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_root references one timeline when you test your external swf without loading it into your main swf, and it references a different timeline when your external swf is loaded into your main swf.
you can probably quickly remedy your issue by using the following in your external swf's:
Thank you. I replace _root with _parent (duh) and works perfect. I will implement your method when I load the external swf. I do have another question, how do I center my image in the empty movie clip? When I change the reg point to center, it moves it way down to the lower right hand side of stage.
you're welcome. but if you're not using _root in your external swfs (because you replaced them with _parent), you need not use _lockroot.
_parent will reference the same thing in an external swf as it will in your main swf (as long as it's not on the external swfs main timeline).