Why You Should Watch 'The Emporer's New Groove' Before It Leaves Netflix
Everyone has their favorite Disney movie. Whether you're into the old classics like Sleeping Beauty or Robin Hood, the '90s Renaissance, or the post-millennium reign of Pixar, Disney animation pretty much has something for everyone. And for the weirdos out there like me who like their Disney movies to have talking llamas, strange storylines, and absolute hilarity, there's 2000's The Emperor's New Groove, a truly strange but wonderful entry in the Disney canon. With the movie heading off of Netflix on Sept. 9, now's the perfect time to catch this bizarre story before it leaves the streaming site.
The Emperor's New Groove is set in the ancient Incas and tells the story of the spoiled, selfish teen Emperor Kuzco who plans to tear down nice-guy Pacha's peasant village to build a personal vacation resort. But Kuzco's evil advisor, Yzma, has plans of her own, and in an attempt to take over as emperor, she has Kuzco turned into a llama. In need of help, Kuzco turns to Pacha, and the two set off on a silly buddy-quest comedy that hilariously incorporates Tom Jones, a dopey evil sidekick that loves to cook, and the little-known language of squirrels.
Doesn't much sound like the other Disney films of the era, does it? But that's what makes The Emperor's New Groove so great. While the '90s were full of dramatic epics featuring stunning animation, sweeping scores, and moving romances, New Groove replaces all of that with silliness, quippy jokes, and sarcastic characters. There are no princesses or people bursting into song, and the animation is more functional than beautiful. When it was released, it marked a big shift away from style the rest of the Disney movies had embraced throughout the previous decade, and would go onto inspire more Disney weirdness like 2004's Lilo & Stitch , which oddly mixed sci-fi, aliens, Elvis, and Hawaiian culture (and is also, sadly, disappearing from Netflix on Sept. 9.)
But fans of New Groove might be surprised to learn that the movie was actually supposed to be, originally, exactly like the rest of the '90s Disney epics. The project initially started out as a traditional Disney musical romance akin to The Lion King called Kingdom of the Sun. Yet as Gawker reports, filmmaker Trudie Styler was documenting the process as her husband, musician Sting, was writing the music for the film. She captured how, somewhere throughout a contentious process between executives and animators, the epic idea was scrapped and, in haste, the buddy llama adventure was pulled together. Incan mythology was abandoned, as were Sting's sweeping songs and a romantic subplot with a lady llama herder. The whole incident was turned into Styler's documentary The Sweatbox, but other than those who attended a screening at the Toronto Film Festival that year, many fans had no idea about the behind-the-scenes process.
So The Emperor's New Groove is sort of a happy accident, one that totally worked in the end. Some of the things that make it a great movie are the fact that its protagonist, Kuzco, starts out as a totally unlikable jerk and evolves into a nice guy, and its female villain is more than just a beauty-obsessed princess killer. Its top notch voice cast, too, helped to enhance the already interesting characters. David Spade's dry humor makes Kuzco's sarcasm hilarious, Eartha Kitt's purr-like tone make Yzma a terrifying villain, John Goodman brings his everyday nice guy to Pacha, and Patrick Warburton, who everyone might know more as Elaine's boyfriend Puddy on Seinfeld, is so goofy and sincere as Kronk that the big doof easily becomes the highlight of the movie. Plus, the whole movie is freaking hilarious. It's impossible to relay the funniest jokes here, but trust me when I say that the weirdness of the plot and the dry humor of the characters bring about some gut-busting laughs.
So before The Emperor's New Groove disappears from Netflix, give it a watch, and see what fans of the bizarre, like myself, and those on Rotten Tomatoes, who gave it a certified fresh rating, are talking about. It's considered by many like me as a forgotten cult classic, and if you're in search of something a little different from Disney, it might just be up your alley.
Images: Disney, Giphy