Disney Canon-Forgotten/Minor Characters #40: The Checkers Players

checkers players

Wow, we’re at #40 already! Only a dozen more films to go before my project is finished!

It's ok! You may cry!
It’s ok! You may cry!

Well, if you won’t cry, I will!

Today, we are looking at Disney 40th animated feature, “The Emperor’s New Groove”. Released in 2000, the film was originally called “Kingdom of the Sun” and was planned to be a musical a la “The Lion King” with the British singer, Sting working on the songs.

"Soon I will join the ranks of the great Disney composers!"
“Soon I will join the ranks of the great Disney composers!”

Long story short, this plan collapsed upon itself!

"KATZENBERG!!!!"
“KATZENBERG!!!!”
"Don't blame me for everything! I was long gone from Disney by then!"
“Don’t blame me for everything! I was most likely long gone from Disney by then!”

What the final product gives us is the story of a spoiled bratty jerky teenage Incan emperor named Kuzco

I think this tells it all!
I think this picture tells it all!

who is the subject of an assassination attempt by his ex-advisor, Yzma.

She reminds me of a discarded design of Ursula!
She reminds me of a discarded design for Ursula!

Due to a mix-up by Yzma’s right-hand man, Kronk, Kuzco transforms into a llama instead of dying,

Kronk's probably wondering what a llama curry would taste like!
Kronk’s probably wondering what a llama curry would taste like!

and accidentally gets transported to the home of Pacha, a peasant who was told to vacate his premises by Kuzco a few hours/days earlier. When Pacha discovers that Kuzco is a llama, it’s up to him to get Kuzco back to the palace. But, this is much more difficult than it sounds because Kuzco’s “jerk-ness” gets in the way! And that’s pretty much the premise of the movie.

"Oh come on, think about it! The first emperor to be part of a curry! How can you not want that?"
“Oh come on, think about it! The first emperor to be part of a curry! How can you not want that?”

Now this was another hard one to choose a forgotten/minor character of, mainly because there are SOOO many minor characters!

You have the Theme Song Guy,

Don't try to tell me that this guy is Welsh! I won't believe you!
Don’t try to tell me that this guy is Welsh! I won’t believe you!

the official in charge of finding Kuzco a bride,

It looks like he needs to enlist the help of Mulan's matchmaker!
It looks like he needs to enlist the help of Mulan’s matchmaker!

the royal dresser,

You thought I was talking about a chest of drawers with noble lineage, huh?
You thought I was talking about a chest of drawers with noble lineage, huh?

the chef,

I'd make an obvious pun about how this chef seems good in giving knuckle sandwiches, but I'll abstain.
I’d make an obvious joke about how this chef seems good in giving knuckle sandwiches, but I’ll abstain.

the waitress,

At least she's ATTEMPTING to provide service with a smile!
At least she’s ATTEMPTING to provide service with a smile!

and my personal favorite: the Piglet-voiced old man who constantly gets thrown out of windows!

Aww, I feel so sorry for him! And why is he wearing Merlin's hat?
Aww, I feel so sorry for him! And why is he wearing Merlin’s hat?

And those are only SOME of the minor characters in this film!

The other problem is that although all these characters are minor, almost none are forgotten, since their presence in the film is usually associated with some comedic scene, thereby making them memorable.

So after a LONG time of thinking, I finally decided to go with the checkers players as my forgotten/minor characters of this film!

When Pacha and Kuzco discover that Yzma is trying to find them, they head to Pacha’s house to re-supply so that they can leave immediately again for Kuzco’s palace. The problem is that Yzma and Kronk are already at Pacha’s house awaiting their arrival. How do our heroes know that the villains are at Pacha’s house?

Well, some elderly checkers-playing neighbors tell them so!

Engrossed checkers players always notice what's going on around them!
Engrossed checkers players always notice what’s going on around them!

Besides this, these old men don’t do anything else worthy of mentioning…and they’re really not that important when you come to think of it!

"What'd he say?"
“What’d he say?”
"He said we're not all that important when you come to think of it!"
“He said that we’re not all that important when you come to think of it!”
"Yeah, I thought that's what he said!"
“Yeah, I thought that’s what he said!”
"Someone needs to teach him how to talk to elders!"
“Someone needs to teach him how to talk about elders!”

So why do I pick them? Well, like I said, everyone else is too darn memorable!

"What'd he say?"
“What’d he say?”
"He said that everyone else is too darn memorable!"
“He said that everyone else is too darn memorable!”
"Yeah, I thought that's what he said!"
“Yeah, I thought that’s what he said!”
"Makes you wonder where today's generation is headed!"
“Makes you wonder where today’s generation is headed!”

I…don’t really have anything else to say about them!

"What'd he say?"
“What’d he say?”
"He said that he doesn't have anything else to say about us!"
“He said that he doesn’t have anything else to say about us!”
"Yeah, that's what I thought..."
“Yeah, I thought that’s what…”
"Oh, quiet!"
“Oh, quiet!”

Oh well, give it up for the checkers players!

9 thoughts on “Disney Canon-Forgotten/Minor Characters #40: The Checkers Players”

  1. Well, I still remember those two. Anyways, I think the movie is a bit too simple for my taste. It is fun, but simple, and don’t really have much else to say about it.

  2. Ah, THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE– one of my personal favorite post-TARZAN and pre-PRINCESS AND THE FROG Disney animated features. Excuse me while I write my review in this comment slot…

    Among the many things I appreciate about this film include:

    1. It takes the conventional definition of the “buddy film” and turns it on its nose every chance it gets.

    2. The animation is sprightly and refreshingly cartoony.

    3. The jokes come fast and furious: There’s plenty of slapstick and sarcasm throughout (including some of Kuzco’s catchphrases, like “No touchy!”), not to mention the usage of ever-hilarious diner-speak, as well as some priceless examples of medium awareness and breakage of the fourth wall.

    4. The basic tone of the movie seems less like Disney’s previous animated films, and has more of a Warner Brothers (or even Muppets) vibe to it, which is really refreshing.

    5. I’ll use this last entry to talk about Yzma, if you don’t mind. For one thing, she is arguably the most sympathetic antagonist in all of animation history (“arguably” being the operative word)*. For another, her chemistry with Kronk (who’s really just a well-meaning guy who fell in with the wrong crowd, when you think about it) is impeccable. And finally, Eartha Kitt gave a delightfully over-the-top vocal performance on a par with Betty Lou Gerson’s turn as Cruella de Vil, making Yzma one of the funniest Disney villains ever (along with Madame Mim and Hades, in my book).

    In all, I’m quite happy with how EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE turned out, although I’m also kind of curious as to how it would have fared as KINGDOM OF THE SUN (which makes me wish even more that Disney would release THE SWEATBOX [a documentary that covers the film’s sordid history] unabridged on DVD).

    *Many say that Kuzco inherited his negative traits from her, and that she might have been an even worse ruler than he was in the beginning, but still, when you consider how he treated her, you can’t help but sympathize with her in the moment that she gets fired. Although, it makes you pity her for the misfortunes that befall her all throughout the movie’s running time, funny as they are. (If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Yzma could be described as a glutton for punishment…)

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