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Click above to purchase "The Emperor's New Groove - The Ultimate Groove 2-Disc Collector's Edition" at amazon.com

 

The Emperor's New Groove
The Ultimate Groove
2-Disc Collector's Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rated G

Studio: Disney

Running Time: 77 minutes

With the voices of David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton

Directed by Mark Dindal

Retail Price: $39.99

Features:
Disc One: Audio Commentary with Director Mark Dindal, Producer Randy Fullmer, Art Director Colin Stimpson, Character Designer Joseph C. Moshier, Head Of Story Stephen Anderson, Supervising Animator Nik Ranieri and Supervising Animator Bruce W. Smith, Rascal Flatts Music Video, The Emperor's Got Game, DVD-ROM: Games, Weblinks

Disc Two: Animation Groove, Development Process, Story and Editorial, Layouts and Backgrounds, Animation Process, Putting It All Together, Music and Sound, Sting's Making The Music Video, Publicity

Specs: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Digital to Digital Transfer, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, Chapter Search (28 Chapters), Two-Disc Set, THX-Certified

The summer is usually the time when Disney releases their next big animated film (well, it's been like that since "The Lion King"). The summer of 2000, however, had a four week exclusive engagment of "Fantasia/2000" instead, where a few months prior, it was shown on IMAX screens around the world. While a big summer spectacle is planned for the summer of 2001 ("Atlantis"), Disney chose the holiday season to release "The Emperor's New Groove", which is a big disappointment considering how much great talent was involved. It's more of a "step backward" (as Kuzco says in the movie) for Disney. Either way, no one really cared. The film made well over eighty million dollars and this home video release is sure to make even more money.

Kuzco is a spoiled, seventeen year old emperor with no heart at all. All that he cares is about himself, his power and what he can do with it. So when Pacha, a kind family man and llama herder is asked to see the emperor, he thinks it is very important, and it is. Kuzco just asks him about his location, but it really turns out Kuzco plans to build a mea water park right where his house his. This is not cool with Pacha however, since his home has a lot of past and meaning to him. Don't worry, the park isn't built instantly because Kuzco's ugly, skeleton like advisor Yzma, has plans to kill him, after he fires her. However, thanks to Yzma's assitant, Kronk, Kuzco becomes a llama and is tied into a sack and then thrown into a stream, only to arrive on the cart of Pacha. When Pacha gets home, he notices the sack and releases Kuzco. Pacha agrees to help Kuzco get back to the palace only if he doesn't build his water park. However, back at the palace, Yzma takes over, and Kronk tells her that Kuzco isn't dead. And since they had a whole funeral for him and whatnot, Yzma and Kronk go on a search for Kuzco, which leads to some screwball comedy and a very un-Disney movie as Pacha and Kuzco must avoid the duo and have Kuzco return to his human self.

Some of you may know that this film has had a long history behind it. The film was originally called "Kingdom Of The Sun" (also known as "Into The Sun" and "Kingdom In The Sun") and was more of an epic drama (some designs of the film can be viewed on the DVD). However, halfway through production, all of it was canned (and where's more material about that on this two-disc edition?). So while that film was based on the story "The Prince and the Pauper", "The Emperor's New Groove" is based on the story "The Emperor's New Clothes". The result of this new film is not what you expect from Disney, and I shall explain all of this starting now.

First off, the animation. A lot of Disney films for the past fifteen years or so have been using CGI, this uses hardly anyone, and I doubt anyone will actually notice when it is used. The animation isn't bold or beautiful or the high quality Disney standard, it's pretty murky and not as easy on the eyes as we have come to expect. It's not too bad, but not as high in quality as some may expect. Perhaps the animation was rushed or something, but this film does not take advantage of the opportunites it has. For example, the kingdom and locations of the film could have been beautiful, like a moving painting, but it isn't. When we see exterior shots of the kingdom rarely and they are pretty nice, but in total, pretty bland, and this is disappointing. You know why? because when you have such a rich kingdom, you simply don't do nothing to it, you create a whole atmosphere of design and add on to it.

As I mentioned, the story. The story is nothing new or even entertaining. It's very slapstick and really lighthearted. Also, it's Disney film which doesn't rub the moral in your face at all, but rather implies it sort of. The characters are pretty standard, which is what you should expect and isn't that much of a big deal, but the movie keeps limited to characters. There are some "extras" for townspeople, this old man at the start and end of the film, and Pacha's family as well as some animals. Other than that, it's kept to the four main characters: Kuzco, Pacha, Yzma and Kronk.

The voice actors here are great, David Spade is really good as the spoiled Kuzco while John Goodman fits the bill perfectly as the kind Pacha. I am big fans of Goodman and Spade, and they really bring a lot to their characters which makes the movie a bit more fun. Eartha "Catwoman #2" Kitt is good as the nasty and evil Yzma, while Patrick Warburton is surprisingly delightful and steals the show as the not to bright Kronk. Yet with these voices, one would have hoped some lines could have been improvised, especially with David Spade, who has a knack for quick, sarcastic and funny oneliners. Early on in the film, he goes through choosing brides. This scene really reminded me of Spade's Saturday Night Live "Hollywood Minute" segment.

Musical genius Sting with his partner Dan Hartley originally wrote a ton of songs for "Kingdom Of The Sun", however, when the movie got axed so did the songs (Sting's wife actually made a documentary about this). With all this said, this movie is not a Disney musical at all. Characters don't sing. There are two songs and nothing more. There is an opening number sung by Tom Jones, and a song at the ending credits which Sting sings. When you get someone like Sting to do songs for a movie, how can you waste him!? Here Sting is wasted. His old songs aren't used and there aren't any other ones. It's hard to believe they let Sting just do two songs for the final film (the cut songs are actually on the film's soundtrack).

I don't like how the movie is set up either. It begins as a flashback and then goes to the present, I just really didn't see a point for it in a movie like this, maybe just for a few stupid jokes but that's it. As I said, it's not so entertaining and it does get a little dull. Mark Dindal, who did the great film "Cats Don't Dance", which was a parallel for segregation, also directs this film, and really does nothing here. The movie's slapstick approach is a big turnaround for Disney, but I have to say I was very slightly amused by Kronk. He's just plain stupid and some of his lines and actions will get a chuckle out of you.

While this certainly does not seem like a Disney movie at all (the running time is a mere hour and seventeen minutes), and is sort of an embarassment to Disney's usual high standards in animation, kids are sure to love it. For the rest of us, there isn't much of interest, and so many aspects of this movie make it a letdown. Still, what's bad here would have made a great DVD - we do get a tiny glimpse of the film that never was - "Kingdom Of The Sun". But Trudie Styler's documentary would have been a nice bonus. Simply put "The Emperor's New Groove" has well, not much of a groove. Still, this DVD edition is pretty much perfect...

For all their recent animated ventures, Disney has been using their top of the line digital to digital transfers using the original digital source files. Others in the past have looked brilliant (Toy Story, Dinosaur, Tarzan), and "The Emperor's New Groove" continues this tradition. Simply put, like all the other digital transfers, this one will make your jaw drop to the ground. It's pure reference quality. From the opening shot, you'll notice how incredibly sharp the transfer is. Colors are incredibly bold and saturated to absolute perfection. Detail is astonishing and black levels are marvelous, htting their marks perfectly. The designs and characters are brought to full life. There's no noise, grain, dirt, scratches or shimmering to speak of. You can't go wrong with this 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer. Definently a movie you'll want to show your home theater off with.

Boasting 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS tracks in English (as well as a 5.1 Dolby Digital French track), "The Emperor's New Groove" sounds pretty perfect for what it is, though I felt there could have been more to it. It has a nice feel and style to it when it comes to the mixing, there's good use of surrounds especially toward the end and with the nice musical score. I mentioned the film's ending, but there's also some other scenes that have a good amount of actions to make good use of the channels. I have to say though that DTS wins this round. It's pretty much identical to the Dolby Digital, but as far as some scenes, I felt there was more depth and sharpness in the sounds. English subtitles are also included.

Once again, Disney provides a pretty nice two disc set for one of their latest animated features. The first disc has a Audio Commentary with Director Mark Dindal, Producer Randy Fullmer, Art Director Colin Stimpson, Character Designer Joseph C. Moshier, Head Of Story Stephen Anderson, Supervising Animator Nik Ranieri and Supervising Animator Bruce W. Smith, and there's even a disclaimer before it. This track is edited, but overall it's a pretty good track. Dindal and Fullmer provide most of the comments. They talk about descisions they made and how things were pulled off. It can be a bit boring and dry, but there's enough information to absorb that fans of the movie will certainly like. They keep things going and there are no real gaps. Comments can be obvious, but there's a lot to like here.

The Rascall Flatts "Walk The Llama Llama" Music Video is included. It has clips from the films and cheesy kids dancing and teaching you how to do the dance move. Excuse me for a second... *throws up*. Okay, next up we have The Emperor's Got Game DVD menu based game which is nothing too hard but has nice deformed graphics, and finally on disc one there are DVD-ROM features that include weblinks and games.

Now disc two... there's a lot here on how the film was made and how a typical Disney process works, which is pretty interesting. The Get In The Groove feature is the first thing you'll find. "Animation Groove" and "Studio Groove" are the two subsections where it'll basically play some of the stuff on the disc automatically for you and in a row.

The Development section is broken up into five phases. The Process is a three minute featurette with Dindal, Fullmer and other interviews about making the film. The Research Trip has clips from the film, footage of the actual trip to Machu Pichu to draw inspiration and talk from Dindal and Fullmer. Stills are also featured which are pretty nice. Story Treatment has the original treatment for the film which makes a good read while Visual Development Gallery has well over thirty-three pages of stills to enjoy that show so much variety the animators and art people took in creating the film and how the style evolved. But what I found so interesting was the film that was never meant to be... a section devoted to Kingdom Of The Sun. It has an introduction from Dindal and Fullmer that is pretty pointless. I mentioned earlier how this was the original film and went through a lot of development, but sadly, all you get is a bunch of concept art to go through, but the designs here are pretty nice. Where's Trudie Styler's documentary? I was disappointed and expected a lot more here.

The next section, Story and Editorial has four phases. The five minute The Process (yes another featurette by the same name) has Fullmer ask Dindal questions, and we see storyboards, interviews and behind the scenes footage of how the story proccess works. It's pretty interesting to watch. The Pitch has an intro with Fullmer and Dindal, and it's pretty interesting to see three different pitches for the same scenes and the evolution. So after the intro you choose from three different "Perfect World" pitches. This is well worth a watch. Putting It On Reels talks about the editorial proccess, and how things are edited and establishing shots. Finally, Deleted and Unused Scenes has three scenes each with intros: "Destruction Of Pacha's Village", "Pacha's Family" and "Original Kuzcotopia Ending". The first is completed and looks quite nice while the other two are story reels.

Layouts and Backgrounds is also divided into four phases: The Layouts and Backgrounds Department which features interviews, stills and goes through how layouts and backgrounds are established. Really nice. Inside Scene Planning has "Scene Planning" with interviews, explains what it is and shows an example of how it works. This is also quite interesting. "Workbook Gallery" and Storyboard To Background Comparison" have intros and are pretty self explanatory. Layouts and Backgrounds have intros are just still galleries of the two (while Backgrounds also has a Color Keys gallery).

Animation is a unique section. The Animation Process is a four minute and thirty four second featurette with interviews, stills, clips and explains how animating actually works with the animators. CGI Props is an interesting portion which shows how some CGI elements are formed. Character Animation has "Character Voices", which shows the actors recording their lines, clips from the film and interviews with Fullmer and the actors. Very nicely done and informative. "Character Design" has a load of stills and animation tests, while you can see a "Background to Rough Animation Comparison" with an intro. Moving right along, we also have a Production Progression where you can use your angle button to see the story reel, rough animation, clean-up animation and final scene. There's also an intro. Finally, we also have Clean-Up Animation with "Character Model" sheets and a "Rough Animation To Clean-Up Animation Comparison" complete with intro.

Putting It All Together features a featurette on Ink and Pain Compistion with interviews, clips, behind-the-scenes footage and more. It's really cool how this proccess is done and this featurette lasts only two and a half minutes. Also, we have a "Clean-Up Animation to Ink and Paint Comparison" and "Color Models" section each with intros.

Music and Sound has the Sting Music Video for his Oscar® nominated song "My Funny Friend And Me" (it's a pretty nice song). It also has a bit on the making of it which is really interesting though a bit short. There's also a cool Mixing Demo where you can combine music, dialogue and effects (it also has an intro) and watch it with clips from the film. Finally, there's also a Music and Sound Effects featurette that lasts five minutes. It has interviews, film clips and how sounds come together. Very, very cool.

Last stop... Publicity. TV Spots, two Theatrical Trailers plus stills of posters and the ad campaign. Plus, an introduction for good measure.

And that's it... as you can see, creating an animated film is not an easy task and there's so much to it. I now have even a greater respect for those who make animated films and I'm sure you will too after going through what this DVD offers. On another note, the DVD set also has some cool menus.

Disney once again creates an impressive two-disc collector's edition that will satisify any Disney fan or fan of the movie. I was really surprised how fast the film came out and how much was accomplished during a short time period for a film like this (from the film's opening to the launch date of the video releases it's pretty much exactly five and a half months), considering Disney's big animated movies with editions like these usually take a little longer. Future Disney animators: this is a must disc to learn about how it's all done. The presentation is great but I thought the movie was a bit lacking. Still, enjoy!

(3/5 - NOT included in final score)

(5/5)

(4/5)

(5/5)

(4.5/5, NOT an average)

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