20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’

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The Emperor’s New Groove is a film about a greedy emperor who cares only about himself. Because of this, he has plenty of enemies but few friends. When he is accidentally turned into a llama by a former employee, he strikes up a friendship with a common man named Pacha, voiced by John Goodman. The most interesting thing about the film, however, is not the plot, but the story behind the making of it. Those who are familiar with the history of The Emperor’s New Groove know that the film we got in 2000 was not the one that was originally intended.

Fresh off the success of The Lion King, director Roger Allers had an idea for a movie about the Inca population, which he called Kingdom of the Sun. Tonally, it would have been a more serious film, an epic on the scale of The Lion King and followed an emperor as he is taught by a common man what it is to be good. This project went through several drafts, iterations, and story heads before it finally morphed into The Emperor’s New Groove as we know it today.

For those who are curious about Kingdom of the Sun, I would highly recommend checking out the documentary The Sweatbox, directed by Sting’s wife Trudie Styler. At the time, the film was to be a musical for which Sting wrote several completed songs. The Sweatbox takes viewers behind the scenes of this often problematic project and gives us a sense of what the film could have been.

Though Kingdom of the Sun never came to fruition, the film that Disney did make was received well by audiences upon release. I would argue, however, that the film has improved with time and stands as the best Disney animated film of that era.

The Emperor’s New Groove is a stark departure from the films that came out of the Disney Renaissance. It is not as sophisticated or thematically heavy. Nevertheless, it does comedy better than any other Disney animated film that I can think of. The writing is extremely clever, and is expertly delivered by the talents of David Spade, John Goodman, Patrick Warburton, and Eartha Kit. Interesting, you would never know of its troubled history from watching the final film.

For new viewers, this film is absolutely worth your time. It is funny, clever, and entertaining for kids and adults alike.

Live-action remake: There is no live action remake planned for The Emperor’s New Groove

The Emperor’s New Groove in the theme parks: As is often the case when a Disney movie is just released, costumed characters were seen in the parks from this film in 2000. Currently, Yzma and Kronk appear in the attraction Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom in Florida.

Sequel/Spin-off: As was often the case, DisneyToon Studios made a direct-to-video sequel to this project, titled Kronk’s New Groove. Releasing 5 years after the original film, this story focuses on Kronk, as the title implies. Though Kuzco makes a couple of brief appearances, this is really Kronk’s movie, following his life after he turned his life around for good. All of our favorite characters are back- and with their original voice actors- including Eartha Kitt as Yzma, John Goodman as Pacha, and Wendie Malick as Chicha. For further discussion on this and other sequels, check out my 25 Weeks of DisneyToon Sequels.

A spin-off animated television show titled The Emperor’s New School aired on Disney Channel from 2006 to 2007. Following the events of the first film, the series follows Kuzco as he attends school in order to return to his throne.

The Emperor’s New Groove is available to steam on Disney+.

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