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The Disney shop often delivers cookie-cutter animated features,
repeated variations on tried-and-true formulas. On occasion, (Fantasia 2000), they bore the kids, even as
they slight the intelligence of the audience of all ages. But from time to time the studio
transcends its movie-by-committee weaknesses and comes up with solid entertainment that
the kids and their parents can enjoy.
Thinking back, The Lion King (1994) was distinguished for its imaginative and beautiful animation as well as some genuinely fresh characters out of the Disney mold. And the last Disney animated feature to generate a salubrious helping of belly laughs was Aladdin (1992), in which Disney shrewdly harnessed the hilarious zaniness of Robin Williams, then let him out of the magic lamp as the most memorable genie of all time.
The Emperor's New Groove, a movie whose rumor mill could grind out a soap opera all its own, again capitalizes on the technique of using not only the voices of popular performers, but translating some of their look and personality into the animated characters. The emperor, Kuzco, is David Spade, a "Saturday Night Live" regular, known for his sarcasm. Selfish and arrogant, Kuzco has a bad attitude and a mouth to go with it. It's clear he will need a comeuppance. His evil adviser, Yzma, is played by Eartha Kitt, with her inimitable smoky voice and exotic tone, perfect for the scheming diva.
When Kuzco fires Yzma ("You're downsized!"), she turns him into a llama. He is rescued from a pack of preying panthers by Pacha, a pronouncedly portly peasant of pleasant disposition, played by John Goodman in his Dan Conner (Roseanne) persona. Together Pacha and Kuzco undergo a classic road trip, meeting with a variety of adventures as they travel back to the palace where they must overcome Yzma to restore the emperor to his human form and to his throne. The experiences of the journey teach Kuzco some humility and consideration for others--it's an unambiguous moral tale, ideal for the kids.
These characters never generate gutbusters in the same league with Robin Williams, but the script has some very funny material, nonetheless, most of which Spade