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Historically Accurate Kuzco



Being the history geek that I am, I guess it is kind of surprising that I haven't really done a "historically accurate" animation series before, but after seeing that awesome Buzzfeed Disney Princess video, and of course all the amazing art on here, I was inspired to make my own.  I guess it is better late than never!

As I've said before elsewhere, from an artistic standpoint, I'm not at all bothered by the animated designs of the characters in Disney and Dreamworks films. They weren't documentaries after all so in most cases they didn't need to be accurate, and in animation in particular, it is more important to convey character and style in the designs.  I am not trying to "fix" anything because I don't think there is anything to fix!  That being said, it can still be fun to learn how your favorite characters might have looked if they had existed in real life.  :) (Smile)  

For my series, I am trying to be as accurate as I possibly can.  I'm taking the country of origin, the social class, the culture, and the specific decade into mind (instead of just a general sweep of multiple decades), and also adapting the colors and styles to fit what was available and worn everyday.  I will try to keep the characters recognizable where I can, but I want to make my pictures realistic and so some elements of the original designs might be altered in the process.


Are you feeling déjà vu again?  Yes, that’s right, I already drew a historic version of Kuzco two years ago.  But I didn’t use very reliable sources, and besides, Kuzco is one of my favorite Disney characters, so I decided to remake him with extra accuracy and give him a proper place in this series.  It was just as much fun to draw him the second time around!

As most of us already know, in “The Emperor’s New Groove” Kuzco was the ruler of the Inca Empire which covered modern-day Peru and several other South American regions.  In order to be a proper “Emperor” this means the story probably took place sometime in the 15th century – the Inca were around before that, but it wasn’t until they started expanding their territory in the 1430s that they could have an Empire or an Emperor like Kuzco. :) 

Actually, “Emperor” is a European term anyway.  Kuzco’s people would have called him the “Sapa Inca” or “High Inca.”  He would have been viewed as an emissary of the ultimate god, the Sun God.  He was considered a prophet, a priest, a king, and even a God himself – no wonder he had such a big ego!  The Sapa Inca’s followers practically worshipped him and he had the best of everything, including clothing.  All Incan men wore woven tunics, but while peasants' clothes were made of llama wool, the emperor would have tunics made of fine vicuna wool dyed bright colors, like cochineal red which is made from the skin of an insect.  It was said the emperor only wore his clothes once before they were burnt at the end of each day, and that special servants were employed in weaving his clothing.  As emperor, Kuzco’s tunic would have a fancy checkerboard pattern with intricate designs.  Some of the Sapa Incas had tunics that were entirely checkerboard, but many just had a panel in the middle, which I drew in place of the belt Kuzco wears in the movie.  He also would have fringed bands around his knees and ankles.  Disney really drew those on Kuzco, but it seems in real life they would have been red instead of yellow.  On his feet he would wear woven sandals, and as ruler he was also entitled to a special royal mantle.

As shown in the drawings of Inca emperors, there were two kinds of "crowns" they wore.  One was a headband with feathers (which you usually see in European art), and the other was based off the Incan military helmets, a gold helmet with woolen fringe.  That is what I chose to draw Kuzco wearing.  Since it was made of gold I think it was probably heavy and more for ceremonial events.  Along with the vivid fringe, the crown would have had feathers from a kind of rare bird.  Like the crown, a lot of the emperor's items were based off military instruments, since he also served as head of the army and even led the troops into battle (can you imagine Kuzco leading an army?  Yikes!).  In pictures, the Sapa Inca almost always holds a ceremonial shield, as well as a scepter patterned off a weapon called a "macana," which was a kind of club with a star-shaped head which was used to bash your enemies' skulls in. 

Interestingly, Kuzco would really have had to go to a kind of "Kuzco academy" before he could become the Sapa Inca.  When he was sixteen, he would have to undergo 30 days of military and religious training.  When he completed his studies, and became a "huaracu", he would have his ears pierced with a golden awl and would begin gauging his earlobes.  By the end of the process his ears would be stretched to allow a diameter of 2 inches, so he could wear special earrings that could be up to six inches wide!  However, since Kuzco is only 18 he wouldn't be very far along yet, so I drew  his earrings slightly smaller.  They are based off this pair of turquoise earrings which, while not actually from the Inca, are from a neighboring Peruvian kingdom.  For some reason the indigenous drawings don't show the Inca wearing much jewelry, but European accounts say they were often covered with gold and jewels.  I think Kuzco would be of the vainer variety, so I drew him wearing a gold bracelet and a big gold necklace based off portraits and Peruvian examples.  Finally, there are accounts that the Incans enjoyed nail art, like painting eagles and designs on their nails.  That's why Kuzco's toenails look so lovely! ;)

By the way, because he is Kuzco, I drew him doing something a little different than the characters in my other drawings.  Can you tell what it is? :)

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temus's avatar

curiously, the inca were of the few native peoples who learned to use bronze before the coming of the europeans, wponder why no other cultures developed metallurgy...