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Disney’s Greatest Movie
I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like The Emperor’s New Groove. (Except one guy who didn’t like it because Kuzco was played by David Spade, which I always found ridiculous because Kuzco’s whole character required someone like David Spade. Seriously, should Kuzco have been played by someone highly respectable like Morgan Freeman?) Everybody seems to love this movie, and I think that is earned. Actually, not only is it earned, but I think no other Disney movie deserves the love this movie has. Yes, I went that far.
It’s a redemption story about someone who is knocked off their pedestal and realizes true riches are the people you have in your life, not riches or power. It’s a great premise, even if not the most original (there aren’t any original premises anymore, anyway). The Emperor’s New Groove beats The Lion King in this regard because it doesn’t have nearly as many plot holes, every character is voiced by their most fitting actor (cough cough Matthew Broderick cough cough), and it’s neither too dark for kids nor too light for adults. The Emperor’s New Groove is just as beautiful visually as The Lion King, in my opinion.
This movie greatly benefits from not being a musical. Most Disney Renaissance movies weren’t hurt by the fact they’re musicals, but every once in a while, we really needed a good movie that didn’t rely on songs. Even as a kid (age 9), I really appreciated this movie for not being a musical. It beats Aladdin in pretty much every regard (as much as I love Aladdin…). It beats Pocahontas and The Little Mermaid in literally every regard. As for Mulan… Oh, that’s a tough one. I think New Groove narrowly beats Mulan as well, but not by a whole lot. Same with Beauty and the Beast.
And don’t even get me started on the trash that is the modern Disney era, like Frozen.
The Emperor’s New Groove has a personality, unlike any other Disney animated work. Like all Disney animated movies, it has a bit of absurdity. But instead of the outlandish stuff being isolated (like how Genie was the only funny character in Aladdin), the absurdity is evenly shared with every aspect of the movie. Like the fact Kronk can talk to squirrels, or the fact Yzma looks 200 years old and yet still has the agility of an athlete, or how the rope Pacha uses to rescue Kuzco suddenly has the slack (and momentum) to tie them both up to it, or how arrows literally appear behind the characters as they’re running back to the palace, or how a giant trampoline conveniently appears right when Yzma needs it, or the fact the entire premise revolves around someone getting turned into a llama. I think the fact this movie embraced the absurdity was a total win, whereas with other Disney movies you kind of have to overlook how the cartoonish things are very isolated … in the cartoon. No, here, they said, “Errr’body’s ridiculous!” And yet, despite this, it’s still a movie you can take seriously and possibly even learn an important lesson from.
Every classic Disney villain is over-the-top, and evil simply for the sake of being evil. Yzma is no different, which is what makes her perfectly fit into Disney canon. However, Yzma is also a source of humor. As previously explained, she’s not out-of-place. She’s just as absurd as everything else in the movie. Every other Disney movie has an over-the-top villain while everyone else is down-to-Earth and feels real. In New Groove, they made Yzma just one of the absurdities you can enjoy, while still being a typical Disney villain in every other way.
Another thing I adore about this movie the fact that every character is their own character. Kronk is an idiot with a good heart, Yzma is pure evil but is living proof the dinosaurs once roamed the Earth, Kuzco is full of himself but in a funny way (“no touchy!”), Chicha is a strong and intelligent mother (see the post I wrote about her), the kids are intelligent and use their intelligence to unintentionally be annoying, and Pacha is just a devoted father who’s selfless enough to risk his life for a selfish emperor determined to make his family homeless. I love this fact about the movie because every animated Disney movie since has had interchangeable characters, where everybody is either used for slapstick or to say some meta joke.
I could talk all day about how great this movie is, but I’ll just conclude by stating the most important fact of all: Everyone can enjoy this movie, regardless of their age. I still love The Emperor’s New Groove as much now as I did when I was 9 years old. I still laugh just as hard, if not harder. Disney will never make its superior. Every character is their own character, the movie itself has a personality, it is beautifully animated, anybody of any age can enjoy it, it has an important message, and there’s overall very little wrong with it.
(It’s also great that this movie was traditionally animated. Computer animation has never looked as good as hand-drawn, and probably never will.)
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