The Emperor's New Groove is the thirty-ninth animated feature in the Disney animated features canon. A wacky comedy having more in common with a Looney Tunes or Tex Avery cartoon than a traditional Disney film, The Emperor's New Groove was produced by Randy Fullmer and directed by Mark Dindal. It was produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation over a troubled six-year timeline. During that time the film was altered significantly from its original concept as a more traditional Disney musical entitled Kingdom of the Sun, to have been directed by Mark Dindal. The title of the film derives from that of the popular Danish fairy tale, The Emperor's New Clothes.

The Emperor's New Groove was released by Walt Disney Feature Animation and Buena Vista Distribution on December 15, 2000. While not a box-office hit, it was successful enough to warrant a direct-to-video sequel, Kronk's New Groove, released December 2005, and an animated television series, The Emperor's New School, in January 2006.


Kuzco is the narcissistic emperor of the Inca Empire, who routinely punishes those that "throw off his groove." After Kuzco fires his elder conniving advisor Yzma, she decides to take over the throne with the help of Kronk, her dim-witted but jovial henchman. For Kuzco's upcoming eighteenth birthday, he summons Pacha, a kind peasant and village leader, and proclaims that he plans to demolish his hilltop family home to build himself a lavish summer home called "Kuzcotopia." Pacha of course protests, but is dismissed. In Yzma's secret lab, she and Kronk concoct to trick Kuzco into drinking poison at dinner.

During the 'farewell' supper, Kronk ends up giving Kuzco the wrong potion that transforms him into a llama. After knocking Kuzco unconscious, Yzma orders Kronk to dispose him and hide the body, but Kronk has a stroke of conscience and saves him from a reservoir fall. He accidentally drops him on the back of Pacha's cart and loses him as Pacha leaves the city. Pacha returns home but does not tell his pregnant wife or children about Kuzco's decision. Awakening in the cart, Kuzco is shock of his llama transformation and orders Pacha to take him back to the palace, but Pacha will only do so if Kuzco would build his summer home somewhere else. Kuzco haughtily sets off into the jungle alone, before being ambushed by jaguars. Pacha rescues him after coming down a waterfall. While spending the night in the jungle, Pacha lectures Kuzco that he'll someday wind up all alone unless he changes his ways. On the contrary, Kuzco believes he is adored by his kingdom.  

Meanwhile, Yzma takes the throne, but Kronk reluctantly reveals that he lost Kuzco. The two then set off to find him. In the morning, Kuzco feigns agreement with Pacha's demand. Pacha and Kuzco are almost back to the palace when Pacha falls through a bridge and Kuzco refuses to help him up, admitting he never meant to keep his promise. However, he soon finds himself in danger too then both fight till the bridge breaks, and nearly fell into a ravine but work together to save both their lives. With the bridge gone their journey is delayed, giving Pacha hope Kuzco will learn better. The two stop at Mudka's Meat Hut, a roadside diner, at the same time Kronk and Yzma arrive there. Neither party realizes the other is there until Pacha overhears Yzma and Kronk discussing about having Kuzco dead. Kronk briefly saw Pacha before running off to warn Kuzco. Convinced Yzma is loyal, Kuzco berates Pacha and returns to Yzma, only to overhear Yzma and Kronk are indeed seeking to kill him, and also the kingdom doesn't miss him. Realizing Pacha was right all along, Kuzco discovers he has already left, and wanders in the jungle alone in disgrace, finding it pointless to go back to the palace. Later that night, Kronk then recognize Pacha is the guy who had Kuzco on the back of his cart and figures he must've taken Kuzco back to his village.  

A repentant Kuzco plans to live the rest of his life as a normal llama, but then he is reunited with Pacha. Kuzco apologizes for his selfishness before they set off towards Pacha's house to get supplies. While walking up to Pacha's house, they heard 'relatives' have come to visit, deducing their appearance matches Knock and Yzma's, to their horror. Pacha privately warns his wife, and enlists her and children to keep Yzma and Kronk occupied while they make a head start. The race to the palace seems to end with Yzma and Kronk hit by lightning and fall into a chasm, but they still inexplicably reach Yzma's secret lab first. Yzma orders Kronk to kill Pacha and Kuzco, but Kronk himself cannot bring to commit murder, which leads Yzma to insult Kronk and his cooking and she drops him down a trapdoor. Yzma calls the palace guards who attack Kuzco and Pacha without hesitation, while Pacha and Kuzco escape with all the potions in hopes that they will find the one that will turn Kuzco back human.

After several guards are transformed into animals while testing potions and Yzma is transformed into a kitten, Pacha and Kuzco work together to try and get the last vial. Yzma steals it, but is thwarted by the sudden reappearance of Kronk. Now a human again, and a more selfless ruler, Kuzco decides to build his summer home elsewhere, and Pacha suggests a neighboring hilltop. Meanwhile, outdoorsman Kronk becomes a Junior Chipmunk scout leader, with kitten-Yzma forced to be a member of the troop, to Kronk's delight. In the end, Kuzco is shown living next door to Pacha's family in a modest cabin, sharing a swimming pool with Pacha and his family.


Kingdom of the SunEdit

Early 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' 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 (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 lasso the sun and capture it 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.  austrailan bat clinic uses 

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Troubled productionEdit

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' 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' success with The Lion King, which had also had a troubled time in production. In addition, most of Allers' 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".[1] Fullmer approached Allers, and informed him of the need to finish the film on time for its summer 2000 release (crucial promotional deals with McDonalds, 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' 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 salvagable or else Eisner would personally shut down production. Fullmer and Dindal halted production for six months to retool Kingdom in 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 decent 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." [2]

The resulting film has a much different feel than most Disney animated features; it is irreverent and self-referential, much more like a Warner Bros. cartoon or DreamWorks' Shrek. 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 films released in the 1990s. New Groove and all but one of the four future traditional Disney Feature Animation films - 2002's Lilo and Stitch - would sustain losses during their theatrical releases.


The SweatboxEdit

Sting's wife 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 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 currently has not allowed its release on home video or DVD.

Derivative worksEdit

A direct-to-DVD sequel entitled 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 (There is a lot of confusion if David Spade Voiced Kuzco in the sequel, as he states on his comedy central show, he does voice Kuzco in the sequel.). Patrick Warburton and Eartha Kitt reprised their roles for the series.


  • The setting and culture of The Emperor's New Groove are based on the Inca Empire that developed in 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 Pachacuti, considered the most important ruler of the Inca Empire, and a historical figure. (Note: Pacha means "earth" in Quechua, but apparently there's no link between this and the character's name).
  • Storyboard reels of deleted scenes appearing on the DVD release include Pacha's father, a hustling inventor of useless items, and a stoner neighbor, as well as a party with all the villagers and an increasingly beleaguered Kuzco-llama.
  • 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. The ending was rewritten so that Kuzco changes his mind about destroying more land and simply builds a hut similar to Pacha's and spends his vacation among the villagers.
  • In the German version of the movie, Kuzco was voiced by star comedian Michael "Bully" Herbig. His involvement has led this film to become a "cult movie".
  • The Let's Groove song by Earth, Wind, and Fire can be heard in the theatrical trailer.

Selected creditsEdit

Voice cast and animatorsEdit


  • Executive Producer: Don Hahn
  • Produced by Randy Fullmer
  • Directed by Mark Dindal
  • Screenplay by David Reynolds
  • Screen story by Chris Williams and Mark Dindal, based upon an original story by Roger Allers and Matthew Jacobs
  • Score composed by John Debney
  • Songs "Perfect World" and "My Funny Friend and Me" composed by Sting and David Hartley


  1. Jim Hill, "The Long Story Behind the Emperor's New Groove". Part 1, page 3. [1]
  2. (Dec. 14, 2000). "Studio Briefing: How Sting Spun Out Of The Groove". Interet Movie Database.

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