The Emperor's New Groove

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the film. For the video game, see The Emperor's New Groove (video game).
The Emperor's New Groove
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Dindal
Produced by Randy Fullmer
Don Hahn
Screenplay by David Reynolds
Story by Mark Dindal
Chris Williams
Starring David Spade
John Goodman
Eartha Kitt
Patrick Warburton
Wendie Malick
John Fiedler
Narrated by David Spade
Music by John Debney
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Feature Animation
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date(s)
  • December 15, 2000 (2000-12-15)
Running time 78 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $100 million[1]
Box office $169,327,687[1]

The Emperor's New Groove is a 2000 American animated family musical mystery film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on December 15, 2000. It is the 40th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The title refers to the Danish fairy tale The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen, though the two have little else in common. A comedy produced by Randy Fullmer and directed by Mark Dindal, The Emperor's New Groove was altered significantly over six years of development and production from its original concept as a Disney musical epic entitled Kingdom of the Sun, to have been directed by Dindal and Roger Allers (co-director of The Lion King). The documentary The Sweatbox shows the production hell that the film endured, as the film was morphed by Disney executives into the light-hearted buddy comedy.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "My Funny Friend and Me" performed by Sting, but lost to "Things Have Changed" by Bob Dylan from Wonder Boys.

A direct-to-video prequel, Kronk's New Groove, was released in December 2005, followed by an animated television series, The Emperor's New School, in January 2006.


Kuzco is the 18-year-old selfish emperor of the Incan Empire, who summons Pacha, the leader of a nearby village, to inform him that he is planning to build his enormous summer home, Kuzcotopia, on the site of Pacha's house for his birthday, thus rendering Pacha and his family homeless via eminent domain. Pacha attempts to protest, but is dismissed. Kuzco's recently fired advisor Yzma, furious after having been sacked, enlists her guileless right-hand man Kronk to try and poison Kuzco so that Yzma can take control of the empire, but the supposed one turns out to be a potion, which turns Kuzco into a llama rather than killing him.

After knocking Kuzco unconscious, Yzma orders Kronk to dispose of him, but conscience-stricken Kronk loses the sack holding Kuzco and it falls into Pacha's cart. Kuzco ends up in Pacha's village (he later stops the show to remind the audience that this is his story, not Pacha's), accuses Pacha of kidnapping him and demands Pacha to help him return to the palace, but Pacha refuses unless Kuzco builds his summer home elsewhere, and Kuzco attempts to find his own way home in a jungle, where he accidentally gets surrounded by a pack of black panthers, only to be saved by Pacha until they get tied to a huge log by a vine and float out of control down a river and go over a waterfall. Kuzco then falls unconscious again and Pacha gets him up by nearly giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. They then camp there for the night. Meanwhile, Yzma assumes command of the empire, but when Kronk reluctantly reveals he never killed Kuzco, the two head out and begin to search the local villages for him.

Kuzco lies to Pacha about agreeing to build his home elsewhere, and Pacha agrees to take him back to the palace by crossing a bridge, but after Kuzco admits that he lied, the two fight, break the bridge, and are forced to take a longer way to the palace (and almost getting killed by crocodiles). They stop at a roadside diner, Mudka's Meat Hut, before Yzma and Kronk arrive shortly after. Pacha overhears Yzma discussing their plans to kill Kuzco, and attempts to warn him throughout the commotion in the diner, but Kuzco does not believe him, calls Pacha selfish and tells him to go, and returns to Yzma, only to overhear them discussing that they are seeking to kill him and that the kingdom does not even miss him. Kuzco realizes Pacha was right, but to his shame, Pacha has already left. Later that night, at Yzma and Kronk's camp spot, Kronk then suddenly realizes that Pacha is the guy who had Kuzco in his cart, and tells Yzma that if they find him at his village, they would find Kuzco. After a repentant Kuzco spends the night alone in the jungle, to his surprise he finds and reunites Pacha in a llama field, with Pacha having forgiven Kuzco. They race back to the palace, with Yzma and Kronk chasing them, although temporarily impeded to their frustration by Pacha's family, 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 (neither Kronk nor Yzma are themselves quite sure how). Yzma orders Kronk to kill Kuzco, but Kronk refuses to do so, and ends up changing sides after a vicious tongue-lashing from Yzma (who insults his cooking) and Kronk gets dropped down a trapdoor. Kuzco admits that his behavior in the past was wrong, but questions Yzma if murder is really the answer. Yzma ignores him, and summons the palace guards, forcing Kuzco and Pacha to grab all of the transformation potions and flee. After trying several formulas that convert Kuzco to other animals, some which help them in certain places, and then back to a llama, they escape the guards (but not Yzma), who foolishly try to follow them down a drain, and the duo find they are down to only two vials. Yzma catches up to them and accidentally steps on one of the two, turning herself into a tiny kitten, speaks in a high-pitched voice and still almost manages to obtain the antidote after fighting Kuzco and Pacha for it, but is thwarted by the sudden reappearance of Kronk, who questions her of why the trapdoor led him outside. Kuzco becomes human again and sets out to redeem himself, building a small summer cabin on the hill next to Pacha's home at the peasant's invitation, both Kuzco and Pacha's family sharing a swimming hole. Meanwhile, outdoorsman Kronk as a scout leader with the squirrel that Kuzco came across earlier teaches Yzma now stuck as a kitten to be a member of the troop with the children.

Voice Cast[edit]

Additional voices include Jess Harnell and Sherry Lynn.


Kingdom of the Sun[edit]

Development of Kingdom of the Sun, later retitled The Emperor's New Groove, began in 1994[2] 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 convinced to write several songs for the film. Sting agreed to the project, but specified only if his filmmaker wife Trudie Styler, could "document the process of the production".[3] This film, which was eventually entitled The Sweatbox, and made by Xingu Films (their own production company), was agreed to, and Sting joined the project.[4] Along with collaborator David Hartley, Sting had composed eight songs inextricably linked with the original plot and characters.[2]

Kingdom of the Sun was to have been a tale of a greedy, selfish emperor (voiced by Spade) who finds a peasant (voiced by Owen Wilson) 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 the evil god 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. The book Reel Views 2 says the film would have been a "romantic comedy musical in the 'traditional' Disney style".[5]

Troubled production[edit]

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".[6] 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). By the beginning of 1999,[3] 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.[6] When Fullmer denied Allers's request for an extension, the director quit the project.


Angered, Allers left the project, and Eisner gave Fullmer two weeks to salvage the film or production would be shut down.[7] Fullmer and Dindal halted production for six months to retool the project retitling it to Kingdom in the Sun,[3] while their animators were reassigned to work on the Rhapsody in Blue segment of Fantasia 2000.[8] 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 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. The "result, while not a groundbreaking effort for Disney, t[ook] the animated division in a fresh direction by rejecting a number of expected conventions".[5]

Andreas Deja declined to return to the film, and moved to Orlando, Florida to work on Lilo & Stitch in 2001, 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."[9]


The title of the film is derived from that of the popular fairy tale The Emperor's New Clothes by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. 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 Peru. It is specifically based on the Kingdom of Cusco. 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 Pachacuti, 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 and writing on paper), 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.[10]

Unlike many previous Disney animated films, The Emperor's New Groove is almost completely devoid of musical numbers. 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.

Deleted scenes[edit]

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 sent a note to the producers that Kuzco had not really learned from his experiences if he still built his excessive mansion, and in the midst of the peasant community. The ending was rewritten so that Kuzco constructs a shack similar to Pacha's and spends his vacation among the villagers [11]

Home media[edit]

The standard VHS and DVD was released May 1, 2001 at the same time the "2-Disc Collector's Edition" was released with more Bonus Features. The standard VHS and DVD & The 2-Disc Collector's Edition are returned to the Disney Vault. Disney re-released a single-disc special edition called "The New Groove Edition" on October 18, 2005. The film was also released on a 2 Movie Set Blu-ray Combo-Pack with its direct-to-video sequel on June 11, 2013. The Blu-ray of the film contains no special features.


The film received positive reviews and currently holds an 85% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus saying that the film "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." Many consider the film to be one of the better films of Disney's post-Renaissance era [12] and also one of the most comedic.

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.[1] It performed better on home video, becoming the top-selling home video release of 2001.[13]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Result Award Winner/Nominee Recipient(s)
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)

The Sweatbox[edit]

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). Disney owns the rights to the documentary and has not released it on home video or DVD.

The naming is due to the screening room at the Disney studio in Burbank, which when originally set up had "no air conditioning, causing the animators to sweat while their rough work was being critiqued." The "process of reviewing the animation as it developed" became known as the Sweatbox,[4] and as the documentary was about "the process of making an animated film," the term was chosen as the title. This "making of" documentary was co-directed by Styler and John-Paul Davidson.[4]

A review by explains the plot: While "the first thirty-to-forty minutes of The Sweatbox unfolds as one might expect any in-depth look at the making of an animated film to go"...about forty minutes in, we witness the fateful day in which an early story-boarded cut of the film is screened for the heads of Disney Feature Animation, Thomas Schumacher and Peter Schneider. They hate the film, declare that it is not working, and begin a process of totally scrapping and reinventing huge chunks of the story. Characters are totally changed...voice actors are replaced, and the entire story is shifted around."[14] Dorse A. Lanpher said the film "documents the pain and anguish of the maneuvering to get The Kingdom of the Sun/The Emperor's New Groove made into a movie.[15]

The 84 minute film, which was originally supposed to be released at the beginning of 2001, was "heavily edited down into a short extra feature on The Emperor's New Groove DVD and named 'Making the Music Video' and only featuring the Oscar-nominated song, 'My Funny Friend and Me.'" A Disney-approved version of the film received a worldwide premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on September 13, 2002. It also had a short run at the Loews Beverly Center Cineplex of Los Angeles "in an unpublicized one-week run in order to be eligible for an Academy Award nomination". In addition to this, the film was also "shown at The Enzian theater in Orlando as part of the Florida Film Festival".[4]

According to Wade Sampson, staff writer at MousePlanet who attended a screening, each time Tom Schumacher or Peter Schneider (then-Disney Feature Animation president and Disney Studios chairman respectively), were on the screen, "there were howls from the audience that was partly composed of animators from Disney Feature Animation Florida." He says that "the two executives did come across as nerdy bullies who really didn't seem to know what was going on when it came to animation," and that they "were unnecessarily hurtful and full of politically correct speech." He adds that it is left to the viewer to decide if this impression is due to editing or a "remarkable truthful glimpse."[4]

Sampson adds, "rarely have artists been caught so evocatively in fear of executives, or executives portrayed as so clueless as to how to deal with artists, how to resolve story problems and how to understand what audiences wanted." He says that "supporters of Allers' original vision still feel that if he had been given the time, money and support that the film would have been a masterpiece," but "instead of the more ambitious Kingdom of the Sun, the Disney Studio decides to go with a supposedly more commercial film incorporating some of the same characters and location, Emperor's New Groove."[4]

Although the film in its completed form had been kept under wraps for about a decade, on March 21, 2012 it was "posted an eighteen-year-old cartoonist in the UK."[16]

After the documentary was leaked online, Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew gave the following analysis of the film:

The Sweatbox is at turns infuriating, hilarious and enlightening. You’ll cringe in sympathy with the Disney artists as you see the gross bureaucratic incompetence they had to endure while working at the studio in the 1990s. The film not only captures the tortured morphing of the Kingdom of the Sun into The Emperor’s New Groove, it also serves as an invaluable historical document about Disney’s animation operations in the late-1990s. If any questions remain about why Disney fizzled out creatively and surrendered its feature animation crown to Pixar and DreamWorks, this film will answer them.[16]

Rich Juzwiak of Gawker said it was more of "a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen story about sensitive creative types and the people in charge who have to tell them, 'No'", rather than a story full of "fury or vengeance."[17]

Adaptations and sequels[edit]

A direct-to-video sequel entitled Kronk's New Groove was released on December 13, 2005, and a Disney Channel cartoon series, The Emperor's New School followed, but without David Spade voicing Kuzco (J. P. Manoux took over the role) and John Goodman voicing Pacha (Fred Tatasciore voiced Pacha in season 1), as they had in the original film and sequel. Patrick Warburton, Eartha Kitt, and Wendie Malick reprised their roles for the series. John Goodman subsequently reprised his role for the second 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. The PlayStation version was re-released for the North American PlayStation Network on July 27, 2010.

The Tokyo DisneySea rollercoaster attraction Raging Spirits took visual inspiration for its Incan ruins theme from the buildings in the film, with a structure based on Kuzco's palace similarly crowning the ruins site.[18]


  1. ^ a b c "The Emperor's New Groove". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  2. ^ a b Kuklenski, Valerie (December 13, 2000). "Finding the Groove". Los Angeles Daily News (The Sun Sentinel). Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Lurio, Eric (September 26, 2000). "Sweatbox: Inside The Emperor's New Groove". Retrieved September 2, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f
  5. ^ a b James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert. Reel Views 2. p. 55. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Jim Hill, "The Long Story Behind the Emperor's New Groove". Part 1, page 3. [1]
  7. ^ Jim Hill, "The Long Story Behind the Emperor's New Groove". Part 1, page 4. [2]
  8. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. p. 78. Retrieved September 3, 2013. 
  9. ^ (Dec. 14, 2000). "Studio Briefing: How Sting Spun Out Of The Groove". Internet Movie Database. [3]
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Emperor's New Groove DVD commentary 1:11:50-1:13:35
  12. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "The Year in Video 2001: The Year in Charts". [[Billboard (magazine)|]] (Nielsen Business Media) 114 (2): 67. 2002-01-12. Retrieved 22 June 2014. 
  14. ^ "Josh Reviews The Sweatbox, the Documentary the Walt Disney Company Doesn’t Want You to See!!". April 6, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  15. ^ Lanpher, Dorse A. Flyin' Chunks and Other Things to Duck. p. 176. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Amidi, Amid (March 22, 2012). ""The Sweatbox", the Documentary That Disney Doesn't Want You to See". CartoonBrew. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Sting's Suppressed Disney Documentary Leaked Online". Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  18. ^

External links[edit]