It’s weird to think that The Emperor’s New Groove is 15 years old. I can remember the movie coming out like it was yesterday, watching the trailer countless times as it was seemingly everywhere from the theaters, to the Disney Store, to the beginning of all the recent Disney VHSs. I remember specifically thinking, “This looks pretty bad!” and I just didn’t see the appeal. Once the reviews came out surprisingly positive from everyone (even Ebert And Roeper gave it “Two Thumbs Up!”) and of course due to the general excitement one gets from a new Disney movie about to be released, I decided to give it a chance on opening day. By the end of it, I was laughing my head and thinking it was just about the funniest movie Disney had ever made. While the box office ended up being rather lackluster (again, I blame the marketing) those few people who did see it — myself included — helped spread the word about what a comedic treasure this was. As a result, the movie ended up with a cult following, giving it huge VHS sales which then resulted in Disney making both a direct-to-video sequel (Kronk’s New Groove) and an animated TV series (The Emperor’s New School).
In celebration of the film’s 15th anniversary and their annual Throwback week, Disney’s Oh My Disney blog decided to screen The Emperor’s New Groove as a “Throwback” pic at The El Capitan on Monday, September 21st.
Like all of El Capitan’s “Throwback” screenings, there were raffle drawings, trivia challenges and a costume contest: the winner of which ended up being a woman dressed up as Emperor Kuzco. Prizes included autographed posters of the movie as well as tickets for El Capitan’s screenings including next month’s Halloween Throwbacks, Hocus Pocus, The Black Cauldron and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Perhaps the most unique “surprise” however, was when they gave out complimentary spinach puffs to three rows! Completely unprecedented, unless there was another screening in El Capitan’s 24-year history to give out spinach puffs that I’m unaware of…
After spinach puffs were handed out, the filmmaker Q&A section began with Director Mark Dindal, Producer Randy Fullmer and writer Chris Williams, Steve Anderson and David Reynolds, hosted by esteemed Disney producer Don Hahn.
The Q&A ended up matching the tone of the movie itself: completely comical, not taking itself at all seriously and yet still coming together in a coherent way. Among the things discussed was the fact this movie started out as a dramatic retelling of The Prince And The Pauper set in the Incas, titled Kingdom Of The Sun, being made by the same team that brought us The Lion King. Ultimately, due to story problems, budget cuts, and other production hassles, they ended up completely scrapping the project removing most of the crew, and bringing in the guy who made Cats Don’t Dance to try and not only save the project but also meet their deadline. “There was nobody to stop us from making this movie,” director Mark Dindal remembered, “Literally, there was no one to stop us!”
Don Hahn recalled one of the hardest moments of the film was going to tell Sting personally that most of the songs he wrote specifically for the film were being cut, claiming, “It’s a very tender and awkward moment to hug Sting.”
The entire night was filled with humorous quips like that, such as pointing out that Tom Jones ended up being brought on the project to collaborate with Sting on one of the songs, Hahn commenting, “Basically, all research trips to South America eventually end up in Vegas”.
In the end of it though, all the filmmakers seemed quite proud of the final product, with Randy Fullmer being quite fond a review that claimed, “This is the best Warner Brothers’ cartoon Disney has ever made!”
It was a real treat to see on the big screen again. If you somehow have never seen the film in its 15 years of release, I highly recommend checking it out. Of the now 54 animated films made from Walt Disney Animation Studios, I’d easily rank it in the top half and award it really high marks for rewatchability. Even if you’re of my age group and seen this film many times to the point where you can quote all the jokes, it still ends up being a fun and enjoyable watch.
After the movie, they were allowing guests to make their own custom-made mouse ears. As guests walked away, they gave out complimentary posters. Boo-yah!