The Story Behind Disney’s “Kingdom of the Sun”

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Disney’s 2000 film The Emperor’s New Groove is considered to be a classic buddy comedy taking its plot inspiration from the classic Hans Christian Anderson story The Emperor’s New Clothes. The film has spawned a Direct-to-Video Sequel with 2005’s Kronk’s New Groove, a Saturday morning cartoon on the Disney Channel The Emperor’s New School from 2006 – 2008 and of course multiple internet memes.

But did you know that the film you know and love was actually meant to be something completely different? 

Kingdom of the Sun was a project being helmed by Roger Allers, started in 1994 after directing the smash hit The Lion King. He and Rob Minkoff were given full creative control by Michael Eisner for their next project.

He wanted to have the film set somewhere Disney had yet to visit, that being an Incan setting in South America. The idea was to have it be a traditional Disney musical following the other Disney Renaissance films of the time.



The overall story was adapted from the 1882 Mark Twain Novel The Prince and the Pauper, where a spoiled prince named Manco (David Spade) and a llama herder named Pacha (Owen Wilson) would trade places, only for the main Villain, Yzma, to turn Manco into a Llama and blackmail Pacha the herder so she can try and summon the Incan God of Destruction to restore her youth and make her ruler.

Pacha falls in love with a princess named Nina, who believes he is Manco and changed his spoiled ways, and Manco works with a female llama herder named Mata, who serves as his love interest. Manco also has a birth mark on his arm that resembles a sun while Pacha has a birth mark resembling a moon on his… “moon”. It is unknown if they would have been revealed to be brothers like in some versions of the story.




Roger Allers brought on singer/songwriter “Sting”, known for being a founding member of the British rock band “The Police”, to help write the soundtrack. Sting, who was a massive Disney Fan, requested that his wife, Trudie Styler, would film the behind-the-scenes making of the film.

One of the film’s song called “Snuff Out The Light”, the villain song of the film, is considered the best song in the film and was performed by Eartha Kitt.

 

As the film was starting to take shape, Disney executives came in and took a look at the project. They didn’t like it, saying that the story and characters were overly complicated, the plot was inconsistent and that they didn’t know how to market the film–was it a serious film or a comedy.

Roger Allers was apparently so angry with the decision to redo most of their work he left the project, taking smaller production roles at Disney until he left for Sony Animation with films such as Open Season.

Director Mark Dindal, known for 1997’s Cat Don’t Dance. was brought on as director and completely re-wrote the story with only a few character names and traits remaining, re-theming the story to a comedy instead of a traditional Disney story.

The footage recorded by Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, became the infamous Documentary “The Sweatbox”.

Originally meant to be included as a DVD Bonus the documentary was never made public until it was leaked online, giving people a look into how Disney Animation operated at the time. The documentary made some Disney executives look bad which is most likely why it was kept secret. The documentary can be watched online via the internet archive, and it is a must watch for all animation enthusiasts. 

Overall the takeaway was seemingly too many cooks in the kitchen thinking “It should be one thing” while others said “No it should be another”. Although it’s sad that this film was canceled at least we got the memorable Disney Comedy The Emperor’s New Groove.

Who knows, maybe Disney might someday revisit the concept. All they need to do is rename a few characters and fix a few designs then perhaps it could become a 3D animated Disney film.

Would you have liked to see Kingdom of the Sun? Should they revisit this idea?


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Mr. Milo
Independent Film Writer, Independent Film Maker and Film Historian. Hardcore Disney Admirer and Greatly Respects the Legacy of Walt Disney, George Lucas, J. R. Tolkien and many others. Has written a number of articles for smaller websites. I have a great Passion for storytelling and believes that with a paper and pencil you can many any work of art, no matter where you come from, be it in the written word or in drawing.