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The Emperor's New Groove: The Ultimate Groove

With the release of 1989's The Little Mermaid, for the first time since Walt Disney's passing, Disney's animation department became not only respectable, but lucrative — something confirmed by 1992's Oscar-nominated Beauty and the Beast. Since this renewed success, Disney has pumped out at least one animated film per year. However, while the animation is as good as it ever was, the stories have become plodding and formulaic — usually about plucky heroes or heroines that are accompanied by sassy comic relief characters (usually animals or inanimate objects) who learn about the world and/or love, with either history or classic stories Disney-fied (read: made PC and tie-in-toy ready) for mass consumtion. Gone is the bite and joy of the Classic Disney as the New Disney animated films have become a yearly ritual. Perhaps then that's what makes 2000's The Emperor's New Groove so entertaining. Compared to Pocahontas or Tarzan, it seems like the black sheep of the family, with a few flaws but refreshingly tounge in cheek. Spoiled rotten emperor Kuzco (voiced by David Spade) is about to turn 18, and for his birthday he decides to fire longtime assistant Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and build a swimming pool where llama herder Pacha's house is, not minding for Pacha (John Goodman) or his family. Yzma plots revenge and gets her semi-trusty assistant Kronk (Patrick Warburton) to poison Kuzco's food, but Kronk unintentionally turns Kuzco into a llama and — unable to kill him — sticks him on Pacha's cart. Pacha then has to assist Kuzco back to his throne, and along the way tries teaching him humility. Though the plot is standard, The Emperor's New Groove has a manic energy, making this the most Looney Tune-influenced of all Disney films, with many of the Bugs Bunny-patented narrative digressions and in-cartoon conceits for bad logic. Spade has a narrow vocal range — he seems limited to being sarcastic — but his work here is acceptable, and Goodman is his characteristically solid self. But it is Patrick "Puddy" Warburton as the amiably befuddled Kronk who steals the show as the comic-relief assistant. Groove never settles into the right tone, and some jokes just don't work, but it has enough odd edges and surrealistic moments to make it engaging. Disney's two DVD releases are presented in a sparkling THX-approved anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) with audio in either DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1. The single-disc release includes an audio commentary featuring producer Randy Fullmer, director Mark Dindal, art director Colin Stimpson, character designer Joseph C. Moshier, head of story Stephen Anderson, supervising animator for Kuzco Nik Ranieri and Pacha's supervising animator Bruce W. Smith, a featurette entitled Sting's Making the Music, Rascal Flatts' music video for the song "Walk the Llama Llama," a The Emperor's New Groove trivia game, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a deleted scene. The double-disc set, sold separately (as The Ultimate Groove) includes all this and a bonus disc with a Development section featuring The Development Process, The Research Trip, Story Treatment, Visual Still Frame Gallery, "Kingdom of the Sun" Concepts; a Story and Editorial section featuring The Story Process, Scene Pitches, Storyboard Pitch, Deleted and Unused Scenes; a Layouts and Backgrounds section featuring The Layout and Background Departments, Scene Planning, Storyboard to Film Comparison, Workbook Still Galleries; an Animation section featuring The Animation Process, Character Animation, Character Voices, Background to Rough Animation Comparison, Animation/Character Tests, Still Frame Galleries, Rough Animation to Clean Up Comparison, Character Model Sheets, Computer Generated Imagery Props, Animation Production Progression; a Scanning, Ink and Paint section featuring Ink and Paint/Compositing, Clean Up Animation to Ink and Paint Comparison, Color Models still gallery; a Music and Sound section featuring Creating the Music and Sound Effects, a Sting Mixing Demo; and a Publicity and Promotion section featuring trailers, teasers, TV spots and radio spots. Dual-DVD keep-case.

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