Yzma: A llama?! He's supposed to be dead! Kronk: Yeah. Weird...
A very atypical animated movie from Disney. Hugely self-aware and a lot more dirty than the previous 39 entries in the studio's canon, The Emperor's New Groove is a film that trolled the deepest levels of Development Hell and finally emerged as more or less a spoof of its original concept. As indicated by the title, it is loosely inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story The Emperor's New Clothes.Kuzco (David Spade) is the spoiled teenaged Emperor of a mountainous jungle nation based (once again, veryloosely) on the ancient Incan empire of South America. On the eve of his eighteenth birthday, he becomes the target of an assassination attempt by his incredibly ancient adviser Yzma (Eartha Kitt) and her borderline idiot-savant lackey Kronk (Patrick Warburton), after he unceremoniously fires them from their high-profile jobs. Their plan fails, and Kuzco is accidentally turned into a llama. He's forced to team up with burly and good-hearted peasant Pacha (John Goodman) on a dangerous trek through the jungle to reclaim his throne — while Pacha tries to teach Kuzco just a little bit of humility in the process.The film has no love story apart from Pacha and his very pregnant wife, only two significant songs (both written by Sting after the other 90% of his soundtrack was discarded, and one of which is performed by Tom Jones), and the spurned would-be cute animal sidekick vengefully attempts to get Kuzco eaten by a pack of jaguars. As you might guess, this all plays out more like a feature-length Looney Tunes cartoon than a typical Disney flick. Roger Ebert's review specifically said that this wasn't an animated feature, but a 100-minute cartoon, and that he meant that as a good thing.It was extremely well-received by critics, but a lackluster Disney marketing effort on its behalf lead to middling box-office returns. It eventually did do well enough to spawn a (significantly less well-received) made-for-video sequel centered around Kronk, and then a TV series.
The humor is heavily influenced by Borscht Belt sensibilities.
Fun fact: Ancient Meso-Americans being (partially?) descended from Israelites is a big part of what The Book of Mormon is about!
Anachronism Stew: Oh, so much (what's an American-style Greasy Spoon—complete with incomprehensible orders and an Expy of the Big Boy—doing in the pre-Colombian Andes?). Most of it can be chalked up to Rule of Funny, except for the wheels. The writers actually spent quite a while debating whether to include wheels before realizing this just wasn't the kind of movie that needed to worry about historical accuracy.
A floor waxer gets a few seconds of screen time as part of a joke.
Angel Face, Demon Face: Kuzco starts out very hard-lined and softens to more Disney-appropriate features after he learns his Aesop. Yzma looks like she's going to have the demon face but ends up turning into something much cuter than her original "scary beyond all reason" appearance.
Animorphism: Since Kuzco is turned into a llama in appearance, it's natural that he'd retain his bipedal capabilities
Argument of Contradictions: Pacha's kids argue about whether their father would ever kiss a llama. They interrupt their rapid fire litany of "Nuh-uh!" "Yeah-huh!" only to say good night to their mother, then continue through the night.
Baleful Polymorph: The Emperor's transformation into a llama is the result of Kronk bumbling Yzma's attempt to assassinate him, mistaking a transformation potion with the intended poison. Later, chaos ensues during the finale when they acquire the rest of Yzma's transformation potions, and Yzma herself never fully recovers from being turned into a cat.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: This film basically demolishes the fourth wall with a truckload of dynamite, then reconstructs it behind the audience.
In the second act, Kuzco-as-narrator appears on-screen to complain about the plot focusing on Pacha, then proceeds to DRAW on the fourth wall. From the audience's side of it.
During his Heel Realization, in-movie Kuzco actually argues with Narrator Kuzco, who is still self-centered. The madness must be seen to be believed.
Towards the film's climax, Kuzco & Pacha race against Yzma & Kronk to reach the palace first. The movie shows the audience a map of Team Kuzco's and Team Yzma's paths, represented by red dashes and purple arrows respectively. At one point, when Team Kuzco is ahead, the film cuts to Yzma... and she realizes that there is a line of red dashes on the ground ahead of them. Then she looks back and sees that Kronk is inexplicably leaving behind a trail of purple arrows next to the dashes. They shrug at each other and keep running.
The above scene ends with a sudden thunderstorm knocking the purple arrow line down into a ravine. Yet when Kuzco and Pacha arrive at the palace, Yzma and Kronk are waiting for them.
Kuzco: No! It can't be! How did you get back here before us? Yzma: Ah...uh, how did we, Kronk? Kronk: Well, ya got me. [pulls down the map with the dashes and arrows] By all accounts, it doesn't make sense.
More explicit in the Italian dub. Kronk just says that the writers are still figuring it out.
The Cat Came Back: Yzma and Kronk's inexplicable and speedy return to the lab. Heavily lampshaded, in that even they didn't know how they did it. They even show a map of their route, which goes down a canyon and never reappears.
Characterization Marches On: Kuzco the narrator keeps the characterization he had at the beginning of the movie: shallow and self-absorbed. This is contrasted with Kuzco the llama, who grows to realize what a jerk he's been, eventually resulting a scene where the llama calls out the narrator on his attitude.
Chekhov's Gun: "You know, in my defense, your potions all look the same. You might wanna think about re-labeling some of them."
Chekhov's Skill: CLEARLY the bridge scene was going to be just for the laughs... OH WAIT CLIMAX.
Cut Song: Just about every song was cut from the movie, except for one, with another played over the end credits. They're still on the soundtrack, though. There's a whole documentary, ''The Sweatbox'', about the film's troubled production (see Troubled Production below) which puts a great deal of focus on these songs (which were written by Sting).
The most notable of which was Yzma's Villain Song, "Snuff Out the Light", which, while a fantastic song, was actually a necessary cut, because the plot of the movie changed and made the motivation and ultimate goal described by the song irrelevant.
Development Gag: The candle-holder in the dinner-scene depicts a character who got cut in the movie's overhaul.
Discreet Drink Disposal: Yzma and Kronk do this when the latter is forced to mix all the drinks together after losing track of which one has the potion in it.
Disney Acid Sequence: Essentially the entire movie, without even having musical numbers, but see particularly the chase sequence near the end of the film.
The rollercoaster scene to get to the "secret" lab is also somewhat acidic, though the effect is for comedy rather than confusion.
Disney Death: The old man who threw off Kuzco's groove and suffered a Destination Defenestration out of a high window is later revealed to have survived by getting tangled up in a banner. The palace guards who suffer a similar fall in a later scene may or may not have been so lucky.
D.I.Y. Disaster: Subverted/played for laughs when Kronk pulls the lever that was supposed to take him and Yzma to the "secret lab," but instead opens a trap door that causes Yzma to fall into a crocodile-filled moat. It's subverted when you consider the fact that that particular lever really is supposed to do that.
Although why they have it is a mystery.
The Dog Bites Back: After putting up with all of her abuse, Kronk finally turns against Yzma when she claims to have never liked his spinach puffs. Or at least, he tries to.
Do I Really Sound Like That?: Yzma, after becoming a kitten and finding her voice is much higher and squeakier: "Is that my voice? Is that... MY voice?!"
Dolled-Up Installment: Some unused elements from the original concept for the film (Kingdom of The Sun), such as the llama-herder Love Interest, Malina and Yzma wanting to regain her youthful looks, were revived for the TV series.
This basic conception of an old woman wanting to gain back her youthful looks was later reused with Mother Gothel, chief villainess of Tangled. The Kingdom of Corona in that film, even has the sun as its symbol, thus making it a Kingdom of the Sun!
Evil Sounds Deep: Subverted when Yzma makes her final transformation. An ominous smoke appears and she starts laughing evilly in a deep, booming bass, but once the smoke clears, she's a tiny kitty with a squeaky voice.
Yzma: Then I bet you weren't expecting this! [hikes up her skirt] Pacha: GAAAAH! Kuzco ACK! NOOOO! Yzma: Ah-HA! [pulls out a dagger] Pacha:: Phew. Kuzco: Oh, okay.
Fate Worse than Death: Apparently, Kuzco and Pacha would rather be stabbed to death than witness Yzma strip.
Foreign Queasine: Steamed giant pillbug. Smack it with a straw to uncurl it, use the straw to eat/drink its guts.
Friend or Idol Decision: Kuzco is within inches of getting the vial that will turn him back into a human, but Pacha is slowly losing his grip on the edge of the palace wall at the same time. At the very last second, Kuzco runs over and grabs Pacha's hand, and the vial falls off the wall.
In one scene, Kronk is talking to himself while, in the background, Yzma is being chased across the screen several times by a swarm of bees.
After Kuzco insults his prospective brides and turns back to the matchmaker, you can see one of them getting angry and moving to hit him, but another bride holds her back.
Genius Ditz: Kronk again. While the ditzy part is unquestionable, he knows how to be liked by anyone he meets (another kind of intelligence), is a great cook, has a lot of practical knowledge about things and can survive in the wild all by himself, plus he's fluent in both squirrel and Hash House Lingo.
[As the camera pans over Yzma's face] Kuzco: Whoa! Look at those wrinkles. What is holding this woman together? What the!? [sees a piece of spinach in Yzma's teeth] How long has that been there?
The scene which shows Kuzco attempting to eat grass like the other llamas could give John Kricfalusi a run for his money.
Hand Wave: Wonderfully subverted near the end of the movie, where a handwave is directly asked for and the reply is: "Well, ya got me. By all accounts, it doesn't make sense," complete with handy chart showing how it doesn't make sense. Everyone immediately stops worrying about it.
A bigger, if less obvious example, would be Kuzco himself. Bear in mind that at the beginning of the film he plans to bulldoze an entire village for his own profit, and later leaves Pacha to die (after admitting he was planning on locking him up anyway.)
How We Got Here: The film begins with a sad llama sitting all alone in the middle of a rainstorm. The voiceover informs us this llama once was a powerful emperor. The first half of the movie focuses on how he got there.
In the beginning of the movie, when Kuzco gets rid of Yzma.
Yzma: What do you mean, "fired"? Kuzco: Um, how else can I say it? "You're being let go." "Your department's being downsized." "You're part of an outplacement." "We're going in a different direction." "We're not picking up your option." Take your pick.
Then turned back on him when.. well, see Ironic Echo below.
I Lied: Pacha agrees to take Kuzco back to his palace if he agrees not to build Kuzcotopia on his village, which he agrees to. They even shake hands on it. But when Pacha gets stuck in the ropes of a suspension bridge, Kuzco refuses to help him and announces that he still plans to build Kuzcotopia when he gets back to the palace.
Pacha: So all of it was a lie? Kuzco: Well, yeah! Wait. (looks up in thought for a moment) Yeah, it all was a lie.
Pacha: Uh oh. Kuzco: Don't tell me. We're about to go over a huge waterfall. Pacha: Yup. Kuzco: Sharp rocks at the bottom? Pacha: Most likely. Kuzco: ... Bring it on.
Ink-Suit Actor: Most of the cast, although Eartha Kitt, (despite her best efforts), was not scary beyond all reason. Apparently Disney was worried that this trope would offend Eartha Kitt, seeing as how Yzma is... less than appealing. Fortunately, Kitt loved the character.
Kuzco: Okay, I admit it. Maybe I wasn't as nice as I should have been. But Yzma, you really wanna kill me?! Yzma: Just think of it as...you're being let go. That your life's going in a different direction. That your body is part of a permanent outplacement. Kronk: Hey, that's kinda like what he said to you when you got fired. Yzma: I know. It's called a "cruel irony". Like my dependence on you.
It's All About Me: Kuzco, of course. A movie poster featuring him and the trope title word-for-word is the current page image for this trope.
I Was Quite a Looker: Implied about Yzma in this film. In Kingdom In The Sun, it was an actual plot point that had to do with her back-story and villain motive.
Prior to his character development however, he pulls a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk moment on Pacha, making him believe he's had a change of heart and decided to build his vacation place elsewhere, only to come out and tell Pacha (on the worst possible timing for the latter) that he was lying in order for him to take him home.
A good chunk of the dialogue, taken from various points of the film. As noted above, see Inevitable Waterfall for a particularly fine example.
The video game is highly prone to doing this as well. In one cutscene, Pacha points out how five levels cover a twenty second scene from the movie ("This scene was a lot shorter in the film"), and Kuzco points out that using bananas to regain health is "such an obvious plot device". Other memorable moments include Kuzco saying that Yzma will be back after a boss due to having seen the script, saying that she's a terrible end of level boss, and Tipo not being able to find his Jump Button.
Kuzco: Kid, how do you know all this? Chaca: I don't know! Beats me!
Large Ham: While this trope is typical of most Disney villains, Yzma is in a class all to herself. Naturally, this is due to being voiced by the late, great Eartha Kitt.
Match Cut: Done with Kuzco's real head cutting to a stone bust about to be smashed by Yzma, and Kronk's block-like torso matching some architecture.
Mayincatec: The visual designers had a lot of fun with a fantasy Pre-Columbian South America look. Aside from Kuzco's name (Cuzco was capital of the Incan Empire), the relationship with history is understandably remote.
Pacha's name comes from Pacha Camac ("Earth-maker"), an Incan creator god.
Whereas "Yzma" seems to be taken from Izmachi, an ancient Mayan city.
Meaningful Echo: "Come on, nobody's that heartless!" First uttered by Pacha when Kuzco says he's still going to demolish Pacha's village after Pacha helps him. Later said by Kuzco when Pacha points out he could have let him fall to his death.
Murder By Inaction: As Kuzco and Pacha cross a rickety old bridge on their way to the palace, Pacha falls through and ends up tangled up in the ropes. Rather than help him up, Kuzco leaves him there, saying that it's better than imprisoning him in a dungeon as per his original plan. This backfires immediately when he too falls, forcing the two of them to work together to save themselves.
Not So Different: From what we see of them both in the beginning of the film, rule under Yzma would be the same as rule under Kuzco—they're both thoroughly self-centered people who care little for others and their well-being. Yzma is what Kuzco is poised to become—him plus a century or two (or three). Kuzco learns to become a better person, while Yzma doesn't bother. The characters never explicitly call this out, but the film does noticeably lampshade it, just like everything else.
Yzma:[after being fired] How could he do this to me? Why, I practically raised him! Kronk: Yeah, you think he would've turned out better. [beat] Yzma: Yeah... go figure...
Tipo:[to Yzma] I don't believe you're really my great-aunt. You're more like my great-great-great- [cut to another scene, then later back to Tipo and Yzma] Tipo: -great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great- Yzma: Grr! All right! Are you through? Tipo: ...great-great aunt.
Parental Abandonment: No mention whatsoever is ever made to Kuzco's parents, presumably the previous rulers of the empire. Yzma says at one point that she "practically raised him", so it's easy to see where he got his mean streak from.
Pigeonholed Voice Actor: Patrick Warburton as Kronk and Eartha Kitt as Yzma. Incidentally, this was before Patrick Warburton was pigeonholed in voice acting — in fact, this movie probably caused it.
Incidentally, this is used as a subtle joke: Yzma's "One-Winged Angel" form is in particular a kitten possibly because Eartha Kitt had previously played Catwoman on Adam West's version of Batman. She becomes an even more literal Catwoman in the sequel.
Turns out this seemingly unnatural role was perfect for Warburton as this movie launched a long and successful voice acting career.
Strange Minds Think Alike: When Pacha and Kuzco return to Pacha's village and learn that Yzma and Kronk have gotten there before them:
Pacha:[to a pair of old men playing a board game] What'd they look like? Old Man: Well, there was this big guy, and this older woman who was... well, [turns to his friend] how would you describe her? Old Man's Friend: Ah... "scary beyond all reason?" Old Man: Yeah, that's it.
Tar and Feathers: Yzma gets covered in honey and feathers before being used as a pinata.
Broken Aesop / Ignored Aesop: Yzma's potion is fake, but it works as a placebo, making the senior citizens who consumed it think they are young, therefore feel young. However, Yzma scammed them out of extremely large amounts of money, so once Kronk reveals this they chase her down through their town. Once they realize that this is quite a feat for people their age, this ensues:
Rudy: Hey, I just realized something. We chased Yzma all the way down here. Other old guy: Didn't I just cover that? Rudy: Don't you see? We're busting moves like a bunch of teenagers. Other old guy: So what you're saying is, even though the potion was fake, we're only as old as we feel! Kronk: It's almost like you should thank Yzma for robbing you of every last cent. Wait, that can't be right. Other old guy: Let's get her!
Cat Girl: Yzma manages to turn back into a human, but she has a cat tail and ears. You could say she's a Cat Woman.
Clothing Switch: Kronk and Birdie end up with this after diving in the ocean.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Yzma is leaning over Kronk, telling him she's got a proposition. Kronk freaks out... until she reveals it's a business proposition. What kind of proposition wouldn't he be fine with..?
Also has brief moment where Kronk pulls down a screen to show a clip about what happened in his past... and then loud music plays when a picture of a deer with the words "Stag Pictures" shows up, and he freaks out.