Kingdom of the Sun set for Blu-ray release

The moment has come for Disney fans! They will finally get a chance to see the lost animated film Kingdom of the Sun.

Originally set for release in 1999 and with a score of songs written by Sting, it was sadly axed after four years of production. It eventually was reworked and released in 2000 as The Emperor’s New Groove, which was well received on release and stood out as a highlight of a fairly mediocre period of the studio’s history. (My review can be found here).

The film has long been pined after by Disney fans and finally the studio has green lit a Blu-ray release date of 31st September for it.

Whilst the film isn’t a 100% finished production, it will be the entire film as far as it was completed. This means the full audio track is included, with the lead cast Eartha Kitt as the evil Yzma, Owen Wilson as the llama herder Pacha, Carla Gurgino as love interest Nina and David Spade as Emperor Manco. There’s no space for John Goldman and Kronk is also not featured. The lost songs by Sting are reinstated, including the tracks “Walk the Llama Llama”, “Snuff Out The Light” and the duet with Shawn Colvin “One Day She’ll Love Me”.

Excuse me? I can’t find my lines in this version.

Where animated sequences are incomplete, we will get either uncoloured hand-drawn sequences or storyboard images, although the latter of these will only account for “7% of why we’ll see”.

Even more interestingly, the double-disc release will features the infamous documentary titled The Sweatbox. Filmed by Sting’s wife Trudie Styler, the 95-minute film covers the entire production process, from initial concept to Sting writing and recording his music, and the infamous meeting where the Kingdom of the Sun is shut down and the reworking begins. This ha been available on various online platforms but never on home media and never in HD.

The entire list of features across the two discs are:

– The Kingdom of the Sun (unfinished but restored film)
– The Sweatbox – a 2002 documentary by Trudie Styler covering the production period and cancellation of the original project.
– Isolated audio tracks for the soundtrack with lyric videos for “One Day She’ll Love Me” and “Snuff Out The Light”.
– Introduction from directors Mark Dindall and Roger Allers.
– Kronk’s Not Groove – a short film reimagining sequel Kronk’s New Groove without Kronk existing.
– Concept art gallery, including designs for unused McDonald’s toys and other unreleased merchandise.
– All bonus features currently included on the Emperor’s New Groove Blu-ray/DVD release.

——————

Don’t you just wish this was a true story? The unfortunate reality is that this is an April Fools joke article.

However, like my joke article from last year for the Ewok Adventure Blu-ray release, I’m sure this will garner a lot of interest from fans around the world and will serve as evidence that something along these lines would be a great profit turner for Disney.

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Kronk’s New Groove (Elliot M. Bour, Saul Andrew Blinkoff, 2005)

Having recently watched The Emporer’s New Groove, Disney’s 2000 animated film that failed to light up the box office but did go some way to maintaining their credibility amongst an otherwise troubled period, I decided to watch the sequel. Inevitably, Kronk’s New Groove was a direct-to-video release and it also has many of the hallmarks of most of the other Disney films that bypassed the cinema: short running time, sub-par animation and almost none of the magic of the original release.

One thing that is retained is the talented voice cast, including David Cross as Emperor Kuzco (cameo only), John Goodman as Pacha (cameo only), Eartha Kitt as Yzma (cameo only) and, of course, Patrick Warburton as the titular Kronk. It’s quite impressive that everyone was convinced back based on the premise of a flimsy sequel to a five-year-old film, though the fact they were probably only in the studio for a day may have helped.

We do, however, lose Sting’s excellent songs and score that were present in the original (though many of his songs missed out on the original, as fully explained in the excellent documentary film The Sweatbox). Indeed, there are only a couple of songs in the film and they’re pretty forgettable.

The film was so bad it brought some viewers to tears.

The film was so bad it brought some viewers to tears.

Many criticisms on this film centre on the lack of storyline. In truth, the basic premise isn’t even half as off-the-wall as the first film. In this one, Kronk tries to achieve the lifelong ambition of winning the approval of his father (“the big thumbs up from Papi”), trying to hide the fact he is a chef in a restaurant and pretend he has been more of a success. He takes on a scout team (of sorts), falls in love, rips off some old people with an elixir of life. It isn’t too bad, though it is a bit straightforward. It isn’t the storyline itself that causes the issues, but rather the pacing and lack of imagination therein. There’s obviously been a strict budget applied that goes beyond the poor animation and this certainly goes for the lack of time spent on the script and the fact that nobody realised it was completely lacking in humour.

In my opinion, this last point is the over-arching issue. Whilst the first film is full of huge laughs, most of which were memorable and quotable, there is nothing on that level this time around. Most of the gags are parodies of other films but they themselves are outdated: The Matrix and Titanic were both almost a decade old by the time of release, meaning the jokes were no doubt lost on the children at which this is aimed. Not only that, but they would have also failed to ignite any laughter in the parents sitting through it with them.

I don’t think this is quite as bad as the majority of reviews would have us believe (it holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). It isn’t a classic, and I can’t recommend you watch it unless you’re a hugely keen fan of the original, but it isn’t a film with out any redeeming qualities.

Kronk’s New Groove is available now on DVD. Strangely a standalone Blu-Ray hasn’t appeared yet.

Film review – The Emperor’s New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000)

The Emperor’s New Groove is widely regarded as the first post-Renaissance-period Disney animated film, the studio having seen huge successes with the ten Renaissance-period films bookended by The Little Mermaid in 1989 and Tarzan in 1999. That The Emperor’s New Groove was not part of this is down to an element of production hell, which caused a more serious and epic romantic comedy titled Kingdom of the Sun – in the same vein as The Lion King – to be thrown away before it evolved into the film we know today. [1]

Central to the original film were six new songs written and performed by Sting. Having seen close friends Phil Collins and Elton John experience huge successes with their films Tarzan and The Lion King respectively, Sting was able to approach the project confident that he would have a success on his hands. The songs themselves reveal a lot about the romantic-comedy themes of the film-that-never-was and help us construct what we missed out on.

Kingdom of the Sun concept art

Kingdom of the Sun concept art

One song we did get to hear was “One Day She’ll Love Me”, a duet with Grammy Award-winning folk-rock singer Shawn Colvin. This appeared on the soundtrack and would have fitted with the original storyline of the pauper (voiced by Owen Wilson) switching places with the emperor and slowly falling in love with his wife-to-be Nina. It was apparently due to appear in a palace party scene and is similar in many ways to “Can You Feel The Love” from The Lion King.

Another couple that appeared on the soundtrack but not in the film were “Snuff Out The Light”, a song to be sung by the villain Yzma (Eartha Kitt); and “Walk The Llama Llama”, a fun song to show the importance of llamas to Incan societies.

Three additional songs that were written by Sting remain unreleased and unidentified. I often wonder whether or not “After The Rain Has Fallen” was one of these songs. The song appeared a year after this film on the album “Brand New Day”, and has a few references that fit (a palace, princess betrothed to a man she doesn’t love) and a few that don’t, but could have been changed to distance it from the film. 

Two further songs were written for the new version of the film: “My Funny Friend and Me” and “Perfect World”. The latter was sung by Tom Jones.

So, whilst we were robbed of a film that could have been up there with some of the best Disney films of the 90s, we instead got a delayed film in a completely different mood but is actually a huge success story considering its journey. The plot makes no sense whatsoever – an emperor is turned into a llama by an evil power-hungry adviser, though he is rescued by a local farmer and the two form a buddy relationship to find the potion to turn him back to a human despite the fact he wanted to build a holiday home over the top of farmer’s house. Somehow, though, it works and we end up with a fast-paced, hilarious and beautifully animated feature film that was one of the last successes for Disney 2D animation before they gave up completely on it with the release of the lackluster 3D animated picture Chicken Little in 2005.

There is a generation of children who grew up loving animated films but for the first time in over a decade these were not Disney films. Instead, there were the excellent Pixar films such as Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles and the successful Dreamworks films like the Shrek series, Shark Tale and Madagascar. Of the Walt Disney Studios films released in this period, which also includes Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo and Stitch, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear and Home on the Range, The Emperor’s New Groove certainly stands out as the best of an admittedly mediocre bunch.

The Emperor’s New Groove is available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray now. [2]

[1] The documentary film title The Sweatbox, which remains largely unreleased but for a few appearances online every now and then (it is owned by Disney), follows the problematic production closely and is worth seeking out. It isn’t the fantastic tell-all story people believe it to be but it is extremely interesting and has a few glimpses of how the original film was shaping up.

[2] I found the alternative poster for The Emperor’s New Groove on a site called Deviant Art, and it was done by an artist called Alejandro Cisneros. I don’t know much about the artist but his other artwork is really incredible. Check out his site!