Here’s a glimpse at the state of animation in 2000 in regards to how it is today from our newest guest writer Ignacio Peña, who has worked on visual effects for some pretty kick-ass movies over the last few years. (IMDb him if you dare.)

“What’s with the chimp and the bug?”

When I think about what happened to mainstream animation around the time I saw this movie ten years ago, this line perfectly captures the whole attitude of where animation went for me after this movie. I initially went to see it in theatres more out of an innate sense of duty to support anything hand-drawn, but in high school my devotion was largely focused toward Japanese animation, and in that era of world-ending battles of robot-deities, angel hybrids and time-traveling high school students with unique hidden talents, American animation had become almost irrelevant to me by then (it must be noted that I completely missed The Iron Giant at the time, as so many unfortunately did, and I also didn’t have cable). Sure I loved all the Disney movies I’d seen as a kid, but once I got to high school, I felt like I had outgrown them.

I clearly remember the moment I first saw the poster to this movie at the Pacific Theatres one day. I was walking to whatever it was I going to watch and stopped, dead in my tracks, when I saw Emperor Kuzco in front of one giant simple word: ME. I didn’t know why but that was all I needed to know that it wasn’t going to be like anything I’d ever seen Disney release — and it wasn’t. I hadn’t laughed so much in a long time. I met a surprising amount of other teens then with whom I could throw quotes around from that movie and be responded to in turn. I quoted it to folks of all sorts, to my friends at lunchtime, to friends on the football team, to others in the theatre group, to the sporty girl I shared my first kiss with. It was the first thing I remember watching where the humor was spiked with tangents that all seemed to just make sense.

I still don’t know why this movie is what I think we needed in animation, but after seeing it again, I realize that in between conversations of broken mel scripts and animation gags, this is the manner of humor in which my coworkers and I talk to each other all the time. It’s the only film in Disney’s history where I can still look back and say “that one really doesn’t belong there,” even in it’s subsequent golden age of Pixar story-telling. It really belongs to stand with the likes of shows that came into being during that time, like Futurama and Family Guy. We began to embrace that sort of stuff, and now a great deal of American animation has become that humor.

That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve taken away from watching it again. Thanks to being involved with films lately, I’ve rewatched movies I used to enjoy and see some of that shine has worn off, and I’m not quite sure if that’s thanks to what I’ve learned working in the film industry or just that I’m older now. But I can still see this movie and forget about all of that and let it wash over me and make me really laugh. For me especially, it’s the kind of movie that provides a much-needed balance that I think is missing for me. In that sense, I don’t think I’ve changed much in 10 years. I still over-think interpersonal situations before they happen, and in doing so paralyze me from acting on them. This movie made me really laugh, and I got to laugh about it with other people, and in a way that became a secret language that helped me open up to others. These days I wonder if I could quote this movie and easily get a response from folks I’ve recently met, but even if I can’t, I feel like the effect this movie had then has lasted. This movie now is to me that mainstream cultural shift in humor that we live our daily lives on, even if that cultural shift largely happened only to me — though I suspect it doesn’t quite get the credit it really deserves on a grander scale.

Free-Floating Thoughts:

  • I can’t watch a single movie with John Goodman and not think of Pacha. Similarly, Kuzco is without a doubt the role David Spade was born to play. So I’m glad he hasn’t really done anything majorly important to change that fact.
  • This movie was apparently going to be something entirely different when the director from The Lion King was originally involved. It was supposed to be a sweeping epic where Yzma was supposed to be a witch who harnessed the power of the sun. This would have been a disaster.
  • Kuzco turned down, what, 6 or 7 hot chicks like nothing? I know he’s the emperor in a Disney movie, but I mean, come on.
  • When Yzma plans to mail herself Flea-Kuzco to her doorstop, did she plan to leave the box herself or use a courier-service?
  • One thing still bothers me: Pacha’s tarzan vine is not anchored to a tree on that mountain when he saves Kuzco from the jaguars. There’s just no way.
  • I’m pretty sure Yzma-cat was the inspiration for lolcats.
  • Chicha gets so worked up that she needs to wash something. I always thought that was funny, but now I wonder if any feminists ever get worked up over that line. Is wanting to wash something over the line?