Mark Dindal's Place in the Sun
(continued from page 7)

Kuzco and Pacha working together in The Emperor's New Groove. © Walt Disney Pictures. All rights reserved.

JS: That's a very short time to turn around a feature.

MD: It really was. There was a lot of development art that had been done for the earlier version that inspired things and definitely helped, but as it changed its tone people just jumped on.

It's an amazing bunch of people at the studio. If you give them a clear idea of what to do, you just do that and step out of the way. It's not just the talent that's phenomenal, but there's all the support as well. If you focus on what you want, it can really happen quite fast.

JS: Was there a 'eureka' moment when you realized a humorous approach worked best with the story?

MD: For me that's the stuff where my instincts lie. So when we were given the opportunity to make that shift, or at least explore it, I felt liberated. That's just where I tend to go.

JS: When did it happen?

MD: That was September, 2 years ago ['98].

JS: What was the catalyst for that?

MD: The thing just wasn't jelling. It wasn't coming together to [Walt Disney Studios chairman] Peter [Schneider] or [Feature Animation president] Tom [Schumacher]'s satisfaction. So we needed to do something, or I think there was the option that they would just shelve it and the film simply wouldn't be made. So something needed to be done, and a couple of us had this notion of taking it in this direction. We went with it and there was definitely nothing to lose.

JS: Was the title change dictated by the film's new direction?

MD: Definitely. It was formerly Kingdom of the Sun.

Kuzco and Pacha. © Walt Disney Pictures. All rights reserved.

JS: Then the pronoun changed.

MD: Yes, to Kingdom in the Sun. Kingdom of the Sun sounded much more dramatic. In certain translations around the world it would almost take on a religious tone and that made it sound even more dramatic and not representative of where we were taking the movie.

We had several choices that we came up with for a new title. They were presented to several small focus groups that included kids 6 to 8, all the way up to adults around 45. We got to watch behind the glass. They were told the story, shown the characters, given cards with the different titles on them, and this is the title that in 8 or 9 focus groups was chosen by the majority.

It was really interesting with the children. I heard certain adults say, 'I don't even know what that means,' and when the moderator asked the children, 'What does it mean? Do you understand it?' They went, 'Oh sure!' So it was another one of those things where kids aren't so wrapped up in all this stuff that they can't understand something. They go, 'Oh yeah, he's like changing his attitude.' I thought, 'Wasn't that nice? They just get it.' There's no fuss about it; they were pretty clear. They just looked at each other like, 'Why wouldn't we understand that?' It was really kind of fun to watch their faces as they were given the question.

JS: From the trailer I can see it's coming from a very tongue in cheek direction.

MD: It's meant to be fun. It's gonna come out at Christmas -- it's just the perfect time for families to go and have a good time. There's a message there that's moral and valid, and it should be fun. I think that it sets you down that path.

JS: The characters look very angular, their design is very sharp-edged; at first glance it doesn't resemble what one might think of as the house 'Disney style.'


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