Disney: ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ is Underrated

Screenshot from ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’. Copyright of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Hi! It’s Annie!

“You threw off my groove!” ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ has been around for a while now and is definitely one of my favorite Disney films. It’s not every day that you see Disney dip it’s toes into a buddy film style comedy, which is exactly what happened with this brilliant movie. It’s definitely something that’s been gaining more and more recognition and now has a pretty big cult following, but unfortunately it is still one of the least known and least watched Disney films. That’s really unfortunate because I am absolutely sure that this film, which was an accident, would be one of the most popular Disney films if more people knew about it. Could you imagine a water ride based off of Yzma’s lair at Disneyland? That would be amazing. But for those of you who still haven’t checked out this movie, and even for those of you who have, these are some amazing facts along with some of the bright points of this movie that will hopefully sell you on it, or sell you on it even more.


This movie was, at first, taken extremely seriously. It was, as it still is, based off of Incan culture and mythology and was originally going to be called ‘Kingdom of the Sun’. The movie was supposed to star David Spade (yes, he’s still here) as a spoiled prince and Owen Wilson as a peasant. Originally, the plot was that the prince’s life was in danger so he would have to switch lives with the peasant until they could find out who was trying to kill him. Though the animators were very excited about this idea, it quickly became too complicated too fast with not enough plot to connect the story points. One of the lead animators was on a plane explaining the movie to the woman next to him and by the time it took him to explain the plot, the plane had already landed. That’s when he knew the plot just wouldn’t work. The team was divided in order to come up with another plot within just a few months so that they could save the movie, and one of the teams decided to drop the seriousness of the movie on a whim.


Kuzco is my favorite character and he basically carries this movie. David Spade’s witty dialogue keeps the movie both funny and flowing. I couldn’t imagine this character any other way, but I was really surprised when I learned that David Spade was always going to play this role. Even when the movie wasn’t a comedy. The writers never had any other person in mind for the spoiled prince and now I can better see why. Kuzco is one of the only things about the movie that didn’t change from the original concept. In a way, he was always supposed to be like this. But really, I couldn’t imagine him in any other type of movie. Much of his funny dialogue comes from the other characters also being funny and Kuzco really needed a more serious character to even him out. We wouldn’t have gotten that as well with another character. But I’m not sure we would have gotten lines like; “Llama face!” or “It’s my birthday gift to me! I’m so happy!” if this movie hadn’t been changed to a comedy. And, of course, who could forget; “Let me guess, you have a great personality.”?


As I said before, Pacha was originally supposed to be played by Owen Wilson. Weird, right? Well, the dynamic was supposed to be very different. But when the animators started going in the more comedic route they realized that the Pacha they created would no longer work in the story. One of the animators realized that this new version of Pacha needed to be almost a father figure for Kuzco. After this realization, there was no one else in mind for the role other than John Goodman. Pacha is definitely not the most interesting character in the movie, but he really needs to be there because Kuzco, Yzma, and Kronk are so insane and ridiculous. One of the best parts of his character is his heartwarming nature. And who could forget about his amazing family? His wife and kids are badasses who easily outsmart Yzma and Kronk. Even if the mechanics of that door to the closet don’t really make any sense. But it’s made of a nice carved mahogany, so I can forgive it.


Originally a more evil character, Yzma was supposed to raise an army of the dead and spread darkness in the world because she wanted youth and beauty. One of the falling points of the original plot was this. Because those things don’t necessarily make sense or connect together. Why would bringing darkness help her achieve youth and beauty? Does she want to spread darkness or does she want to be be beautiful again? Eartha Kitt was also one of the actors on board very early on, even though the animators originally wanted Barbara Streisand. She had an amazing song called ‘Snuff Out the Light’ that you can hear if you look it up on Youtube. But when they told Eartha Kitt that they were going to make a comedy instead, she was delighted rather than disappointed. Yzma’s character was changed to have a ridiculous secret lab as well as lines such as “Hah! You really should have though of that before you became peasants!”. Yzma is one of the best parts of the movie. Especially as a cat. That also speaks to the ridiculousness of the movie. One day in the writer’s room they were pondering the final battle and trying to figure out how Yzma would rejoin it after she falls. One of the animators suddenly pitched that a trampoline should be accidentally delivered and she would fly back up using that trampoline. They were already creating a movie that was comedic and ridiculous, so why not?


Kronk wasn’t originally going to be in the movie. Just like Kuzco needed Pacha, one of the animators was convinced that Yzma also needed a foil character by her side. Nobody was convinced and eventually they held a meeting where they told him to save this new bodyguard character he had created. This was where the spinach puffs and Kronk’s love of cooking was pitched, and that was what saved the character. Much like many of the others, there was only one person considered for this role. The absolute sweetheart with a deep voice, Patrick Warburton. While many of the animators just wanted and expected Kronk to be dumb, Patrick Warburton developed a sense of empathy for Kronk. He also improvised Kronk’s theme music that he sings while trying to get rid of Kuzco and created Kronk’s sweeter side. Patrick Warburton really breathed life into his character. I quote Kronk all the time and even themed a look after him for Dapper Day at Disneyland. You can’t help but love him and his spinach puffs.

This movie is so quotable and so loveable I’m genuinely surprised it’s taken this long for people to notice it. It’s a favorite movie for my family, so we really do watch it all the time. Hopefully, if you haven’t, this has inspired you to watch this movie as well! If you have watched it, you can always watch it again! This is another Disney film that’s a comfort movie for me, so it won’t be long before I watch it again myself.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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