The Emperor's New Groove

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"A llama!? He's supposed to be dead!"
"Yeah. Weird..."

A very atypical animated movie from Disney. Hugely self-aware and a lot more naughty than most of the studio's canon, The Emperor's New Groove is a film that trolled the deepest levels of development hell and finally emerged as a spoof of a parody of its original concept. Very loosely based on "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Hans Christian Andersen, it's well-loved, but probably not intended for Disney's youngest fans.

Kuzco (David Spade) is the spoiled teenaged Emperor of a mountainous jungle nation (based loosely 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 advisor 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 (one performed by Tom Jones and one by Sting), and the spurned would-be cute animal sidekick vengefully attempts to get Kuzco eaten by a pack of jaguars. As you can see, this all plays out more like a classic Warner Brothers cartoon than a typical Disney flick, though it was successful enough to spawn a (significantly less well-received) made-for-video sequel and then a TV series.

It's irreverent, hilarious, and provides several example-quotes here on All The Tropes. In addition, it was extremely well-received by critics, but this sadly wasn't enough to save it from being a box office failure. However, the film has garnered a new lease on life in the post-Shrek world as an example of how to do a timeless animated comedy right — many of the gags aged far better than the heavily modern pop-culture based humor of Shrek and its knock-offs, and the character of Yzma is now viewed as one of the best Disney villains.


Tropes used in The Emperor's New Groove include:

"That's it. -Trident- She's going down."

Yzma: So, is everything ready for tonight?
Kronk: Oh, yeah. I thought we'd start off with soup and a light salad, and then see how we feel after that.
Yzma: Not the dinner. You know...
Kronk: Oh, right. The poison. The poison for Kuzco, the poison chosen especially to kill Kuzco, Kuzco's poison. That poison?
Yzma: Yes! That poison.
Kronk: Got you covered.
Yzma: Excellent. A few drops in his drink, and then I'll propose a toast, and he will be dead before dessert.
Kronk: Which is a real shame, because it's gonna be delicious.

    • Kronk's cooking is apparently that good to warrant the lack of focus, since he even convinced Yzma that they should wait until after coffee and dessert before dumping Kuzco.
  • Award Bait Song: Perhaps the most traditional aspect of the film is "My Funny Friend and Me," sung by Sting over the end credits.
  • 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.
  • Bamboo Technology: Yzma's secret lab.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: The movie runs almost entirely on Rule of Funny and Lampshade Hanging.
  • Be Yourself: Completely deconstructed (in a Disney movie no less). Kuzco's selfish Jerkass personality is exactly what makes him unloved by pretty much everybody. He suffers heavy consequences for it, ending up abandoned and alone in the middle of the jungle, which leaves him at the edge of the Despair Event Horizon. He realizes he can't continue to behave this way or he'll live as a lonely llama the rest of his life. It gives him enough sense to start acting like a decent man and asking Pacha for forgiveness.
  • 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.
    • During his Heel Realization, in-movie Kuzco actually argues with Narrator!Kuzco. 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 arrows and blue dots respectively. Then the film cuts back to Yzma... and she realizes that they actually are following a line of red arrows, left on the ground by Team Kuzco. Then she looks back and sees that Kronk is inexplicably leaving behind a trail of blue dots.
      • Kronk's and Yzma's line ends with a sudden thunderstorm dropping them to the bottom of a conveniently-placed canyon. Yet when Kuzco and Pacha arrive at the laboratory, 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: (pulls down the map with the dotted lines) Well, ya got me. By all accounts it doesn't make sense.

Yzma: Why do we even have that lever?

  • 3/4 the movie's running time later*

Kuzco: Okay, why does she even have that lever?

Yzma: It is no concern of mine whether or not your family has... what was it again?
Peasant: Umm... food?
Yzma: HAH! You really should have thought of that before you became peasants!

Yzma: I'll turn him into a flea, a harmless little flea. Then, I'll put that flea in a box, and then I'll put that box inside another box, and then I'll mail that box to myself. And when it arrives (Evil Laugh), I'LL SMASH IT WITH A HAMMA!

  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kuzco and Kronk.

Kuzco: Y'know, it's a good thing you're not a big fat guy or this would be really difficult! [All while pushing Pacha up a cliff.]

Kronk: Wow...what are the odds that trapdoor would lead me out here?

Palace Guard: For the last time, we did not order a giant trampoline!
Delivery-man: Ya know, pal, you could've told me that before I set it up.

Shoulder Devil: That's it! (cocks trident like shotgun) She's going down!

Kronk: Strange, that usually works.

Yzma: Then I bet you weren't expecting this!
[hikes up her skirt]
Pacha: GAAAAH!
Kuzco ACK! NOOOO!
Yzma: Ah-HA! [pulls out a vicious-looking dagger]
Pacha:: Phew.
Kuzco: Oh, Okay.

  • Fate Worse Than Death: As noted in Fan Disservice, apparently, the idea of being propositioned by Yzma is so horrifying, that the thought of being hacked to death with a long dagger is greatly relieving by comparison.
  • Foreign Queasine: Steamed giant pillbug. Smack it with a spoon to uncurl it, use the spoon to eat its guts. Kuzco runs out and barfs.
  • "Friend or Idol?" Decision: Kusco 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, Kusco runs over and grabs Pacha's hand, and the vial falls off the wall.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: Chicha uses one on Kuzco when he startles her.
  • The Fun in Funeral: "Well, he ain't gettin' any deader! Back to work!"
  • Funny Background Event:
    • During the dinner scene, there's a small potted cactus. Yzma ditches her llama-transformation drink into it... Guess what it looks like in a later shot?
    • 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 squirrel and Hash House Lingo.
  • Genre Savvy: Kuzco manages at least one moment of this; see Inevitable Waterfall below.
  • Gentle Giant: Kronk.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: See above under Fan Disservice.
    • Also this very, very awkward conversation:

Kuzco: So... Kronk seems, uh, nice.
Yzma: Oh, he, um, he is.
Kuzco: ...He's, what, in his... late twenties...?

    • Kuzco is a llama and dressed as a woman:

Pacha: We're on our honeymoon.
Mudka's Meat Hut Waitress: Bless you for coming out in public.

    • Shortly afterwards, Kuzco heads to the kitchen on all fours, his hips swaying a good deal. Another restaurant patron watches "her" go, then leers and gives Pacha a thumbs-up.
    • And in the Norwegian version of the movie, they didn't bother with subtlety and the dialogue goes (directly translated) like this:

Pacha: We're on our honeymoon!
Kuzco: (girlish giggle)
Waitress: Brave of you to come out of the closet.

    • The sequel has one moment where 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, I wonder...?
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Parodied by Kronk, whose angels are just as dim as he is.
  • Greasy Spoon: Mudka's Meat Hut, complete with incomprehensible order lingo and an expy of the Big Boy statue outside.
  • Gross Up Close-Up: Yzma's scary enough at a distance...

[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 the creators of Ren and Stimpy a run for their money.
    • From the sequel:

[Over a shot of Yzma's Evil Gloating]
Kuzco: So, I bet you saw that coming, didn't you? Well, I bet you didn't see this coming!
[Extreme closeup of Yzma's armpit hairs]
Kuzco: Aaigh! I'll be seeing that in my nightmares.

Kuzco: Oh, and by the way, you're fired.
Yzma: Fired? W-W-What do you mean, "fired"?
[Kuzco snaps his finger and a servant comes in and writes down Yzma's "pink slip"]
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. I got more.

Pacha: Uh oh.
Kusco: Don't tell me. We're about to go over a huge waterfall.
Pacha: Yup.
Kusco: Sharp rocks at the bottom?
Pacha: Most likely.
Kusco: ... Bring it on.

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. He is the current page image for this trope.
  • Jerkass: Kuzco starts out as one of these...
  • Kiss of Life
  • Lampshade Hanging: A good chunk of the dialogue, taken from various points of the film. As noted above, see Inevitable Waterfall for a particularly fine example.
  • 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.

I'LL SMASH IT WITH A HAMMA!!!

  • Lean and Mean: Yzma is the most extreme example of this in Disney's animated history.
  • Leitmotif: In several places.
    • Yzma's is the most noticeable, as it doubles as the main theme of the movie.
    • Pacha has a theme that's also pretty noticeable, as it plays prominently in both his entrance and the scene where he returns to his family for the first time.
    • Kronk's leitmotif is a bit more subtle, but the theme that plays when Kronk is sleeping in his tent, recurs in some of his other scenes.
    • Ironically, Kuzco, despite the movie being all about him, doesn't appear to have one: he does have a kick-ass theme, but it doesn't recur.
  • Lemony Narrator: Kuzco, for the first half of the movie. Eventually his onscreen self tells his narrator self to shut up, and the rest of the movie has no narration.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • "Y'know, the funny thing about shaking hands is — you need hands!"
    • In the end after Kuzco changes back, he claims he was being literal about wanting a singing hill in order to have an excuse not to build Kuzcotopia on top of Pacha's property.
  • Mad Scientist: Yzma.
  • 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.
  • Magic Antidote
  • Meaningful Echo: "Come on, nobody's that heartless!" First uttered by Pacha when Kuzko says he's still going to demolish Pacha's village after Pacha helps him. Later said by Kuzko when Pacha points out he could have let him fall to his death.
  • Meaningful Name: Kuzco means "the center of the world"
  • Minion with an F In Evil: Kronk, of course.

Kronk: My spinach puffs!

Yzma: Kronk! Why did I think you could do this? This one simple thing... It's like I'm talking to a monkey...
Kronk Good Angel: Whoa now.
Yzma: A really. Big. Stupid. Monkey. Named. Kronk.
Kronk Evil Angel: Ouch.
Yzma: And do you want to know something else!? I never liked your spinach puffs!
All Kronks: *gasp*
Yzma: Never!
Kronk Evil Angel: That's it! (cocks trident like shotgun) She's going down!

Guard: I'm sorry, but you've thrown off the Emperor's groove.

  • Nice Hat: Yzma wears nine or ten different hats, wigs and headdresses throughout the film. Several of them defy gravity.
  • Noisy Nature: Squirrels don't squeak, they bark.
  • No Fourth Wall: So much medium awareness and lampshade hanging, too.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Apart from being about a foolish and materialistic emperor, this movie has nothing to do with The Emperor's New Clothes.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The lever that flips you into Yzma's secret lab is right next to a lever opening a trapdoor to a crocodile pit. Even Yzma wonders why the second lever is there.
  • The Not-Secret: "Yzma's got that 'secret' lab."
  • 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.

"Now I feel bad. Bad llama."

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.
  • Technicolor Science: Above and beyond, even!
  • That Poor Plant: Two examples.
  • This Is What the Building Will Look Like
  • "To the secret lab!"
  • Travel Montage: At one point the characters wonder why their feet are tracing lines across the map, but they quickly shrug it off; it's not the strangest thing that happens in this movie.
  • Traveling At the Speed of Plot: Memorably lampshaded; see Hand Wave.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Yzma at least tries ruling the empire behind Kuzco's back. It's what causes him to fire her.
  • Troubled Production/What Could Have Been: Originally, it was going to be a more traditional Disney epic called Kingdom of the Sun, with a typical Prince and Pauper storyline. After a Writer Revolt, Executive Meddling, and a Retool (as the two directors were going in opposite directions, and the film had only a short span of two years to get completed), they scrapped the idea of doing a serious epic, and the resultant film was completed in an entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute. Several animators, such as Andreas Deja who wanted to work on "a great film", left in a huff, as well as many other staff members who just left Disney entirely. The results were awesome.
    • Related to Troubled Production: Mrs. "Sting", Trudie Styler, filmed a (slightly unfinished) documentary on the film's production, The Sweatbox. It was screened once, but since Disney owns this document of chaos, they make sure it never gets released (very likely due to there being a large amount of swearing in it), though it did end up being leaked on the internet in March 2012.
    • Related to What Could Have Been: Owen Wilson was originally cast as Pacha[2]. He recorded all his dialogue but when the film was retooled, his voice work was thrown out. There also used to be a short talking Incan statue sidekick to be voiced by Harvey Feinstein. Kronk was nowhere in the story. Yzma's original incarnation was creepier, less neurotic, far more threatening, and obsessed with becoming young and beautiful again.
  • The Unintelligible: Bucky the squirrel.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Kuzco both stars in and narrates the movie; at one point the two Kuzcos argue with each other. Also commenting on a segment where Kuzco-on-screen is unconscious.
  • The Un-Reveal: How exactly did Yzma and Kronk beat Kuzco and Pacha back to the palace?
  • The Un-Smile

Kuzco: So, no hard feelings about being let go?
Yzma: ...None whatsoever.

Yzma: Our moment of triumph approaches! AHAHAHAHAHAHA! It's...dinnertime! *Dramatic Thunder*

Kuzco-as-narrator: Ugh, he's doing his own theme music? Big, dumb, and tone-deaf. I am so glad I was unconscious for all of this.

  1. Guards drop down the hole to their deaths.
  2. who originally was designed to look like a twin of Kuzco...who, by the way, was called "Manco" in the original version