It is the 40th animated Disney feature film and was directed by Mark Dindal from a script written by David Reynolds , based on a story by Chris Williams and Dindal. The Emperor's New Groove follows a young and self-centered Incan emperor, Kuzco , who is transformed into a llama by his ex-advisor, Yzma. In order for the emperor to change back into a human, he trusts a village leader, Pacha , who escorts him back to the palace. Development began in , when the film was conceived as a musical epic titled Kingdom of the Sun.
Following his directorial debut with The Lion King , Roger Allers recruited English musician Sting to compose several songs for the film. Because of the underwhelming box office performances of Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame , Dindal was brought in as co-director to make the film more comedic. A documentary, The Sweatbox , details the production troubles that The Emperor's New Groove endured during its six years of development. The Emperor's New Groove was released to theaters on December 15, It received generally favorable reviews from critics, who praised it as one of the best films released during Disney's post- Renaissance era and the most comedic.
Kuzco is the young, selfish, and overly-pampered emperor of the Inca Empire who lives the high-life and routinely punishes those who displease him, such as having an elderly man defenestrated for the crime of "throwing off his groove".
One day, Kuzco meets with Pacha , a kind peasant and village leader, and tells him that he plans to demolish his hilltop family home to build himself a lavish summer home called "Kuzcotopia".
Pacha protests, but is quickly dismissed. That evening, Kuzco's conniving adviser, Yzma, plots to take over as empress by hosting a dinner her trick of secretly poisoning Kuzco as her revenge for him firing her for stealing his job running orders , but due to a mislabeled vial , her muscular but clumsy and oafish henchman Kronk Pepikrankenitz inadvertently spikes Kuzco's wine with the wrong potion , turning him into a llama.
After knocking Kuzco out, Yzma orders Kronk to dispose of him in a river. However, after doing so, Kronk has a crisis of conscience at the last second and saves Kuzco, but misplaces him on a cart belonging to Pacha. Upon returning home, Pacha does not tell his family about Kuzco's decision. After awakening from the bag on the cart and scaring Pacha, Kuzco blames Pacha for his transformation and orders Pacha to return him to the palace.
Pacha agrees, but only if Kuzco agrees to build Kuzcotopia elsewhere. Kuzco refuses the offer and decides to go by himself against Pacha's warnings, but quickly ends up getting chased through the jungle by a pack of black jaguars.
Pacha arrives to rescue him, and extends his offer a second time, to which Kuzco seemingly accepts. The two survive many ordeals in the jungle, and Pacha finds that Kuzco has a good side to him underneath his selfishness. Meanwhile, Yzma takes the throne, but is angered to learn from Kronk that Kuzco is still alive, so the two set out to find him. The next day, the pairs arrive at a jungle diner at the same time, unaware of each other's presence.
While Kuzco complains to the cook, Pacha overhears Yzma's plan and attempts to warn Kuzco when he returns, but he doesn't believe Pacha, thinking he is beloved by his people, and reveals that he intended to renege on his promise to spare Pacha's home. However, Kuzco soon overhears Yzma's and Kronk's plot of attempting to kill him and learns that no one in his kingdom misses him due to his selfishness. Feeling guilty and unwanted, Kuzco leaves the diner on his own, planning on living out the rest of his life as a normal llama.
Pacha catches up, still willing to help Kuzco return to normal after knowing his life is in danger. Kuzco reconciles with him before they set off to Pacha's house for supplies. Upon arriving, Yzma is already there, searching for the two.
Pacha has his family delay Yzma, giving him and Kuzco a head-start back to the palace, intending to enter Yzma's lab and find a potion to reverse the effects of the llama potion. However, they are ambushed by Yzma and Kronk, who somehow made it back ahead of Kuzco and Pacha.
Yzma then orders Kronk to kill the duo. When Kronk hesitates, Yzma insults him, prompting him to betray her, but she drops him down a trapdoor. She then summons the palace guards and claims that Pacha and Kuzco murdered the emperor, forcing them to flee with an armful of vials containing various animal potions Yzma deliberately knocked them all to the floor so that Kuzco and Pacha could not tell which one is correct , which they use to transform Kuzco during the chase. Pacha also knocks a table of flasks containing other animal potions into the pursuing guards, turning them into various animals.
As they are cornered on the ledges of a giant wall structure, they are left with two remaining vials. Yzma and Kuzco struggle over the vials, accidentally crushing one and transforming Yzma into a small kitten.
Pacha and Kuzco use teamwork to reach the other vial. Pacha gives Kuzco the vial, and Kuzco, after expressing his gratitude to Pacha, drinks the potion. Some time later, a restored Kuzco, having reflected on the consequences of his selfishness and made amends, takes Pacha's suggestion of moving Kuzcotopia over to a neighboring and unoccupied hill.
Kuzco then joins Pacha and his family at his modest and smaller resort. The idea of Kingdom of the Sun was conceived by Roger Allers and Matthew Jacobs ,  and development on the project began in In , the production crew traveled to Machu Picchu in Peru , to study Inca artifacts and architecture and the landscape this empire was created in. Kingdom of the Sun was to have been a tale of a greedy, selfish emperor voiced by David Spade who finds a peasant voiced by Owen Wilson who looks just like him; the emperor swaps places with the peasant to escape his boring life and have fun, much as in author Mark Twain 's archetypal novel The Prince and the Pauper.
However, the villainous witch Yzma has plans to summon Supay the evil god of death , and destroy the sun so that she may become young and beautiful forever the sun gives her wrinkles, so she surmises that living in a world of darkness would prevent her from aging.
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. Meanwhile, the emperor-llama learns humility in his new form and even comes to love a female llama-herder named Mata voiced by Laura Prepon. The book Reel Views 2 says the film would have been a "romantic comedy musical in the 'traditional' Disney style". Following the underwhelming box office performances of Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame , studio executives felt that the project was growing too ambitious and serious for audiences following test screenings, and needed more comedy.
Along with collaborator David Hartley , Sting composed eight songs inextricably linked with the original plot and characters. In the summer of , it was announced that Roger Allers and Dindal would serve as the film's directors and Randy Fullmer as producer.
Spade and Eartha Kitt had been confirmed to voice the emperor Manco and the villainess, while Carla Gugino was in talks for the role of Nina. In the summer of , it became apparent that Kingdom of the Sun was not far along enough in production to be released in the summer of as planned.
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's request for an extension, the director decided to leave the project. Upset that Allers left the project, Eisner gave Fullmer two weeks to salvage the project or production would be completely shut down. Disney said, 'Give it a shot. Animator Dale Baer would replace Deja as the supervising animator for Yzma. Then I wanted some vengeance.
They instead went with Tom Jones , who is eleven years older than Sting. In February , the new film was announced as The Emperor's New Groove with its new story centering on a spoiled Inca Emperor — voiced by Spade — who through various twists and falls ends up learning the true meaning of friendship and happiness from a poor peasant voiced by Goodman.
The release date was shifted to December Moorhead of the Houston Press , the film's plot does bear some resemblance to that of The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius , wherein a man is turned into a donkey. Eisner worried that the new story was too close in tone to Hercules , which had performed decently 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 attract audiences. Towards end of production, the film's ending originally had Kuzco building his Kuzcotopia amusement park on another hill by destroying a rainforest near Pacha's home and inviting the former and his family to visit. Horrified at the ending, Sting commented that "I wrote them a letter and said, 'You do this, I'm resigning because this is exactly the opposite of what I stand for.
I've spent 20 years trying to defend the rights of indigenous people and you're just marching over them to build a theme park. I will not be party to this. During production on Kingdom of the Sun , Deja was the initial supervising animator of Yzma and incorporated supermodeling poses published in magazines in order to capture Yzma's sultry, seductive persona.
During the research trip to Peru in , Ranieri acknowledged that "I was researching for a character that looked like a rock so I was stuck drawing rocks for the whole trip. Then when we got back they piled it into this story about ancient Incas. I really enjoyed developing the character and doing some early test animation on her as well. Before I left the film and it was ultimately shelved , I created model sheets for not only Snowball, but for the rest of the herd of seven other llamas and for Kuzco as a Llama.
Following the production overhaul and the studio's attempts for more cost-efficient animated features, Dindal urged for "a simpler approach that emphasized the characters rather than overwhelming special effects or cinematic techniques". Baer inherited the character of Yzma. Using Kitt's gestures during recording sessions, Baer commented that "She has a natural voice for animation and really got into the role. She would gesture wildly and it was fun just to watch her.
She would come into each session almost serious and very professional and suddenly she would go wild and break up laughing. Smith observed that "Pacha is probably the most human of all the characters," and further added that he "has more human mannerisms and realistic traits, which serve as a contrast to the cartoony llama he hangs out with. He is the earthy guy who brings everything back into focus. Being a big fellow about six-foot-five and weighing about pounds we had to work hard to give him a sense of weight and believability in his movement.
Actual animation began in , involving artists and technicians and production personnel. After the release date had shifted to winter , similarities were noted between the film and DreamWorks Animation 's The Road to El Dorado. Whoever came out second would face the impression that they copied the other.
This didn't seem to be a proper choice about Incas or any group of people. It was more of a fable. The marketing campaign for The Emperor's New Groove was relatively restrained as Disney opted to heavily promote the release of Dalmatians , which was released during Thanksgiving.
McDonald's also released toys for the film in Europe ,  Asia ,  and Australia. On DVD, it was also reported it had sold twice as many sales. Disney re-released a single-disc special edition called "The New Groove Edition" on October 18, Disney then digitally remastered and released The Emperor's New Groove on Blu-ray on June 11, , bundled in a two-movie collection combo pack with its sequel Kronk's New Groove.
The site's critical consensus reads: " The Emperor's New Groove isn't the most ambitious animated film, but its brisk pace, fresh characters, and big laughs make for a great time for the whole family. Writing for Variety , Robert Koehler commented the film "may not match the groovy business of many of the studio's other kidpix, but it will be remembered as the film that established a new attitude in the halls of Disney's animation unit".
Ebert would later add that "it doesn't have the technical polish of a film like Tarzan , but is a reminder that the classic cartoon look is a beloved style of its own. However, the film was not without its detractors.
Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle gave the film 2 stars out of 5, noting that the film "suffers from a persistent case of narrative backsliding that only serves to make older members of the audience long for the days of the dwarves, beauties, and poisoned apples of Disney-yore, and younger ones squirm in their seats". Savlov continued to express his displeasure in the animation in comparison to the previous year's Tarzan , writing it "is also a minor letdown, with none of the ecstatic visual tour de force.
Strauss would target the massive story overhaul during production as the main problem.