An oral history of The Emperor’s New Groove

It’s not all sunshine and smiles making Disney movies and the story of The Emperor’s New Groove is a great example of that. Bilge Ebiri ran through an oral history of the Disney film and how it was almost three different movies. Here’s an excerpt describing the first one:

First, there is The Kingdom of the Sun, an epic tale incorporating Inca myths, which was to be directed by The Lion King’s Roger Allers and would have starred Owen Wilson as a lowly llama herder bound to switch lives with a selfish, vain prince voiced by David Spade. The soundtrack was set to feature a whole series of songs written by Sting. The legendary Eartha Kitt would be the voice of a villainous sorceress determined to blot out the sun.

But after years of production snafus — of doubt-filled meetings and catastrophic screenings and arguments — Kingdom of the Sun was, in a stunning move, shelved. In its place came The Emperor’s New Groove, a raucous comedy directed by Mark Dindal, starring Spade as a selfish, vain emperor who involuntarily transforms into a llama and winds up befriending a kindly peasant, this one played by John Goodman. Eartha Kitt remained as the villain, now joined by a delightfully conflicted henchman voiced by Seinfeld’s Patrick Warburton. New Groove would ultimately feature only two songs written by Sting — one, a Vegas-style number performed by Tom Jones, and the other, a closing credits song performed by Sting himself (for which he was nominated for an Oscar). Racing against an impossible deadline rumored to be imposed by an impending Happy Meal deal, the final film was, in the words of one its co-creators, the result of the “funniest writers’ room you could possibly have. A table of people who had nothing to lose.”

Read the rest on Vulture.

Disney history related: A brief history of DisneyQuest, the history of Walt Disney Home Video, Defunctland on the history of Captain EO

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