This period of Disney films, for me personally, is the weakest, and poorest of stories. With unsuccessful films such as The Wild, Atlantis, Treasure Planet and Home on the Range, this era of Disney films, doesn’t have a good rep. And at the time, Pixar and Dreamworks dominated the box office!
But there are several films that were a hit, and have become fan favs, such as Lilo & Stitch, Dinosaur, Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons. But my favourite from this era, is The Emperor’s New Groove! It was released today, here in the UK 15 years ago. It was around the time where I was looking for something more from a Disney film. I was a teenager, and none of the Disney films were relatable to me at the time. And you all know how it feels when you are a teenager. Nobody understands you or how you are feeling. Then Emperor Kuzco came into my life…
Kuzco is a spoilt teenager himself. He thinks he knows everything, and what’s best for him, and of course he thinks he can do whatever he wants. You want to slap him so hard in the face, and yet, we want him to be our friend because we think he’s cool!
Plus, he has a GROOVE!
And a singing guy that, weirdly, sounds like Tom Jones!
However, Kuzco was not the only character that made me smile, laugh, and boogie. The film’s main Villain Yzma, and her puppy dog sidekick, Kronk, for me, added style, slap-stick and old-school wickedness!
My sister and I always do impressions of Yzma and Kronk, our favourite bit is when Yzma is deciding how to get rid of Kuzco. And her first idea cracks us up!
“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…
I’ll smash it with a hammer! It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say!
Or, to save on postage, I’ll just poison him with this.”
I think Emperor’s New Groove also is really the first Disney film, where the humour isn’t for children. Before this, it was all about the romance, or family, or scenery, and of course, the songs! But The Emperor’s New Groove has a lot of references to other comedy or films, that only adults would get. For example, when Kronk is supposed to dispose of Kuzco, he is sneaking around the palace and town, humming his own theme tune, as if he’s James Bond or something. Or when Kuzco and Pacha are going through the cupboard of potions, and say “Lion, Tiger and Bear”, which is a reference to The Wizard of Oz. Kids aren’t going to understand those references.
It’s a shame this film, along with Lilo & Stitch, Dinosaur, Atlantis, Chicken Little, didn’t do as well, due to the pressures at that time. I think Disney really struggled during this era. For the first time, they were not in the competition. They were not taking risks, and they were not the ones setting the bar. That’s clear when they made The Wild, because it’s such a rip-off of Madagascar. I was so disappointed.
However, they admitted their lose, bought Pixar in 2006, and went back to Disney classic story telling when they released Bolt. (That’s another era though, but we will come to that another time). I do want to also mention Meet the Robinsons. This film I have a hard time loving, because, its the one film that pays tribute to Walt Disney, but yet, it’s not an amazing story. Again, I think because of the risks Pixar and Dreamworks were taking with their stories, Disney tried the “time-traveling” story, just unsuccessfully.
Thankfully, this era didn’t last very long, and Disney came back with VENGENCE! And they are making hit after hit after hit! YES!
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney