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So let me tell you a little story about the worst movie Disney never made. It was called Kingdom of the Sun, an epic retelling of the story of the Prince and the Pauper set in the Incan Empire. Roger Allers, director of the Lion King was at the helm, Owen Wilson was cast as the Pauper, David Spade was the Prince, Eartha Kitt was playing the villainous sorceress Yzma who was to be animated by the legendary Andreas Deja. Oh, and the score was to be provided by legendary rocker Sting. Sounds pretty awesome, right? So what happened? Well, the movie making business is a huge, complex and labyrinthine affair and the reasons why certain movies fail and others succeed is never clear cut but if I had to guess I’d have to say it was because it sucked balls. Test audiences hated the movie, which was a problem because half the damn thing was already completed. So Mark Dindal, director of Cats Don’t Dance, was brought in to make the movie a bit more light hearted and audience friendly. Dindal and Allers pretty soon found themselves at odds to the point where each director was essentially making a different movie. The Disney execs had been willing to give Allers a lot of leeway because…y’know…fucking Lion King…but it was becoming increasingly apparent that Kingdom of the Sun wasn’t going to make it’s 2000 release date. And this was a problem because Disney had signed merchandising deals with McDonald’s and Coke who probably had Michael Eisner’s daughter as collateral or something. Allers asked for a six month extension to get his shit together. And so Allers left and it fell to Dindal to pull off one of the most amazing salvage jobs in modern movie history. Out of the ashes of Kingdom of the Sun, came Emperor’s New Groove, which I have now rewatched and feel confident in saying is the single greatest comedy in the entire Disney canon. Funnier than Robin Hood and Jungle Book. It’s hilarious. In fact, it’s so funny that I’m pretty much totally screwed. There is nothing harder to review than a good comedy, especially if you are a quote unquote “comedic” reviewer. I mean, look, I think I can be pretty funny on a good day, but there is no way in hell that I can write a review that will make you laugh more than just watching this thing. But, as long we’re all agreed that this is an exercise in futility, I’m game if you are. Okay, so Dindal basically decided that there was no chance in hell they could do the kind of epic, Lion King-esque movie that Allers had planned in the time left, so they might as well just have fun. Gone was the Prince and the Pauper storyline. Yzma was now a wacky mad scientist. The Emperor, Kuzco, was now an entitled jerk. The tapes for Owen Wilson’s performance were taken and cast out into the wilderness to be feasted on by jackals with a taste for deadpan Texan delivery and John Goodman was brought in to replace him. Everything was now stripped down, small cast, simple plot, no big animated set pieces. Oh, and all but two of the songs Sting wrote were tossed out. Sting would later say: “At first, I was angry and perturbed. Then I wanted some vengeance.” Well, having had to listen to My Funny Friend and Me, I too want some vengeance, Sting.
Let’s take a look at the film.