The Emperor’s New Groove

The wild adventures of emperor-turned-llama Kuzco seems like just a zany adventure comedy from Disney. But the movie is actually a cautionary tale about the human cost of eminent domain abuse.

Kuzco wants to build his summer home, “Kuzcotopia” (complete with water slide!), on the perfect hilltop. But there’s just one problem: there’s a peasant village on that hill. Pacha, the village leader, tells Kuzco his family has lived on that hilltop “for the last six generations.”

The family history makes no difference to Kuzco. He tells Pacha that the village will have to leave. When Pacha asks where his family will live, Kuzco responds glibly, “Don’t Know, Don’t Care.”

It isn’t until Kuzco visits Pacha’s home and sees the family history there, from the hand-carved decorations on the walls to the doorframe where Pacha’s family records their children’s heights that he has a change of heart.

The Emperor’s New Groove provides a good opportunity to start a conversation with your kids about eminent domain abuse. You can ask them how they feel about Kuzco trying to take Pacha’s home or why it would be the wrong thing to do. You can also share how, in the real world, people like Kuzco try to take other people’s houses, like Susette Kelo’s.

Kelo spent countless hours restoring her dream home on the water in Connecticut. But then the government decided they wanted a fancy condo tower and other high-end buildings and forced Kelo and her neighbors off their land so they could sell it to private developers.

Kelo became the center of an eminent domain lawsuit that made it all the way to the Supreme Court. While the court ruled against Kelo and her neighbors, she was able to relocate her home. The land the government took sits overgrown with weeds after the fancy condos and ritzy stores never materialized.

 

Robots

Robots contains some of the best lessons on freedom you’ll find in a movie. During the film, kids learn how people create value by meeting other people’s needs in innovative ways.

“Look around for a need and start coming up with ideas to fill that need,” Bigweld tells aspiring inventors on his television show.

When main character Rodney Copperbottom moves to the big city, he puts the “See a need, fill a need” motto into action, making a living by fixing up fellow robots who are missing parts or breaking down.

Robots also features a great example of corporate cronyism. Phineas T. Ratchet, an unscrupulous businessman, has stopped the production of spare parts to try to force the citizens of the robot universe to buy only the expensive upgrades his company produces.

This attempt to corner the market creates the perfect opportunity for Rodney, who sees the need for spare parts and repairs and goes to work. But instead of competing with Rodney, Ratchet attempts to force him out of business using unethical tactics, such as trying to toss Rodney and his gang into an incinerator.

While it doesn’t usually end with a fight in front of a giant incinerator, corporate cronies try similar tactics all the time.

Sometimes they support new regulations that make it harder for competitors to get started, such as occupational licensing. Other times they try to oust innovative competitors entirely, like when the hotel industry tries to get home rentals like AirBnB banned or when taxi companies try to get rideshare companies declared illegal.

Robin Hood 

Want to show your kids the impact high taxes have on families’ lives? Start with Disney’s Robin Hood.

When you first meet Prince John, he’s riding in a fancy gilded carriage (with solid gold hubcaps). With rings on each fingers and bags of gold coins, Prince John is living the life of luxury—despite getting duped by a certain swashbuckling fox and his brown bear sidekick.

But it isn’t until later that we see where all of that luxury is coming from—everyday citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet. The narrator explains that “What with taxes and all, the poor folks of Nottingham were starving to death.”

We watch the “honorable” Sheriff of Nottingham take much-needed coins from a crippled businessman trying to make ends meet and a poor widowed mother trying to support her large family. The sheriff even gloats that Prince John says, “Taxes should hurt!”

Life is about to get even harder for those peasants. Later in the movie, Prince John gives the order to “Double the taxes! Triple the taxes! Squeeze every last drop out of those insolent, musical peasants!” The tax burden is so unbearable, most of the townsfolk wind up in debtor’s prison.

After watching the movie, ask your kids how taxes made it harder for the characters to get by, and ask them what the animals could have done with their money if Prince John hadn’t taken it all away. You can also talk to them about how high taxes make life harder for people in the real world.

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