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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Talk about your tumultuous movie development cycle: This movie started as a fairly serious dramatic animated feature called Kingdom of the Sun, which was supposed to be like Mark Twains The Prince and the Pauper but set in South America during the Incan empire. However, due to a series of story difficulties and production team rearrangements, the story was massively retooled into a very funny, all-out comedy in the same lush setting.
Unlike The Prince and the Pauper plot, The Emporers New Groove solely focuses on a spoiled, arrogant Emperor named Kuzco (voiced by David Spade of TV's "Just Shoot Me") and his internal journey to a kinder and more understanding ruler. Kuzcos problems start when he crosses his underhanded advisor, Yzma (voiced by Ertha Kitt of TV's "Batman") and her sidekick Kronk (voiced by Patrick Warburton of TV's "Seinfeld"). The two decide to rid the kingdom of the Emperor and rule the kingdom themselves. Through a slight mishap, they turn Kuzco into a llama rather than kill him, and Kuzco ends up having to strike up an uneasy alliance with a peasant named Pacha (voiced by John Goodman of TVs "Rosanne"). Along the road back to the Palace, Kuzco discovers, through Pachas example, that there is more to life than his old, selfish ways. For Kuzco, it takes being turned into a llama to understand and appreciate how to be a good human.
Its a lean, offbeat and just plain fun film for the whole family that doesnt pretend or try to be anything other than that.
I expect a lot of goodies on a Collectors set, but after looking at both of these editions, I was quite impressed with the selection of special features on the Standard Edition. Actually, the Standard Edition disc is virtually identical to Disc 1 (the movie disc) of the Collectors Edition with the exception of a few extra featurettes on the Standard Edition. The extra featurettes are actually part of Disc 2 of the Collectors Edition, but it was neat to see them included on the Standard Edition.
In order to cover the variety of features that these discs offer, Ill first mention the goodies that both editions have in common, and then Ill focus on the unique features that they contain.
There are several features that have become "routine" on Disney DVDs, and they include a trivia-based set-top game, a music video, and theatrical trailers. There is also a set of DVD-ROM content for those of you with the appropriate computer hardware, and Disney Interactive has included demonstration versions of a couple of their PC titles.
Finally, the full-length audio commentary by director Mark Dindal and producer Randy Fullmer is a treat. The duo discuss a wide variety of interesting tidbits with a lot of humor and lightheartedness, and at several points during the movie, they bring in a number of other crewmembers to discuss details about particular scenes. When I saw the rather long list of commentators, I was worried that it was going to be a free-for-all, but it turned out to be nicely edited and quite enjoyable to listen to. I especially enjoyed the very humorous banter between Dindal and Fullmer during the credits; the movie is clearly a reflection of their sense of humor and playfulness.
In the past, if you bought a Standard Edition DVD, you were mostly left out of the behind- the- scenes bonus material. With this release, Disney has included a few key featurettes and a deleted scene to help viewers get a taste for what it took to put together this film. There are three shorts that can be viewed individually or all together, and they cover character voices, the animation team research trip, and computer- generated images. They add just the right amount of background info for folks that arent huge animation fans but want a taste of the animation process.
The deleted scene of the "Practice Destruction of Pachas Village" is also a great little treat. This scene was almost completed (except for a few seconds of animation) before it was cut from the film. Its something you dont see very often because most scenes are cut well before they reach the ink & paint stage of animation. This one got by and was removed, but now we, the DVD viewers, get to see it!
If those sound interesting but you want more, then maybe you should check out the Collectors Edition, which gives you all of these features and a many more!
Collectors Edition - Added 5/4/01 - KK
If you think the goodies on the Standard Edition sounded "groovy," then you'll love the Collector's Edition (CE). Disc 2 opens with a humorous introduction by Mark Dindal and Randy Fullmer, a la John Lasseter on Pixar's CEs. They give you a brief overview of the material on the disc, and in the course of the intro, you get a quick tour of the inside of a bit of the Disney Feature Animation building in Burbank, California. The whole intro is a bit silly, but it works well with the subject matter and sets a fun atmosphere for the rest of the material on the disc.
Unlike other Disney CE DVDs, this one has a couple of different ways in which you can explore the material. The first is to experience two different "Grooves." You can think of a groove as a single featurette made up of several individual, shorter featurettes scattered across the disc. The "Studio Groove" takes you through each department of Disney's animation studio to meet the artists and see what work they did on the movie. It includes six shorts totaling about 25 minutes. The "Animation Groove" shows you a split screen comparison of Kuzco's dining scene through each of the stages of animation, and it contains eight very short clips covering a little over five minutes.
Dindal and Fullmer act as your guides through both grooves, and when put together, the grooves provide a great capsule of the development process of not only The Emperor's New Groove but also any current Disney animated feature. The one slight downside of the way the grooves are put together is that when I explored the individual content areas, I found that I had already seen most of the introductions and video clips. It's not a big deal, especially since there is still a lot of material to view that doesn't appear in the grooves.
The other way to explore the bonus material, as I inferred above, is to work your way through each of the animation development steps yourself. The main areas you can visit are "Development," "Story and Editorial," "Layouts and Backgrounds," "Animation," "Putting It All Together," "Music and Sound," and "Publicity." Each area has several submenus that contain more detailed information on that topic. For example, the "Animation" topic has info on the animation process, character animation, character voices, character designs, clean up animation, character model sheets, computer-generated props, and an animation progression demonstration! Also, the "Visual Development Gallery" alone has almost 300 stills of concept art! It is an amazing array of material, and it all contributes to one's appreciation of the massive efforts the artists put into a feature like this.
Of all the supplemental material, my favorites include the "Animation Groove," the three deleted scenes, and the character animation section. Overall, it's an enjoyable and comprehensive collection, and I particularly liked the informal introduction and explanations from Dindal and Fullmer. My one disappointment about the supplements is that the amount of material from the early Kingdom of the Sun concept is almost nonexistent. There are a few concept drawings, but Disney omitted all of Sting's songs written for it and all of the early storyboards. I had hoped that they would have included more, but for one reason or another, it's not on the disc.
One final piece of bonus material that I'll mention has nothing to do with The Emperor's New Groove but rather Disney's next animated theatrical release, Atlantis. Shrink- wrapped onto the back of the Collector's Edition box is a copy of Disney Interactive's Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Search for the Journal CD-ROM game. The game is a 3D animated PC (Microsoft Windows 95 / 98 / Me only) game that is supposed to allow you to preview and explore the world in which Atlantis will take place. Unfortunately, my PC, an older laptop, does not meet the requirements for game installation. You will need to make sure you have at least a Pentium II (266 MHz), 64 MB RAM, 300 MB hard disk space, a 16-bit sound card, and an 8 MB video card with 3D acceleration. It sounds interesting, and hopefully I'll have a bit more on it in the near future.
The Video, Audio and Interface...
Both DVD editions of this movie share the same stunningly beautiful direct- from- digital video transfer. The anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1, enhanced for widescreen TVs) provides a great picture whether you have an expensive widescreen or a standard format TV. The colors are very solid and bright, and even the darkest scenes have excellent detail. Once again, Disney has met the high video transfer standard set by many of their other recent animated releases.
Likewise, the audio on both the Standard and Collectors Editions is identical. As Ive come to expect from Disneys recent releases, the Dolby Digital (DD) 5.1 surround sounds crisp, clear, and enveloping even on a basic Dolby Pro Logic system. Given that, the soundtrack should sound fantastic on either a full DD 5.1 or a DTS 5.1 surround system.
Finally, the user interface on both editions is also virtually identical. There is a brief opening animation followed by a fully animated menu with Kuzco dancing to the main title music. It works perfectly with the feel of the movie, and its great to see it on both editions of the movie. The other cute touch on the main menu are the menu selection phrases like, "Hip Scenes" for the chapter selection, "Extra Gravy" for the bonus features, "Tweak it" for the audio and caption set up, and "Start the flick" for playing the movie. Most of the remainder of the menus have static menu graphics, but they all have background music. It all makes for a well-themed, enjoyable, and easy to use interface.
The Final Evaluation...
I really enjoyed this movie when I saw it in the theater, and on DVD, Ive found it to be equally, if not more, enjoyable. Thankfully, both DVD editions provide high quality viewing experiences, and the only difference is really in the amount of extra material you are interested in.
In the end, both editions are winners, and either one or the other would make a great addition to your home theater library.
*THE EMPERORS NEW GROOVE Action Game is not compatible with Macintosh Computers
GET INTO THE GROOVE
STORY AND EDITORIAL
LAYOUTS AND BACKGROUNDS
THE ANIMATION PROCESS
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
MUSIC AND SOUND
*THE EMPERORS NEW GROOVE Action Game is not compatible with Macintosh Computers