At the time of this publication, Walt Disney Studios has released 57 animated feature films. Many people recall classics such as “Bambi” or the more recent hits like “Moana” but there is a period in time that seems to have been forgotten- The early 2000s. Between the release of Tarzan in 1999 and The Princess & The Frog in 2009, there were 12 animated films and of those 12 there are a few hidden gems. The Emperors New Groove is one of those gems and may just be on of the greatest films Disney has ever released.
We follow Emperor Kuzco as he is transformed into a llama and cast out by his elderly advisor Yzma and her henchman Kronk. Kuzco places his faith in Pacha, whose village he plans to destroy, to get him back home. With Yzma and Kronk hot their tails, it become a race to the finish line to seal Kuzco’s fate. The highlight of this movie, by far, is the comedy which consists of both visual gags and witty one liners. This movie is ridiculously quotable and every single character gets their moment to shine but the best humour comes in the disrespect for the fourth wall.
When a character breaks the fourth wall they talk directly to the audience and I don’t believe any film has done it better. Here, it isn’t just used for comedic effect but it is occasionally used to further the plot. The main fourth wall breaks are given to Kuzco however several moments are left for Yzma and Kronk, including a moment in the finale where nobody seems to know how they could have gotten back to the palace so quickly. The characters are all wonderfully voiced with David Spade being delightfully punchable and Eartha Kitt being joyfully evil. Especially wonderful is Patrick Warburton as Kronk who isn’t evil, just misguided yet pure at heart. The demonstration of his struggle with the shoulder angel and devil are a nice touch.
As upbeat an jazzy as our cast can be, the music is even more so. Disney takes superb advantage of the Incan setting, giving us a unique soundtrack, with performances by Sting and even Sir Tom Jones. Even more refreshing than the soundtrack is the lack of a romantic interest. Pacha is married, Kuzco is a llama, Yzma is “scary beyond all reason” and Kronk is Kronk. Keeping our main cast at 4 really allows the story to flow. In fact Kuzco is the first member of Disney royalty not to be burdened with a love interest, allowing for a more meaningful bond with Pacha.
This film in my opinion really is one of the all time greatest Disney films, if not one of the best films period. It would lead to one of Disney’s most beloved television shows “The Emperor’s New School” and direct-to-video sequel with “Kronk’s New Groove.” Honestly, I think it is all worth watching just to spend more time in this beautiful setting with these wonderful characters and that gorgeous soundtrack.
Until Next Time…