You can’t blame Disney for wanting to stick to formula. The pioneers of animation, after all, have a lot to live up to – Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast… it would behoove them to create something whimsical, witty, and devoid of moral lessons and characters bursting into song.
Which may explain why the woefully underappreciated The Emperor’s New Groove may just be their best animated film of all time. Here are ten reasons why:
5. The animation is topnotch. No pixels, just cartoons in all their hand-drawn beauty. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Set
4. The plot is uncomplicated. A spoiled teenage emperor, Kuzco, wreaks havoc on everyone in the course of obeying his every whim. He fires his advisor, Yzma, who then plots to kill him with the help of her of the month, an idiot named Kronk. Things go awry, and he’s turned into a llama instead, who manages to escape into the foothills, where he runs into a peasant named Pacha, who he has just told to vacate his pastoral home. That’s it – the rest of the film is spent trying to get Kuzco home where he can become a human again. Simple but deliriously funny.
3. The film is fast-paced! No music to complicate matters (save for over-the-top Tom Jones as “The Theme Song Guy”), everything fast and snappy, with humor and wit at every corner.
2. The voices are perfectly cast. David Spade as the Emperor Kuzco virtually reprises his role as Finch in Just Shoot Me, and his whininess is ingratiating at first, but you end up rooting for him near the end. John Goodman (a favorite with Disney – he also voiced Sullivan in and Baloo the Bear in Monsters Inc. in Jungle Book 2) does a great Pacha. Wendie Malick (again of Just Shoot Me) as Pacha’s wife, Chicha, acerbic and funny. Stealing the show? Eartha Kitt in all her glory as Yzma, and Patrick Wharburton as her bungling sidekick Kronk; the two “villains” are definitely strong arguments to want to see this film.
1. I’ve never seen a funnier film. Think Looney Tunes circa Chuck Jones. Cathy and I are constantly quoting from this film. Here are some great quotes:
Yzma and Kronk are at the door of their “secret lab.”
Yzma: Pull the lever, Kronk.
Kronk pulls the lever, dropping Yzma into an alligator pit. She exits, slapping the alligator.
Yzma: Why do we even have that lever?
– – –
Kuzco: This is Yzma, the emperor’s advisor. Living proof that dinosaurs once roamed the Earth.
– – –
Yzma: Why, I practically raised him.
Kronk: Yeah, you’d think he would’ve turned out better.
Yzma: Yeah, go figure.
– – –
Yzma: Tell us where the talking llama is, and we’ll burn your house to the ground.
Kronk: Uh, don’t you mean “or”?
Yzma: [sighs] Tell us where the talking llama is, *or* we’ll burn your house to the ground.
Chaca: Well, which one is it? That seems like a pretty crucial conjunction.
– – –
[plotting ways to kill Kuzco]
Yzma: Ah, how shall I do it? Oh, I know. I’ll turn him into a flea, a harmless, little flea, and then I’ll put that flea in a box, and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives…
Yzma: …I’ll smash it with a hammer! It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say!
Yzma: [knocks over bottle of poison on flower, which shrivels up and dies]
Yzma: Or, to save on postage, I’ll just poison him with this.
– – –
Yzma: Take him out of town and finish the job now!
Kronk: What about dinner?
Yzma: Kronk, this is kind of important.
Kronk: How about dessert?
Yzma: Well, I suppose there’s time for dessert.
Kronk: And coffee?
Yzma: All right. A quick cup of coffee. Then take him out of town and finish the job!
– – –
[the palace guards have been transformed into animals]
Yzma: Get them!
Cow Guard: Hey, I’ve been turned into a cow. Can I go home?
Yzma: You’re excused. Anybody else?
Other Guards: No, no. We’re good.
– – –
Kuzco: I can’t believe this is happening!
Yzma: Then I bet you weren’t expecting *this*.
[Yzma pulls up her dress. Kuzco and Pacha scream]
Yzma: [Yzma revealing a knife attatched to her leg] Aha!
[Kuzco and Pacha sigh with relief]
Kuzco: Oh, okay.
– – –
Yzma: [squeaky voice] Looking for this?
[clutching her throat]
Yzma: Is that my voice?
Yzma: Is that *my* voice? Oh, well.