- “Ha! Boom baby!”
Emperor Kuzco is the protagonist of Disney's 2000 animated feature film, The Emperor's New Groove. Known for his comically arrogant, saucy, and narcissistic personality, Kuzco is the ruler of the Kuzconian Empire in Peru. When his spoiled behavior gets him transformed into a talking llama, Kuzco slowly comes to realize the error of his ways.
Not much is known about his past except in The Emperor's New School episode "Father O' Mine", where Kuzco's real father appears in a flashback. He is a strong, muscular man, and was emperor before Kuzco. According to Kuzco and Yzma, he was lost at sea on a trip when Kuzco was just a baby; thereby granting the throne to Kuzco. Since Yzma claims to have raised Kuzco, it is possible that his mother passed away as well, rendering him an orphan. It is revealed that Kuzco and his father share two things: a llama birthmark and the same necklace. At the beginning of the film when it accidentally flashed back too far into Kuzco's past, it was also revealed that he had a stuffed doll as a treasured toy, and eventually threw a fit as a baby when he accidentally broke it while hugging it, only to cheer up when what were presumably his caretakers promptly replaced it with several just like it (an early hint at how he had been spoiled-rotten). In The Adventures of Red-Eyed Tree Frog Man, it is revealed that Kuzco has a fear of frogs after a traumatic childhood experience with them as a baby. In Mudka's Secret Recipe, it is discovered that Kuzco's favorite food is Mudka's Meat Mug which is the only thing he orders.
In the original draft of the film, then known as Kingdom of the Sun, Kuzco's name was originally Manco Capac, who was the first Lord of the city of Cuzco in the ancient story of the Incan Empire, but the team was forced to change it because Manco meant something inappropriate in other countries. At first it was Cusco, but the spelling was shortly changed to Kuzco soon after. He was the deuteragonist in an earlier version of the film with Pacha, who originally resembled Kuzco and was voiced by Owen Wilson, as the actual protagonist. This changed later on when the team realized that splitting the story between Kuzco and Pacha made it difficult to tell who was supposed to be the lead. They eventually settled on having Kuzco be the lead and have Pacha be more of a supporting character who teaches him humility.
Kuzco was going to reunite with his parents in the series finale of The Emperor's New School, but since the writers had trouble with the script, the whole idea was scrapped.
At first, Kuzco was very self-centered, thinking that everyone should be put below him because he is the Emperor. Kuzco is required by law to graduate from "Kuzco Academy," a school that he paid for, in order to stay Emperor. Yzma and Kronk continually plot to make sure that Kuzco fails his class and he doesn't become Emperor. Kuzco's catchphrases are "No touchy!", "Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh", "Boo-ya!", "Boom, baby!", and "It's all about me!".
Kuzco is initially portrayed as an arrogant, comically conceited, selfish, cocky, sarcastic teenager, albeit with a sense of flair, style, as he never takes his job as emperor too seriously. His nature was petty such as having an old man thrown out of the window (but not killing him) simply because Kuzco blamed him for "throwing off his groove" in the opening song (when Kuzco bumped into him due to not being aware of his surroundings), as well as sadistically taunting Pacha with the destruction of the latter's village before having him escorted out when revealing his plans to create Kuzcotopia. He also was initially unwilling to marry any girls who didn't meet his image, often bluntly and rudely dismissing them, as evidenced by the opening of the movie where he had to choose the bride, and refused them just from brief glances. It is implied that this personality stemmed from the fact that Yzma practically raised him from childhood. However, it is also shown that his selfish ways were a cover-up for his yearning for a family, which he never had.
Despite his initial egomania, however, the Disney Adventure Comics, which were implied to take place before the events of the first film due to Yzma still acting as his adviser, did show some redeemable traits to him, as when he fell sick during Kuzcofest and had Yzma took over, he made clear that he wanted the citizenry to have a good time, and he was also implied to have manipulated Yzma into providing the food to the citizenry because he anticipated that she would hoard it all for herself after getting better. The comics also showed him to be a bit of a trickster, such as when during a Llama kickball game, he deduced that Yzma had turned several of her henchmen into Llamas to give an unfair advantage, and spiked the opposing team's water-cooler with the potion to expose Yzma's cheating. He was also not above apologizing when even he realized he went way too far, as evidenced by when he made the mistake of having the court jester sub for him during a meeting with another kingdom regarding a golden foot, which resulted in the jester making an insulting remark about the gift and nearly causing the members of the kingdom to nearly trying to kill him, with Kuzco apologizing for the remark and making a (comparably) more complimentary remark of the gift.
He is also very ignorant and lacks common sense, as he went into a jungle out of stupidity and arrogance, the latter due to believing that as Emperor, he has a good sense of direction (which he clearly didn't) and he thinks all of his notable traits don't make him arrogant or an egomaniac (which he then starts to ponder). He also has no idea that gifts are free. He can also be sneaky and manipulative at times, as he convinced Pacha that he had changed his mind in order to get him to take him back to the palace, only to go back on his promise when the palace was in view and was even willing to let Pacha die so he could get what he wanted. He also was vengeful, as he implied during the aforementioned incident that he did this partially as revenge for his perceived role of cursing and kidnapping him and that he originally intended that, when they actually arrived at the palace, he would have him imprisoned for said role. His sarcastic demeanor is especially evident shortly after learning he had been turned into a llama and planned to get back to the castle on foot: when Pacha tried to negotiate with him, Kuzco lured him close with a "secret," then when Pacha came as close as he could, Kuzco then proceeded to yell that he doesn't make deals with peasants. His sarcasm was also shown earlier when he told the final bride "And let me guess, you have a great personality" when refusing her, and was also demonstrated later on twice, the first time while traveling through the jungle by himself where he sarcastically claimed fear over a "scary tree" in an obvious mocking towards Pacha's earlier warnings, and later when forced to work with Pacha to get himself and Pacha out of the mess he caused with the ravine when helping Pacha reach the rope, Kuzco, while under obvious physical stress from forcing him up, says "It’s a good thing you’re not a big fat guy, or this would be really difficult." Kuzco also was implied to be a thrill-seeker, or at least perfectly willing to embrace death if there was no other option, as when deducing from Pacha's "uh-oh" remark that they're most likely going to be headed down a massive waterfall with sharp rocks at the bottom (as well as Pacha confirming his suspicions), Kuzco then states they should "bring it on", and as they're falling, Kuzco is heard cheering over falling down the rapids.
However, throughout his journey with Pacha, he soon realizes his mistakes and becomes more caring, loving, loyal, and brave. He also begins to care more for others as shown when he expresses concern for leaving Pacha's family with Yzma and Kronk, and when he chooses to save Pacha from falling off his palace instead of getting the human potion. Although he is still somewhat self-centered, but not as much as before.
He is also very gullible. One particular time was in "Fortune Cookie Day" when Yzma secretly gave him fortune cookies and made all the fortune's come true. Then, he fell for the fortune that said he'll turn into a sloth unless he gives the kingdom to Yzma. Even though Malina kept giving hard-core, concrete evidence that it was a trick, he still didn't believe her.
Kuzco is also shown to be afraid of ending up on his own after his experience as a llama and his adventures with Pacha, as revealed in the episode "The Mystery of Micchu Pachu" when he hears the tale of another emperor with a backstory just like his, only the emperor ended up alone and friendless.
He has a not-so-secret crush on a local village girl named Malina. She is another reason why Kuzco's selfish ways died down a bit. She has shown to return his feelings but tries her best to keep them under wraps. The two shared a kiss in The Emperor's New School Musical, with Malina obviously enjoying it even though she denies it. She also acts as Kuzco's confident several times, although she's the one to ask him what the problem is. Eventually, Kuzco and Malina officially become a couple in the series finale episode "Graduation Groove".
Kuzco is the young ruler of an unnamed Incan empire. He is known for being selfish and vain and enjoys dancing to his own theme music every morning. Recently, Yzma, his royal adviser, has been ruling the kingdom behind his back. Kuzco decides to fire her for this, despite the many loyal years she's served. Soon enough, Kuzco summoned the village leader named Pacha, to discuss the building of Kuzcotopia, a summer getaway for himself. Kuzco reveals his plans to destroy Pacha's village to make way for his getaway. Meanwhile, Yzma and her lackey Kronk are in their secret lab, thinking of ways to murder Kuzco (after Kronk inadvertently gave her the idea).
She planned to invite him to dinner and poison his drink. That night at dinner, Kronk accidentally pours the extract of a llama in Kuzco's drink instead. Kuzco is turned into a llama and knocked unconscious by Kronk. Yzma then sends her minion to finish the job by throwing him over a waterfall. Kronk accidentally loses Kuzco, and the llama emperor ends up on Pacha's cart. When Kuzco awakens, upon realizing what happened, angrily accused Pacha of turning him into a llama and then kidnapping him (which gives Pacha way too much credit.) He then travels through the jungle, despite Pacha's insistence that it's a very bad idea to do so at night. Ultimately, his advice proved to be sound due to nearly being killed by a pack of Jaguars, with Pacha saving him at the last minute (although they ended up falling into a river and then falling over a waterfall with sharp rocks at the bottom, Kuzco apparently being resigned to his fate, and undergoing an incident where he regained consciousness just as Pacha was about to undergo CPR, causing Kuzco to mistake Pacha for trying to kiss him in disgust). Pacha decides to help him get back to the palace, although only under the condition that he change his mind about Kuzcotopia.
After a while, Kuzco claims he has changed his mind, but the moment the palace is in plain sight, he tells Pacha the truth, revealing that he was going to proceed with Kuzcotopia. After their fight destroys the bridge to the palace, Kuzco and Pacha are forced to take a longer route. Meanwhile, Yzma announces Kuzco dead and takes over the kingdom. While wallowing in the lap of luxury, Kronk accidentally confesses about not killing Kuzco. The villains then go out on a hunt for him. At a local restaurant, Pacha learns about Yzma's plan and rushes to warn Kuzco.
Pacha tries to warn Kuzco that Yzma and Kronk are trying to kill him, but Kuzco blows him off, thinking they were there to take him home. He then falls out with Pacha, believing his claim to be a plan to save his hilltop from destruction, and then angrily orders Pacha to go away. Kuzco makes his way to Yzma and Kronk, only to overhear them discussing that they are seeking to kill him and that the kingdom does not miss him because of his selfishness. Kuzco realizes Pacha was right and now he just sent his only friend away for nothing. He desperately calls out for Pacha, but Pacha has left. With no point to return home and no hope of becoming human again, Kuzco sadly accepts his fate of being a llama forever and spends a miserable night in the jungle.
The next morning, a still-sulking Kuzco walks up to a field and sees a herd of llamas. He makes his way down and greets them, but not even the llamas seem to accept him, and he starts to graze the fields in sad acceptance of his new life. However, Pacha appears and forgives Kuzco.
Kuzco and Pacha run to the latter's house to get some supplies, only to discover that Yzma and Kronk are there as well, posing to be Pacha's "relatives". As Pacha explains the situation to Chicha, Kuzco pops from the window and startles Chicha, who whacks him with her frying pan (with Pacha explaining that Kuzco was the guy she just whacked). While Pacha's family distracts Yzma and Kronk (mostly Yzma), he and Kuzco race into the distance to get a head start.
A race to the palace begins and ends at Yzma's lab. Kuzco desperately searches for the human potion but Yzma arrives and battles the heroes, also summoning her royal guards under the premise that they were responsible for killing Kuzco, transforming most of them into animals, and Kuzco undergoing further transformations while trying to get the potion (Tortoise, songbird, whale, and eventually Llama again, causing him to briefly celebrate becoming a llama again before remembering that the point was to become human again). During the fight, Yzma is transformed into a cat, and Kuzco retrieves the vial. Kuzco becomes human again, and sets out to redeem himself, building a small summer cabin on the hill next to Pacha's home, and becomes part of Pacha's family at the peasant's invitation, changing from a once selfish brat into a cultured sophisticated man about town. Meanwhile, outdoorsman Kronk becomes a scout leader, with kitten Yzma forced to be a member of the troop.
Kuzco, in his llama form, made a few cameos in House of Mouse. He can be briefly seen during the opening theme. In the episode "Ask Von Drake", he asks Ludwig Von Drake which potion can turn him back into a human. In Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Kuzco tells Mickey that he wishes that he wasn't a "dumb ol' llama" anymore.
In Kronk's New Groove, Kuzco acts like the director of Kronk's movie and breaks the fourth wall by talking to the audience. He admits he has changed: "I'm nice now. Didn't you see the first movie?" However, he remains self-centered; near the end of the movie, he shows up in women's clothing, claiming he is Kronk's wife, announcing, "You like how I weaseled my way into this movie?" (this is Kuzco's only appearance in Kronk's starring film, alongside performing to the reprise of "Be True to Your Groove"). Throughout the film, Kuzco pops in and out to give comments on the scene in question.
In The Emperor's New School, Kuzco must go to Kuzco Academy, a school he instituted and financed. He must pass all his classes to remain emperor, but Yzma and Kronk are out to make sure he fails. If he fails even one class, he will not be emperor, and Yzma will take over the empire. (Given Kuzco was already emperor before this, many viewers question the situation endlessly; as ruler, there was no way Kuzco could be forced to attend the school by his staff.) He is still self-centered. In the series, Kuzco develops a love interest named Malina. Like the film, he often breaks the fourth wall by pausing the episode and interacting with the viewers.
Kuzco's character is further explored and somewhat exaggerated throughout the course of the series. He can be rather whiny and easily jealous of anyone who gets even a small amount of glory or attention. At the start of every episode, Kuzco would interact with the viewers and shout "Theme music!" which begins the show. In the middle of the shows, he would begin the session "Kuzco's Doodles" where he poorly sketches something reflecting whatever's going on in the scene. Since he was kicked out of his palace, Kuzco now resides with Pacha and Chicha. However, Chicha openly dislikes Kuzco's traits such as him feeling Chicha should act as a servant.
In the series finale "Graduation Groove", Kuzco regains his rightful place as the Emperor. He even has Pacha and his family move into the palace. He also makes Guaka his royal spin doctor, Kronk his royal adviser, and Yzma his assistant. Kuzco and Malina also become an official couple.
Kuzco makes a cameo in the Who Framed Roger Rabbit Special Edition DVD on one of the menus but does not appear in the film itself (as the film was made long before his film came out).
Kuzco, as a llama, makes several appearances as a guest in House of Mouse.
Kuzco, as a llama, makes a brief non-speaking cameo appearance alongside Pacha in the It's a Small World: The Animated Series episode "Up and Down".
Disney Adventure comics
Kuzco appeared in several Emperor's New Groove-themed comics in Disney Adventure magazine.
One of them dealt with Kuzcofest, where he had seemingly fallen ill and could not helm the festival, so he delegated Yzma with running the festival. He then warned her that sometimes, one has to give consideration to what others want rather than herself. He then somehow made a quick recovery and proceeded to sabotage Yzma's attempts at creating "Yzmafest" and hoarding the food for herself by manipulating her into providing for the peasantry.
In another story, Kuzco and Yzma are competing against each other in a game of kickball where the riders ride llamas. However, Kuzco suspects something was up when he had faint recognition of some of the "llamas" as members of his guard, and eventually deduced that Yzma had drugged several of them to become llamas to illegally gain an advantage over his team. To test his theory, he then spiked Yzma's team's water cooler with the potion, with his being proven correct when Yzma's team, alongside Yzma herself, turned into llamas in front of the whole crowd, thus disqualifying them and having Kuzco's team win by default.
In another story, Kuzco, due to being preoccupied with another event, had a court jester sub for him with a diplomatic meeting with another kingdom where they provided him with a golden foot. Unfortunately for him, that proved to be a mistake due to the court jester making a tasteless and inappropriate insult to the representatives regarding the gift, which eventually resulted in Kuzco being chased down by the now murderous representatives until he ended up apologizing for it, and then complimented the gift in his own style.
In Kronk's Day Off, Kuzco had a comparatively minor role, trying to find out how to better sit on his throne, with his eventually getting a better position by accident when the chaos caused by Kronk returning from his day off caused everyone to be knocked onto it.
Kuzco is currently a rare meet and greets character only making occasional appearances.
In 2018, Kuzco appeared in the live stage show Max Live!, during the Disney FanDaze event. Here, he tries to take over Max Goof's concert but is challenged by Yzma. The two then engage in a sing-off, with Kuzco performing "Perfect World".
On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise ships, Kuzco can be seen with Pacha in the Magic Portholes in some of the guest staterooms. Kuzco in his llama form also makes a cameo appearance in Yzma's stateroom in the interactive game Midship Detective Agency.
- Kuzco's name is derived from Cuzco, the name of a city in Peru that was the capital of the Inca Empire.
- Kavo sometimes pronounces Kuzco's name as "Cuss-Co".
- Somehow, it might be close to the Spanish pronunciation of his name.
- The animators of The Emperor's New Groove thought that Kuzco has so many similarities to his original voice actor David Spade.
- Kuzco is the second Disney protagonist to be of Native American descent (Incan, in Kuzco's case), with the first being Pocahontas, and the third being Kenai.
- In one episode of the TV series, he changes back into a llama to help Santa Claus deliver Christmas presents.
- In the series finale, "Graduation Groove", Kuzco was going to be reunited with his parents, but since the writers had trouble with the script, it was changed.
- Kuzco is apparently ambidextrous, as he writes with his right hand as a human, and with his left as a llama.
- When Kuzco disappears after being turned into a llama, Yzma states that he had disappeared "on the very eve of his eighteenth birthday." This means that Kuzco is 18 years old.