The Emperor's New Groove
Producer Randy Fullmer (”The Hunchback of Notre Dame”) and his team were two years into ”Kingdom of the Sun,” a Disney animated musical about the Incan empire, with songs by Sting, when the wheels came off. Literally. ”There was one particular meeting [where] we argued whether to have a wheel, because the Incans didn’t have wheels,” says Fullmer. ”We realized at the end of that day we were taking this film way too seriously.” Worse, after reviewing their work (the entire film had been storyboarded, and a third of it was completely animated), Disney didn’t like it either.
Given two weeks to revamp it or get shut down, Fullmer and Co. came up with ”Groove,” a buddy comedy fantasy set in a nameless south of the border country. Though that may sound like DreamWorks’ recent ”Road to El Dorado,” the specifics are different: When arrogant young emperor Kuzco (Spade) gets transformed into a llama by a power hungry subordinate (Kitt), he must team with a good hearted peasant (Goodman) to reclaim the throne.
In the switch from musical to comedy, Sting’s five songs were cut, though the producers did ask him to write two new songs for the soundtrack and end credits. ”It hit him really hard,” says Fullmer, ”but Sting is not a quitter. He just said, ‘All right. What’s your next story line?’ ” Fullmer fondly recalls the frantic two weeks of reworking the film as ”magic.” But don’t ask him how much that magic cost. ”They don’t tell us,” says Fullmer, ”and I’m actually happy they don’t.” GOOD SIGN Kitt as a devious diva. ”Prrrr.” THEN AGAIN This still sounds like ”The Road to El Dorado.”