Well, I said I might update this and give my thoughts on the documentary. I'm still shocked that it's not gone yet. Maybe the Mouse finally stopped caring?
I still stand by my previous statement; save the documentary linked above immediately! For all I know, Disney will get rid of this "banned" documentary tomorrow.
So what is this documentary? This is a documentary made by Trudie Styler, the wife of musician Sting, that documents the process of making The Emperor's New Groove. That might sound like an odd documentarian choice for a rather obscure Disney movie, but of course, there's a reason why this happened. You see, when The Emperor's New Groove began production, it was going to be quite a different film. It was originally planned to be a sweeping Disney musical epic in the vein of their films at the time –The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, etc. It even had one of the co-directors of The Lion King directing! The original concept was called "Kingdom of the Sun."
"Kingdom of the Sun" was going to be a "Prince and the Pauper"-type story about a selfish Incan Emperor named Manco switching places with the llama-herding peasant Pacha. A witch, named Yzma, discovers their switch, turns Manco into a llama, and forces Pacha to do her bidding or else she'll reveal him to the kingdom and he'll be executed as a fraud. Meanwhile the Emperor-llama starts to learn about how the common man (and llamas) live and even falls in love with a lady llama herder. (Interestingly, Manco doesn't speak as a llama, so that romance could be anywhere from quirky to… eww) But Manco's not the only one feeling the love tonight. Pacha is falling for Manco's betrothed, and as it turns out, she likes him back after how much of a jerk Emperor Manco was being to her before. But it's not all romance and morals of course, the real conflict comes from Yzma's plan to get rid of the sun by summoning the Incan god of darkness from his imprisonment in the Earth. Why? Because she believes that she can reverse aging if she gets rid of the wrinkle-causing sun, and now there's no emperor in her way to get what she wants.
There's other stuff in the story I've gathered by poking around the internet. Manco's love interest Mata was supposed to be pretty sassy as you can tell from this page and pencil test: 24.media.tumblr.com/fae151a331…
There were supposed to be supporting character llamas, like Snowball. She might have been Pacha's favorite, since she gets put in the llama lineup first, is featured in storyboards and concept art, and is the only llama I can find a separate reference sheet for. She is described by her animator Dave Pruiska as "the dumb blonde" of llamas: animatedviews.com/2009/oliver-…
There was some part of the story where Manco, as a llama, was going to be sacrificed by Pacha. I don't know if this is early on or later in the story, but it sure looks cool from the storyboards: antonionavarroportfolio.blogsp…
Yzma's original design can be seen in the documentary, but I finally found a cleaned up model reference here (scroll down through some other interesting Disney stuff): jimhillmedia.com/editor_in_chi…
And finally, Nina (Manco's fiancee and Pacha's love interest) finally has a pencil test you can find on the net. She seems pretty sassy too: markpudleiner.blogspot.com/ (scroll down a bit on this blog)
Also, check out Barry Johnson's tumblr. He's a Disney artist and made storyboards when the movie was "Kingdom of the Sun," though you'll have to dig to find them (have fun on the way!)
So, where does Sting play into this? Well, just like Elton John did in The Lion King, he was going to write the songs for "Kingdom of the Sun." In fact, he did write songs. I've read reports ranging from six to eight songs, in fact. I can only confirm four of those though. You can hear three of the finished songs here:
1. "Walk the Llama Llama" [link]
–Try to imagine NOT Rascal Flatts and instead Pacha the peasant singing this as he walks his herd down the mountain to the kingdom at the beginning of the movie. In fact, just watch the documentary. The Sting and co. version is much better, and it's just a demo.
2. "One Day She'll Love Me" [link]
–This is Pacha and Nina's big love song. He can't reveal his feelings because he's a fraud and she's confused because the Emperor she knows is an ass while this guy is kind and seems to be more than meets the eye.
3. "Snuff Out the Light" [link]
–Yzma's big villain song about her backstory, plan and summoning of each creature of darkness for the takeover.
The last song I can confirm can be heard in the documentary and is called "Why Can't a Human Be More Like a Rock?" I'm…not a fan of this number. I don't really like Disney sidekicks unless they're really funny or really important, and the talisman character Huaca doesn't sound like he was going to be either of those things. It just seems unnecessary.
If you watch the documentary you'll see why the film ultimately got changed into The Emperor's New Groove but it nevertheless was, and remains, a controversial decision. What do I think of it? I flip flop.
I LOVE musicals, especially Disney ones. They're the bread and butter of my early childhood entertainment! Why else would I take on a 75 Disney song challenge where I had to listen to all Disney songs as inspiration for my art? I also like a lot of elements of the story like Yzma capturing the sun, the exotic setting, and as cheesy and Aladdin-like as it is, the romance of Pacha and Nina. There's also a sort of "what if" feeling I get about this. I'm not the type to hate on Disney films today, but I wonder if this movie could have kept the hand-drawn, big-budget musicals going at least for a while longer before everything went to CGI.
At the same time, The Emperor's New Groove holds an important part of my childhood as well. Between it, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Young Frankenstein, most of my comedic quotes are from there. I also appreciate that it's a different kind of Disney movie where Kingdom might have been really generic. That seems to be why execs felt it was better off canned. I especially like that while Kusco is still a terrible person in the beginning, you still like him and want to see him change back in the end.
So yeah, I can't decide. I'd love to read what you guys think though. Comment away!
As for the documentary, I don't actually like it as a documentary all that much. I don't care about Sting's personal life and how he has trouble writing songs for a Disney movie that's largely being improvised. I also don't like that it clearly paints the artists as "the good guys" and the execs as "the bad guys" (though I will say that from watching other interviews with Tom Schumacher he's a d*ck!) I do like all the information about this film gives for viewers to decide and I'm ultimately glad I have a copy to watch certain scenes. In the end, I love learning about the production of animated films, and this is a very dramatic production. It's just too bad the documentary is more agenda–focused and less point-focused. I understand WHY Trudy was angry about her husband and the other artists' work being basically put to waste, but it can seem a bit antagonistic, which is why Disney doesn't like it.
Once again, here's the link to the documentary before Disney takes it down again: vid.me/xjIV