Keeping Disney's 'Emperor' in the groove

Katherine Tolford, Enjoy!

GLENDALE -- A "skinny, scrawny guy with attitude" is how Mark

Pudleiner refers to Kuzco, the main character in Walt Disney's new

animated film, "The Emperor's New Groove."

The film, set in a mythical mountain kingdom, follows the

misadventures of an arrogant, egocentric young emperor named Kuzco (David

Spade) who gets turned into a llama by his power-hungry advisor, Yzma

(Eartha Kitt).

A Glendale resident, Pudleiner is one of three animators who drew the

human version of Kuzco. Another team drew Kuzco as a llama.

"It was nice to get assigned such a different character," he said.

"He's not your typical character. He's kind of a jerk. You get to play

that up."

Pudleiner has also worked as an animator on "Fantasia 2000,"

"Tarzan," "Hercules," "Mulan" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

He and the other animators expressed Kuzco's attitude by focusing on

his mannerisms and facial expressions. Pudleiner's favorite scene is when

Kuzco receives his subjects while sitting on his throne.

"Instead of kissing the babies who have come to see him, he

rubber-stamps their forehead with kisses without even looking at them, as

he wipes his brow," said the 37-year-old.

Kuzco's facial expressions in that scene, he said, were modeled after

his 1-year-old son.

"I just thought of how my son looks at me when I touch his nose, it's

as if he's saying 'What are you doing?"' Pudleiner said.

The Kuzco crew did a lot of research in preparation for the film,

Pudleiner said. They observed llamas at the zoo, on a farm and up close

when a group came for a visit to the studio. They didn't let themselves

get caught up with the mechanics of things.

"In animation, some people like it to look right on, others like to

push the boundaries a bit," he said.

The film's director, Mark Dindal, encouraged them to have fun with the

story. The focus, Pudleiner said, was more about getting the comic

element across without sacrificing believability. Pudleiner found

"Groove's" "goofier and sillier feel" refreshing.

"It's just light and fun," he said.

From the dry one-liners of Kronk (the evil Yzma's thick-headed

assistant played by Patrick Warburton) to the slapstick physical comedy

stunts, Pudleiner believes there are humorous elements that will appeal

to adults and kids.

Although "Groove" doesn't have as serious an attitude as other Disney

films, Pudleiner said there's still a message to it.

"It's sort of a Scrooge story," he said. "The main character is a jerk

and doesn't care how he treats people, but in the end he becomes affected

by the people along his journey and he changes because of it. He learns

to treat people nicer."


NAME: Mark Pudleiner, Kuzco animator on Disney's "The Emperor's New


FAMILY: Wife Shannon; sons Steven 4, Mathieu 1.

FAVORITE DISNEY CHARACTER: The Beast in "Beauty and the Beast."


FAVORITE DISNEY MOMENT: In "Dumbo" when Dumbo's mother rocks him to


PERSONAL QUOTE: "I was influenced by the emotional scenes in Disney

films. It's interesting to me to be able to get emotion across in an

animated film -- to get it across with drawing."

HOBBIES: Hockey.

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