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From Disney Prison to the ‘Emperor’s New Groove’: A Patrick Warburton Story

When Patrick Warburton started working on his audition for The Emperor’s New Routine, he must have started by asking himself a fundamental question: what, exactly, is a “Kronk”?

“Disney is pretty secretive,” the actor told The Daily Beast in a recent interview ahead of the film’s 20th anniversary this week. “They don’t just distribute an entire script.”

And so, as the Seinfeld and Rules of engagement alum looked at the audition scenes on the page – all the interaction between this mysterious character and his incredibly old but undeniably glamorous overlord Yzma – it was up to him to figure out what this guy was. As Warburton said, “I didn’t know if he was a giant, a robot, some kind of beast, or just a big guy. In the end, he’s just a big guy … a reluctant henchman.

Disney’s rowdy, booyah-filled epic might not have been a box office sensation when it debuted in 2000, but its resilience is undeniable. Fans have basically forced eerie comedy into the canon of the Disney classics by force of will – and a tsunami of quotes and memes. Kronk, whose naivety is matched only by his love for baking spinach puff pastry, is their spiritless patron saint. After all, who would not I adore a beef cake helper in her twenties whose main passions in life are chatting with squirrels, taking over dinner kitchens, and interrupting evil plans to make sure there is left over. time for dessert. (“What about coffee?”)

“It was fun exploring what he looked like,” Warburton said. “A lot of times, at the very beginning, I always thought about doing things the ‘right’ way. And then all of a sudden, you know, it was my light bulb moment … There’s no right way; the right way is the creative way, your way. “

“So when I looked at a Kronk, I was like, ‘Well he’s tall, he’s a henchman, but he loves to cook. Instead of making him dark, or like that…»Said the actor, putting on a hoarse and complicit voice,« … I just decided to bring the voice here. Cue that nicely brooding voice.

There is a bit of irony about Warburton playing a key role in a Disney movie – given that at the age of 18 he was thrown in Disney jail after he and a friend decided to dismantle the PeopleMover from the park halfway through. “This place is like Logan’s RaceThe actor joked. “They have cameras everywhere.” Luckily for all of us, it seems that hurting Mickey and Minnie’s playground obviously doesn’t rule out a professional relationship with House of the Mouse.

Warburton Prison at Disney New Groove The appearance – and the success of the film-turned-franchise – is surprising for another reason entirely: moviegoers fell in love with its initial concept, which did not include a “Kronk” of any kind, is almost unrecognizable. As stated in an excellent Polygon retrospective, the film was originally intended as a much more heartfelt musical feature titled Kingdom of the Sun, modeled on the success of the Disney epic The Lion King with music by Sting. (Filmmaker Trudie Styler, Sting’s wife, documented the nightmarish production process in the documentary The Sweatbox.)

Whatever Sting and original director Robert Allers may think of the final product, Kronk is a key ingredient for The Emperor’s New Routinemagical formula. A happy medium between the serious villager Pasha (John Goodman) and comically reprehensible characters like Yzma and the pre-epiphany Kuzco, Kronk grows as a character more than almost anyone, just behind the Emperor-turned-Lama himself. And more importantly, the adorable paw’s relationship with her slender overlord, Yzma – expressed in velvety, devilish diva perfection by Eartha Kitt’s unmistakable purr – is an odd paired perfection.

Yzma and Kronk’s unbalanced dynamic, Warburton notes, was a bit of “an animated art imitating life.” He worked with Kitt on one of his first jobs as an actor – a pair of films titled Dragonard, which filmed in South Africa in the late 1980s. Kitt played the head of the brothel who saves his character after being “beaten half to death”. (“There’s that horrible, ridiculous scene where I’m in a tub and there’s, like, 10 women bathing me,” Warburton recalls with visible amusement, adding that he’s pretty sure the movies never made the jump from VHS to DVD.) After the movies were over, the actor remembers meeting Kitt in his room after a performance at the Roosevelt Hotel – and realizing very quickly how was out of his depth as a 22 year old still wet behind the ears.

“She excuses her butler or whatever,” Warburton said. “She’s sitting at one end of the sofa, stroking a furry animal. I know it was a cat or a dog, but to this day I can’t tell you what it was because it was just a ball of fur. And it was so Yzma-ish. “Dahling, I’m so glad you came to see me, how are you?” After about 10 minutes he said, “I just felt like we had very little in common, and I was far from my league. “So he apologized and left. Now, decades later, Warburton can’t help but laugh at the similar dynamic between him and Kitt, and their characters.

Whatever the reason for the enduring success of this bizarre winning comedy, its resilience is undeniable. Even Warburton’s sons Talon, 28, and Gabriel, 19, who join the call out of sheer enthusiasm for the film, can name all of the fan-favorite quotes by heart – because even they hear them being quoted all the time. time. In fact, the three Warburtons took turns shaking them during our Zoom call: “Good, poison, poison for Kuzco”; “Squeak, squeak, squeak”; “Yzma, put your hands in the air!”

The two sons can do a nasty Kronk impersonation – although Talon notes with humorous frustration that he lost a dubbing gig for Amazon posing as his own father. “I’m like, are you serious?” he said. “Who can make a better father than me ?!”

“It was me,” Gabriel said in that deep, doofy tone without missing a beat. “I have the role.”

“You little bastard!”

At this point, the Warburton clan has become something of a dynasty of actors; Patrick’s mother, Barbara Lord, was a professional actress before retiring from the industry to raise four children – though even then she continued to do community theater. Talon started playing about five years ago, while Gabriel made his debut about a year and a half ago. Warburton just hopes their lineage – and, yes, their ability to do this voice – does not limit their possibilities to diversify. “Talon makes a funny impression, as does Gabriel,” he says. “But it’s a joke … They’re both so different and so diverse, so I hope it doesn’t become a burden on them.”

Yet both Talon and Gabriel enjoy being a part of that legacy. Gabriel spent his early years watching Star Command Buzz Lightyear, in which his father played the role of the dazzling astronaut – and yelling at his father every time he did the voice – only to find himself, years later, to realize that he wanted to carry on the legacy family while attending a studio recording of Rules of engagement.

As to why The Emperor’s New Groove, in particular, has become such an important and lasting part of that legacy, Talon offers a theory: “Every character is so original,” he said. “The puzzle that is this movie, everything fits together so well … We are kids of the 90s. It matched our humor, it matched the style of what we grew up with … It’s our childhood.

It’s a catch. Here’s another from Kronk himself: “I remember meeting kids at UCLA,” Warburton said. “They approached me … to let me know that during their semester, The Emperor’s New Routine was the # 1 movie they rose to. And I thought it was wonderful.

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