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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bucky And The Emperor's New Groove At McDonald's

If you've seen Disney's animated film, "The Emperor's New Groove," you should be able to translate the following Squirrel phrase:

"Squeak squeaken squeak squeakity!"

That would be "My acorn is missing!"

If you are unfamiliar with this furry-tailed Bucky the Squirrel toy, you are excused. Bucky was part of a "The Emperor's New Groove" McDonald's Happy Meal that was released in Asian countries.

Bucky got the chance to shine with his famous balloon Llama, which lights up when you press the Squirrel on the nose.

Kuzco appeared in this set in his Llama form.

Kuzco's cart connects with Pacha (not included!).

When the cart rolls, Kuzco's head bobs up and down.

The Emperor's New Groove started out as a movie called "Kingdom In The Sun." The title was then changed to "Kingdom Of The Sun."

Originally, the story was a spin on "The Prince and the Pauper" set in South America, with a llama herder (voiced by Owen Wilson) switching places with the Emperor (voiced by David Spade).

The story eventually lost the twin twist, and a number of songs written by Sting (some of which can be heard on the movie's soundtrack). The llama herder, Pacha, became an older character (voiced by John Goodman).

I have to admit that I did not care for the title "The Emperor's New Groove" when I first heard it mentioned. Then I saw the movie and thought it was a breath of fresh air, and the title seemed to be a good fit for such a fun and different film.

Pacha's feet move thanks to rolling wheels. Not too shabby for a fast food toy!

My favorite character in the movie is Kronk (voiced by Patrick Warburton). He looks like a superhero, but he's a villain (well, sort of).

Patrick Warburton has been involved in quite a few animated projects, including the live action version of The Tick, the voice of Buzz Lightyear (in the Star Command TV series) and the voice of Joe Swanson on the Family Guy TV series.

The Kronk toy from McDonald's has a bottle with liquid in it. I think it was supposed to change color.
Patrick Warburton and David Spade can currently be seen together on the TV series, "Rules of Engagement."

In December of 2000, I visited family members who were living in Winchester, Virginia (not too far away from the site of the unbuilt Disney's America theme park).

During this trip, I had a very difficult time finding The Emperor's New Groove Happy Meal toys at the various McDonald's locations I visited. For some reason, many of the McDonald's in this region seemed to not be "a participating location" for the promotion.

I also visited Washington, D.C. for a few days on this vacation. I did end up seeing a Disney attraction during my time there. The National Museum of Women In The Arts had an incredible exhibit featuring the works of Julie Taymor, including many of the puppets and props she created for The Lion King Musical. It was amazing!

The two level McDonald's near the National Museum of Women In The Arts did not have The Emperor's New Groove Happy Meal, either! This location, like most of the ones I visited, was selling those Ty Mini Beanie Babies that took America by storm for a while.

I did see buses with large ads for The Emperor's New Groove all over D.C. during my stay there. And the only animals that were really active at The National Zoo (due to extremely cold temperatures) were the squirrels.

The Emperor's New Groove had very little merchandise in 2000. These launch toys were the only "action figures" I saw for sale.

I love Kuzco's lively theme song, "Perfect World" performed by Tom Jones.

Years ago, some friends of mine found a great Tom Jones CD at a store called Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro, Alabama (it's the place lost luggage goes to get sold). This CD is where I discovered the wonderful Tom Jones song, "The Young New Mexican Puppeteer." The title alone is priceless.

Pacha is one of many animated characters voiced by John Goodman. He has also voiced Baloo the Bear in the Jungle Book 2, Sulley in Monsters, Inc., and most recently appeared in The Princess and the Frog.

Pacha's wife, Chaca, was voiced by Wendie Malick, who was David Spade's co-star on "Just Shoot Me."

At the end of my time in Washington D.C., I did manage to find the Yzma toy at a McDonald's on the way to the airport.

The late, great Eartha Kitt gave an amazing performance as Yzma. The scene this toy depicts, which ends with Yzma as a pinata, is one of my favorite sequences in the movie.

The Emperor's New Groove even has a roller coaster! Like all the props and buildings in the movie, it really has character.

I remember reading that the Raging Spirits roller coaster at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan is based on The Emperor's New Groove (though it is not obvious).

Bucky the Squirrel's big sequence is represented in this set, but Bucky himself is absent.

Even this menacing scene in the movie is comical, with a tiny meowing jaguar cub following the adult jaguars chasing Kuzco.

Probably as a nod to Eartha Kitt's career as Catwoman in the Batman world, Yzma is transformed into a cute kitten at the end of the movie.

This is the only toy of the cat version of Yzma that I've seen.

Kronk got his own movie in 2005, the DVD sequel "Kronk's New Groove."

How does The Emperor's New Groove translate in other languages? Be sure to see "Un Empereur Nouveau Genre."

In Europe, McDonald's had a different set of characters for its Emperor's New Groove promotion.
The Pacha and Llama cart toys look very similar to the toys sold in Asia.

The Europeans got a neat mix and match set of Kuzco toys.

This set also featured a chomping, wind-up alligator.

When Bucky's tail is pushed, he makes a chattering sound. I think this is my favorite Emperor's New Groove item.

Bucky is so cute. But don't be fooled. The cute characters in The Emperor's New Groove are the most dangerous.

The Emperor's New Groove was not a box office smash when it debuted in theaters in 2000, but it became a big hit on television. In 2006, it was spun off into a TV series called "The Emperor's New School."

Not a bad ending for a movie with such an unusual title.


  1. I did really enjoy "The Emperor's New Groove", but I hated the title. I agree, Eartha Kitt did a great job as the villainess.

    I had no idea that DisneySea's Raging Spirits coaster had an E.N.G. connection!

  2. Hey TokyoMagic! Yeah, the title probably made a lot of people cringe. I remember it made me think of Saturday Night Live's "KCF Shredders" skit (a spoof of Kentucky Fried Chicken) where the kids meal featured "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" action figures.

    I cannot remember where I read about the Raging Spirits roller coaster and the Emperor's New Groove connection. Maybe someone will write in about that.

    Someday, I'd love to see the full, animated version of Yzma's cut "Snuff Out The Light" song from Kingdom in the Sun (featured on the soundtrack of The Emperor's New Groove). Trudie Styler's "The Sweatbox" documentary about the making of the film shows a bit of the footage, when the character looked a bit different and was animated by Andreas Deja. It also shows Eartha Kitt performing a Yzma version of "Perfect World."

  3. I've seen "The Emperor's New Groove" on DVD probably 40 times. It's just one of those "go-to" movies for me. What a collection of "New Groove" toys you have! I didn't even realize McDonald's had any for this film. The first one of Bucky with the light-up balloon is hilarious. But then again, all these toys do a great job of reflecting the humor of the film. Excellent post Dan.

  4. Thanks, Snow White Sanctum! Yes, I've lost count of how many times I've seen The Emperor's New Groove on DVD, especially the sequences with Yzma and Kronk. The big "event movie" for Disney in 2000 was supposed to be the live action 102 Dalmatians. The Emperor's New Groove didn't get much of a marketing or merchandising push. I thought it was really interesting that McDonald's zeroed in on Bucky for its international promotions. I'm surprised they did not do a little Yzma Cat plush toy.