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I haven't had this much fun in a Disney animated movie since Aladdin.  And unlike The Lion King, this doesn't try to heap the morality of the message onto you like a ton of bricks, although it still delivers one just long enough to make its point without berating it to death.  If you really need to know the message, it's about the power of working together and to think about someone other than yourself.  The delivery is fast-paced (maybe a little too fast for its 75 minute running time) with David Spade's unique sense of humour, John Goodman's down-to-earth persona that grounds the proceedings, and Patrick Warburton's sweet and sensitive, gentle giant character which will have you giggling all the way through.

Ah-hah, ah-hah, ah-hah ...
This movie goes something along the lines of Shrek in that there are a lot of adult-type gags that will Llama-spit right past the kids' heads.  So in this context, adults (like me) will see this movie as one of Disney's better efforts, whereas the kids will probably enjoy it once and want to move onto the next thing.  The Emperor's New Groove is one of those quirks that surprisingly made it past its initial promotional pitch to Disney's marketing crew - it has no immediately identifiable characters that can be easily sold in stores, no cultural history to create a lasting memorable identity for years to come.  But what it does have in droves is entertainment that needs none of the above to make it an enjoyable romp for young and old, time and time again.

The casting of the actors is first-rate.  And for those who have already seen this movie, my favourite character is obviously Kronk (Patrick Warburton) who plays Yzma's lovable sidekick.  This actor has really only seen bitparts in his career, of which his most notable role was in the Australian movie The Dish where he played an American NASA bloke and will soon be seen in Men In Black 2 as "Agent Tee".

Movie
Kuzco (David Spade, Just Shoot Me) is a spoilt, snyde Emperor of his kingdom who needs to have everything his way, including his groove - which includes the obligatory Riverdance sequence :-).  He intends to create his own little Disneyland (actually, a Kuzcotopia) by demolishing a village that sits atop the very same hill where he wants to build his funpark (including waterslide).  Kuzco, being the ever-thoughtful ruler of the land, decides to call in the head of this village, Pacha (John Goodman, Roseanne) to tell him the good news about the demise of his home and community.

Meanwhile, Yzma (Eartha Kitt) is planning a diabolical scheme to take over the kingdom when she is fired for taking over his administrational duties for the last time.  So Kuzco is turned into a Llama (through an innocent mixup) by Kronk (Patrick Warburton, The Dish) instead of being killed off as originally intended by the woman who is described as being "scary beyond all reason".  Then, after Kronk mistakenly loses the Llama in the city, Pancha comes home to his wife and family to reluctantly tell them the bad news (although he eventually doesn't), only to discover the unconcious 'Demon Llama' Kuzco on the back of his cart.  He reluctantly agrees to guide Kuzco back home if he promises not to build over his home, but Kuzco has other ideas - so along the way Kuzco must realise the error of his ways if he is ever to return to his kingdom in one piece (and as a better man).

Now I'm sure that there are some overly sensitive parental units out there who might think that murder, destruction of entire villages and impossibly survivable drops from the sky might disturb the little kiddies.  But if you've already brought them up on a stable diet of Disney fare before, then I don't know what you have to complain about here - the delivery is all slapstick and I'm sure the kids can tell the difference between real-life and fantasy.

Video
Superb.  Transfers this good don't need much explanation (whereas faulty image presentations take forever to scrutinise!).  This cannot be faulted in anyway, so I'm not about to start justifying it all ... that'd be a waste of time, really.

Audio
Spot on.  This isn't meant as a whiz-bang mix to impress your friends with so it's not really usable as a demonstration disc for your home theatre, however it's a highly enjoyable romp which suits the mood of the film perfectly.

The music is unusually Las Vegas style (with the obvious Tom Jones song at the beginning), but considering the easy-going nature of this movie it sets up the fun factor right from the start.  The subwoofer usage is limited but it often comes in for both subtle and over-the-top effects that never brings attention upon itself unduly.  The dialogue is understandable throughout however there are a couple of instances of indistinctiveness, which is not the fault of bad recording but more to do with the joke itself just being too quick to pick up on.  If there's one thing missing from what could have given the audio a perfect mark is more use of the surround channel, but again using too much would then distract the viewer too much from the fun.  It only ever makes its presence felt a few times throughout the movie but it is still used for the occasional ambient effect.

Whoops!
Extras
The supplemental material is first-rate, however the menu design could have been a little better presented as some of the best features aren't as immediately accessible as I'd like them to be.  This unfortunately docks one point on an otherwise flawless collection of extras.

The first disc has a nice selection that will keep you entertained between multiple viewings of the movie itself :-).  Most of these can be found in the second disc, so I'll just detail the ones here that you won't find there.

- The Music Video (and Dance Sequence) of the song Walk The Llama Llama ... this is purely for kids (unless you older folk don't mind embarrassing yourselves with the dance moves).
- The Emperor's Got Game is a multiple choice questionaire of the movie in the style of a boardgame ... you have to remember a few pieces of trivia from the movie, rewards are clips from the movie.
- The Audio Commentary is a great informal insight into mainly what their sense of humour entailed when they made this movie.  It is highly energised, informative and fun.  Also, it seems that Disney themselves have provided a disclaimer pointing out that "the views and opinions are solely those of the speakers therein, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Disney/Buena Vista".  Hmm, I wonder why they put that in there?
- All other extras on this disc can also be found on the second disc ... these include the Deleted Scene, Behind The Scenes Featurette, Theatrical Trailer[/i] and Music Video promo with Sting.

The second disc is easy enough to navigate in terms of the chronological order of how an animated movie is made, however there are certain aspects which are impossible to find (such as the deleted scenes) unless you go through each of the multiple options available to you.  The whole of this disc is hosted mainly by the producer and director who obviously still have lots of energy even after the four years of having worked on this project.  This makes the disc a lot more enjoyable to go through compared to many other making-of specials I've seen lately.

Basically, this disc is structured so you can either view the energetic "Get Into The Groove" (Studio Groove) 23 minute making-of featurette in one go, or to enter into more detail by selecting individual options (with parts of the original making-of to introduce you to each stage of the animation process).  These sections involve a variety of video clips and art galleries to demonstrate what it took to bring this production together.  The extended sections are split off into these categories ...

- Development.  Talks about the two-pronged process of developing the story itself and the visual imagery.
- Story & Editorial.  What it takes to develop the idea into the creation of storyboards to express where the film is heading, with constant revisions along the way.
- Layouts & Backgrounds.  These people bridge the gap between story design and visual expression.  They work out the best way of providing both the scene layouts and cinematographic camera angles to create the mood of the story-telling.
- Animation.  Obvious, ain't it?  Where anything and anyone that moves is plotted out by these guys and gals.
- Putting It All Together.  This is where all the rough animation and general artwork is then shown to the colour artists to bring life into what is merely pencil drawings (ie  for the final image presentation).
- Music & Sound.  This is a skill all to their own where the actor's voices, the music and the sound effects are all created from scratch into a cohesive whole that is seamlessly integrated with the action on-screen.
- Publicity.  All promotional material generated to tell the world about this new movie, including theatrical trailers, TV spots, posters and Ad campaigns.

The Mixing Demo I think requires special mention (from the Music & Sound category).  This is quite neat as it gives you a choice of combining three sound elements (dialog, music and effects) into any combination you desire and then shows you the example clip that combines whichever options you pick from (which by permutation is seven combinations of sound mixes).  It shows everything from the point of view of the sound mixer with the movie on the top half of the screen and the mixing desk on the bottom half.  This is actually very educational and it's a great departure from the complex video editing demos found in past DVD titles.

"99 Monkeys jumping on the bed" ... "One fell off and bumped his head"
Summary
If you loved Shrek then you can't go past The Emperor's New Groove, it's as simple as that.  Although I have to admit that this is really a kid's film for adults (just as its CGI predecessor is) so you may find that this will all be just a blur to the younger members of your family.

Nonetheless, I can thoroughly recommend this title for lovers of creative comedy.  In fact, it's a great title to just pop into the DVD player when you only have an hour to spare (since it barely runs over that amount of time anyway) - you'll be able to enjoy this whenever you need a pick-me-up every now and again.


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