This click-baity article at the Federalist: “Why Does Disney Hate Boys So Much?” way overstates its case. Contra the article, male Disney characters have not gotten lamer lately. As the father of two little girls, and as a boy who had a sister during the “Disney Renaissance”, I’ve seen my share of Princess movies. And when you look at them all, in total, the male characters have gotten much more interesting as the films have gone on.
Don’t believe me? Then absorb this totally objective analysis. Herewith, a selection of primary male characters in Disney Princess Movies, together with how much they speak, and what their function is in the plot. I exclude Aladdin and any other film with a male protagonist (which spares me having to re-watch Hercules and Hunchback of Notre Dame, which seems to be when the so-called Renaissance went through it’s Mannerist Phase, or something).
Yes, it’s the usual feast of gifs and OMGLOL, but they have stumbled upon a point.
The Emperor’s New Groove is so unlike any other Disney animated film, that I often have to remind myself that it’s Disney.
In the first place, it’s not a musical. Not really. There’s a quick song at the beginning, reprised at the end, but otherwise it’s remarkably capable of establishing characterization without bursting into song. This is just before PIXAR took charge of all non-musical Disney films, so it’s noteworthy that they even tried this.
In the second place, it’s spirit is snarky, silly, and self-aware, in a way that Disney movies almost never are. Sure, you have the occasional Flynn Rider, but most of the time they end up Facing Their Feelings in the third act. The very basic moral lesson of TENG – being a self-absorbed jagoff leads to misery – does not require any real shift in tone.
That tone bears far more resemblance to classic 30’s screwball comedies (in fact, the film is classified as such on Wikipedia) than to anything else Disney has ever done. Basically, this is the closed Disney ever got to making a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Wikipedia also says the the director, Mark Dindal, was a Disney journeyman who “drastically” altered the script to a comedy after an initial effort to make a traditional Disney animated film called Kingdom of the Sun, “didn’t work out.” He also directed Chicken Little, and so no longer works at Disney.
So that might explain that.