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Origins of the Project

The development process for a Disney animated feature is a long and arduous one that is always measured in years and frequently has its share of false starts or dead ends. "Aladdin," "The Lion King," and "Tarzan" are just three examples of recent films that ended up dramatically different from the original concepts. As with all filmmaking endeavors, finding the right combination of characters and story is a delicate balance that requires lots of determination, persistence and creativity.

The origins of "The Emperor's New Groove" date back to 1994, when the creative team began developing a very different version of the story. Originally titled "Kingdom in the Sun," the first approach was a dramatic story inspired by pre-Columbian legend and prominently featured an ambitious song score by Sting. As a normal part of the development process, the story took many unexpected turns along the way. Ultimately, it was decided to take the film in a whole new direction. In 1998, the story was completely revamped with only two of the main comedic characters and a few elements from the original treatment retained. Dindal and Fullmer oversaw the creation of a new concept, storyboards and screenplay.

Thomas Schumacher observes, "‘The Emperor's New Groove' is a perfect example of the commitment and care that we put into making our films. During the development and creative process, we go down many roads in order to find the story and characters that appeal to us and which we hope are going to appeal to our audience. Although this film presented us with lots of challenges and had more than its share of detours, Mark, Randy and the entire animation team have done a miraculous job creating a fresh and original comedy full of endless surprises and with a style and flavor all its own. It is one of the most entertaining and enchanting films we have ever made and we're all very proud of the way it's come together."

In the case of "The Emperor's New Groove," changing the direction of the story from a musical drama to an outrageous comedy required some serious retooling.

Fullmer recalls, "For the first two years, the film was a more serious epic film. But we reached a point where we realized we weren't having much fun and we really wanted to go on a different path."

"We were trying desperately to figure out what to do with the story and how to give it a new spin," adds Dindal, "when one of our story guys, Chris Williams, came up with a much kookier, wackier, crazier version that was also very charming. He had the idea of making Pacha an older character as opposed to the teenager that he was in the original story. This spun things in a completely new direction for us and sparked a whole new approach. Peter Schneider (chairman of The Walt Disney Studios) encouraged us to ‘think outside the box.' He wanted us to turn things upside down and think differently. Along with Randy and our writer Dave Reynolds, we began to kick things around and it gave us a new sense of spirit, enthusiasm, and fun. Kuzco is not your typical Disney lead character – a sympathetic, vulnerable character who has a desire but somebody is holding him back. He's completely the opposite of that and winds up in a predicament needing the help of somebody who is very good.

"I have always felt that the more absurd the characters are in a given situation, the more fun you can have with them," notes Dindal. "One of the things that really intrigued us was finding a way to mix absurdity wit

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