The year was 2000. Disney had just emerged from what is now known as the Disney Renaissance. We were ready to see what other masterpiece #Disney was prepared to deliver to us after seeing #Fantasia2000 and #Tarzan the year before, both beautiful masterpieces. We were ready for a movie filled with flawed characters, an intriguing plot, a villainous antagonist, and of course the wonderful music we'd grown to associate with Disney films.
We ended up getting all of that in The Emperor's New Groove (minus the music that is). We also got a self aware, fourth-wall breaking, absurdly brilliant movie that revealed a different side to Disney we'd never seen before. Here's where this movie diverges from most other Disney animated films that came before it: The ever evil villain, Yzma, was actually terrible at her job: being a villain.
I will admit that some of the other Disney villains have really made some serious mistakes. Hades letting Pain and Panic try their hand at killing the mortal Hercules, Scar not killing Simba when he had the chance, Hans revealing his evil plans to Anna before she was fully dead. However, none of these villains are more incompetent than Yzma.
Yzma has clearly been around for quite some time. I mean, look at those wrinkles. What is holding this woman together?
According to Kuzco, she's been here at least 50 years, because it was 50 years ago that she "hit her stride." In that time, Yzma has served as the emperor's advisor. With that knowledge, we know that Yzma clearly likes being in power. Moreover, she feels that she might be a competent ruler if ever given the chance, which is why (during her introduction) she is trying to do Kuzco's job by sitting on the throne and doling out punishments/rewards to those who come calling.
Here's where her incompetency really comes to light. Most evil people who want power will kill the successor in order to obtain power (i.e. The Evil Queen from #SnowWhite, Scar from #TheLionKing, and Queen Narissa from #Enchanted). Not Yzma. No. Whether she actually killed Kuzco's parents or not, we can't be certain. What we can be certain of is that Yzma doesn't once think of killing Kuzco during the first 17 years of his life. Does this decision come because she wants to be empress? Not a chance. It only occurs to her after she was fired for essentially acting as the emperor.
This was actually a really good move on Kuzco's part. He was almost the official ruler (age-wise at least). Yzma was helpful as he was growing up since he'd be too young to effectively rule over his empire. Now, he's about to become emperor and Yzma is showing warning signs that she wants to be the empress, potentially killing him and stealing his empire. Not only that, but she's really mean to the peasants. So mean that Kuzco's planned destruction of Pacha's village seems like nothing compared to her behavior.
Up until she actually gets fired, Yzma has absolutely no intention of killing Kuzco. Her evil ambition is not strong enough to drive her to remain on the throne. Even after she is fired, she does not intend to harm Kuzco. In fact, it isn't until Kronk, her current right-hand man, accidentally gives her the idea to off the emperor that she even considers it.
Here's the biggest issue with her logic behind killing the emperor. She states in the clip above that only three people know about her being fired: Kuzco, Yzma, and Kronk. That's just not true. Somehow she managed to forget about the guards standing below, the man who came in to announce Pacha's arrival, and the guy who gave Yzma her her pink slip. Yup, just three people know plus literally anyone else who may have been in earshot in that entire room.
This one part can just be written off as Yzma being old and not being able to remember things, but if that were the case, she wouldn't be able to remember anything else that really comes from here on out — not small details, at least. Heck, if that's the explanation Disney has prepared, I'm surprised she even remembers what Kuzco looks like as a llama.
While we're on the subject of forgetting what things look like, why on Earth would she make all of her potions the exact same color in the same vials with only minute differences in labels? Who thought that was a good idea? It's no wonder Kronk got confused with the poison. The poison for Kuzco. The poison chosen specially to kill Kuzco. Kuzco's poison.
Before we move any farther forward, let's backtrack a little to before Kuzco turns into a llama and before Yzma and Kronk even discover the poison. Let's take a look at the entrance to the lab.
Yes. I, like the rest of you, love this part. It is hysterical and makes for a great gag in the movie, but it does more than just that. It shows just how incompetent Yzma is as a villain. She built the entrance to her secret lab with a booby trap. That in itself is not incompetent, no. The fact that she constantly gets it wrong when entering her lab, that makes her incompetent.
OK, yeah, Kronk is the one who pulls the lever, but she has enough time to dramatically yell "pull the lever, Kronk" to notice that he has his hand on the wrong lever. And guess what? She doesn't notice.
Later on, when Kuzco and Pacha make the same mistake, it makes sense. They'd never been there before and had no reason to assume that there would be a booby trap. At this point, Yzma should know which lever will get her to her lab and which will land her in crocodile-infested waters.
This being a children's movie — and Yzma being a critical part of the plot — she survives the fall and finds her way to the lab where she concocts a plan to kill Kuzco. Which, upon first glance is terrible.
Upon second, third, fourth and fifth glance, it becomes evidently clear that Yzma is clearly not the evil mastermind we're led to believe she is. On top of that, her discovery of the poison is entirely by chance. Not even a Leprechaun with the world's largest rabbit's foot collection has as much luck as Yzma.
Yzma should not only be dead at this point in her life, but it's a marvel she even got the chance to kill Kuzco. The young emperor should've completely excommunicated, even exiling her, after firing her. Yet, he lets her remain in the palace, he lets her go to her secret lab, he even agrees to having dinner with her. As any corporate supervisor, manager, or CEO will tell you, when you fire someone, you need to get rid of them as quickly as possible.
But, you know, that's not the case, as Kuzco is only 17 and doesn't understand this yet. As the rest of the movie plays out, it's a miracle no one has outed Yzma for sticking around. As far as successions go, she certainly wouldn't be next in line. We all know that there were other people there who knew she got fired that she forgot about, so she certainly didn't silence them. They didn't say anything, either. Because she got lucky. Again.
Don't even get me started on how they somehow managed to get back to the palace before Kuzco and Pacha.
That mystery will plague me until the end of days.
As the movie progresses from here on out, Yzma continually proves to be inadequate. Even after turning into a cat, a creature filled to the brim with seething anger and hatred, she is entirely inept. She manages to get herself distracted by her strange new voice, she monologues, which we all know is a surefire way to get distracted and lose to the hero, she launches the human potion off of the palace and she falls off of the palace herself. At the end of the day, she survives, but this movie proves that she is easily the worst villain Disney has ever created.
Not in the sense that she's so evil that she's the worst, but that she's just so bad at being a villain that she's he worst. All of her plans are poorly thought out and even more poorly executed. She is awful at improvising her evil plans, and at the end of the day she doesn't get what she wants: She's stuck as a cat forever, she is no longer living in the palace, she's not the empress or the emperor's advisor, she a junior chipmunk, and Kuzco is very much still alive.
But, hey, at least she makes a comeback in the TV show The Emperor's New School. Somehow, she seemed to get younger in the new show, too.
So, what do you think?