The vain and arrogant Emperor Kuzko is quite satisfied in his position as the supreme ruler over his domain. So much so that he's decided to build a summer home overtop of an entire village and fire his dubious royal aid, Yzma. Yzma isn't exactly happy with this decision and decides to wreak revenge on Kuzko by turning him into a flea and then taking over the kingdon. The plan would have worked perfectly, except that her inane assistant Kronk mixed the poisons up and instead turned him into a llama - eventually losing him in the city. Now, Kuzko finds himself the property of the peasant Pacha, whose village he was going to destroy. A long way away from his palace, Kuzko will need Pacha's help if he ever wants to get back to his original life. But Pacha will only help him if he promises to move his pool elsewhere.
Following Disney's trend with their other recent animated releases, The Emperor's New Groove boasts an absolutely fantastic THX-certified 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. In order to fit the taller-than-anamorphic transfer into an anamorphic (1.78:1) space, Disney placed small black bars on the sides of the transfer. However, due to television overscan, most users won't actually be able to see them. The transfer is practically perfect in every way - I saw no dirt or lint to mar the image (save for a few white marks at the beginning of the French-specific title sequence). Fine outlines are sharp and well defined. Colors are rich and vibrant, but a little bit on the dark side. The entire movie is divided into 28 chapters and stored on a dual-layered disc, with the layer change occurring at 0.47 into chapter 22, or 0:54.55 into the entire movie. The first disc hold 6 gigabytes of data.
On the audio front, Disney has included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 English audio tracks. In testing the Dolby Digital track, I found it to be very clean and crisp with absolutely no unwanted hiss or background sounds. The subwoofer track isn't used as much as in some other Disney animated films (especially in contrast to Tarzan, which didn't even have a .1 track), but it does help to produce a rich soundstage. The rear channels are also not overactive, though they are still utilized well throughout the movie. The dialogue track is perfectly clean without any audible static or other imperfections. On the DVD you'll also find a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, plus English subtitles and captions.
Two editions of The Emperor's New Groove were released simultaneously: a "Standard" and "Ultimate Groove" 2-disc version. In this case, the Standard edition actually includes a decent amount of extras, such as a commentary track, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes and more. But it's only with the slightly-more-expensive Ultimate edition where you'll get the whole enchilada of bonus material.
Both discs include fully animated menus with sound. The first disc includes an informative commentary track that features a surprising number of people. It's well arranged so that you always know who's saying what. You'll also find the Rascal Flatt music video, "Walk the Llama", plus the set-top trivia game, "The Emperor's Got Game". Preview trailers are provided for Monsters Inc., Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, 102 Dalmatians and Atlantis. For those with DVD-ROM equipped PCs, the first disc also contains links to web content, plus demos for the "Groove Center" and "Emperor's Action Game" PC titles.
The second disc is divided into 8 sections: "Get into the Groove", "Development", "Story and Editorial", "Layouts and Backgrounds", "Animation", "Putting it All Together", "Music and Sound", plus "Publicity". All sections are further subdivided into specific categories.
The "Development" heading includes video presentations on the basic animation process and how they researched the look and feel of the region. Text screens are provided for the story treatment of all plot sections, while two large galleries are available for visual development and concept art. Galleries are done very nicely - all photographs are full-screen. You can page through thumbnails, or step though each large photograph in order. Too many DVDs include nothing but tiny photographs surrounded by huge fanciful boarders. The "Story and Editorial" section steps through how the story is developed, pitching the storyboards and how the storyboards are placed on film for timing. Also offered are three deleted scenes, one of which is in full color animation (the other two are in storyboard format).
"Layout & Backgrounds" includes information on how backgrounds are planned, a comparison of storyboards to backgrounds, plus three large galleries for workbooks, layouts and color keys. "Animation" covers the various stages of the animation process, how the production progresses through five different stages (which you can switch amongst via the "Angle" key) and how CGI props are developed to look like 2D hand-drawn elements. A section on character animation includes character development material for 6 characters, their voices and a background to rough animation feature. Also included are comparisons of rough to cleaned animation and a gallery of character model sheets.
"Putting it All Together" covers ink and paint composting, a cleaned-up animation to ink and paint comparison, plus a gallery of color models. "Music & Sound" deals with creating the right type of music and placement of sound effects. You'll also find the Sting music video "My Funny Friend and Me" and a mixing demo. Then, in "Publicity", are two theatrical trailers in full-screen video and 2.0 sound, three television spots also in full-screen video and 2.0 sound, plus a gallery of posters and other advertising material.
Finally, the last section "Get into the Groove" is divided into two sections: "The Studio Groove", "The Animation Groove". "The Studio Groove" places all animation development supplemental information into a single presentation, while "The Animation Groove" provides a contiguous presentation of the various animation stages through split-screen comparisons. The second disc holds a total of 5.5 gigabytes of data.
This Ultimate Groove edition is very similar in concept to Disney's "Tarzan", "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story" deluxe DVD releases - providing absolutely everything possible that relates to the film. If you're a collector, this is the only way to go. But if you're mainly interested in the movie, the standard edition should include more than enough extras to satisfy your curiosity.
- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on May 3, 2001.
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
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Marantz SR-18EX THX Receiver
Sony 32" XBR250 WEGA TV using Component
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