzma, Kronk is defeated by the park guests, prompting Yzma to take matters into her own hands and has a magic duel with the guests. Yzma is seemingly defeated, but her stubbornness and desire to rule force her to regain her strength. She takes another chance, but this time, she gets turned into a helpless turtleneck sweater.
In 2017, Yzma made meet-and-greet appearances in the Disneyland park during a one-day Friday the 13th event. Yzma also appeared in the Halloween Soirée event alongside Kronk and numerous other Disney villains.
In Villains Tonight, Yzma appears as one of Disney's most powerful villains who helps Hades' evil-o-meter rise. She sings the song "Yzmopolis" alongside Kronk in her first scene. Yzma later appears at the finale with the other villains of the show.
Yzma is also one of the villain suspects in the Midship Detective Agency interactive attraction on the Disney Cruise Line ships. If she turns out to be the culprit, Mickey, Donald and Goofy track her down and successfully put her behind bars, where she ends up changing into a whale once her potion hits her on the head.
- Yzma, along with Hades, Captain Hook, Prince John, and Dr. Doofenshmirtz has been considered one of Disney's funniest villains.
- In one episode of The Emperor's New School, it was revealed that Yzma has a wheelchair-using mother named Azma, who is way older than Yzma and can barely talk.
- Yzma does not sing in the first film but have a song in the sequel (Feel Like a Million) and one in the TV series (Yzmopolis).
- Yzma is one of the few female Disney Villains to be physically fought in their respective debut films.
- One of Yzma's nephews is named Zim. This is also the name of the titular character of the Nickelodeon animated series Invader Zim.
- Kuzco once mentioned that Yzma was "living proof" that the dinosaurs existed, which could lead to her shriveled appearance. However, Kuzco, being the rude, shallow, and egotistical jerk he is, was just being snippy/sarcastic about her age. Also, despite the real-world Ancient Civilizations' non-knowledge as well as ignorance about prehistoric life.
- It is claimed that Yzma's main color is purple because it is a color that represents madness. True to life, purple is considered a less-likable color in some cultures. An example of this would be that purple is seen as the color of death in Japan.
- When Yzma says "Oh, my..." (referring to the missing human potion) in reply to Pacha's reading of the transformation potions ("Lions; Tigers; Bears"), it referenced the "Lions, Tigers and Bears" chant from The Wizard of Oz.
- Her transformation into a cat is plausibly a tribute to her own voice actress, the singer Eartha Kitt, herself often compared to felines for her singular voice and well-known for to portray Catwoman into the 60's TV show Batman.
- Yzma is currently the last female villain to go against a male protagonist (Kuzco).
- Oddly when she used the fountain of youth to turn herself into a teenager, Yzma was fairly beautiful but her high school yearbook portrayed her to be as ugly as her adult self.