The Emperor's New Groove
dir. Mark Dindal
Opens Fri Dec 15
at Metro.

THE MOVIE IS bad, so I'm not going to judge or compare it to other bad Disney animation films. What's infinitely more interesting than the movie's content or technical achievements is the semiotic matter of "cool codes," and how they relate to the marketing of The Emperor's New Groove. In America, blacks (or more specifically, urban blacks) hold a monopoly on cool codes. It has been this way for some time. In the '50s, Norman Mailer recognized it in his essay "White Negro"; in the '90s, much of Tarantino's success was based on the fact that he seemed to have such easy access to black codes, cool codes.

Now in terms of cool codes, The Emperor's New Groove is nowhere near Outkast or Nelly's "Country Grammar," but it does attempt to identify with black cool. The very title of the movie, which was changed from the less groovy and more mythical The Kingdom of the Sun, appropriates a cool code. Then there is the matter of the emperor getting down to the sounds of the "white Negro" Tom Jones at the start of the movie, and the presence of Earth Wind & Fire's "Let's Groove Tonight" for much of the trailer. Yes, from the looks of things, The Emperor's New Groove is Disney's baadasssss animation.

Sadly, outside of the twisted slave/master relationship that exists between the emperor and the loyal peasant who saves his life, and Eartha Kitt's role as the empire's wicked witch, there is nothing really black about this film, which is shrouded in a mist of black themes, slang, styles. For example, the emperor's "groove" is only mentioned once in the film! The effect of this transition from cool codes to regular Disney codes is quite sobering; it's like walking into a funk disco only to discover, once inside, that it's packed with knee-slapping square dancers. But despite this enormous letdown, the fact still remains, black codes are America's cool codes, and evidently Disney's marketing is well aware of this.