Upcoming Disney musicals...

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Upcoming Disney musicals...

Post by Jérémie » September 26th, 2008, 1:10 pm

Here's what can be read on the Colombus Dispatch (9/21):

http://www.columbusdispatch.com/live/co ... ml?sid=101

"Disney has built its Broadway brand with family shows inspired by some of its best-known animated films.
Yet the mostly charmed circle of stage life -- which started with Beauty and the Beast in 1994 and The Lion King in 1997 -- is about to expand.

Beyond the animated titles, the company is seeking more-varied sources for a new cycle of family-oriented musicals, according to Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions.

Schumacher discussed the past and future of Disney while visiting Columbus to help oversee a backstage revamping of The Lion King.

The second tour in central Ohio continues through next Sunday in the Ohio Theatre.

"The sweet spot of the business is Disney musicals for the broadest-possible family audiences," Schumacher said.

Hitting that spot, he said, remains the goal.

As the culture shifts, however, Disney is changing to come up with material that connects with new generations and a new era.

Among the new musicals in development:


Peter and the Starcatchers -- Author Rick Elice (Jersey Boys) and director Roger Rees are adapting the Peter Pan prequel, billed as a play with music, from a 2004 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson about the young orphan battling pirates in a high-seas adventure. The first workshop production will run Feb. 13 to March 8 at La Jolla Playhouse in California.

The Man in the Ceiling -- Author-cartoonist Jules Feiffer (Little Murders) and composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party) are adapting Feiffer's 1995 book about a boy cartoonist who dreams of becoming a successful artist. The show recently had its first reading.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame -- Disney's first original foreign-language production, which ran from 1999 to 2002 in Berlin, is being revamped for its U.S. premiere. The 1996 animated film inspired by Victor Hugo's novel was rewritten for the stage and directed by James Lapine (Into the Woods). Songs by Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast) and Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) were added as well.
Following in the footsteps of Disney's first "original" musical, Elton John's pop adaptation of Verdi's Aida, Schumacher is seeking more books and live-action films as sources for new shows because not every animated film can or should be adapted for the stage, he said.

"Animated movies are a form of haiku. You create a series of visual images and thematic concepts and move through it very quickly in 74 minutes," he said.

Moreover, most fairy tales are too similar -- and skimpy -- in plot and character to justify a worthwhile two-act production, he said.

Even with director-designer Julie Taymor's imaginative puppetry and stagecraft for The Lion King, the 88-minute film was expanded into a live show running close to three hours only with a deepening of the characters and their stories, Schumacher said. He shepherded the animated film during his former tenure as president of Disney's animated-film division and later guided its Broadway incarnation.

"Who is Nala and why did she leave Pride Rock? In the movie, she just leaves," Schumacher said.

"The stage version shows that she left because of the drought, . . . and because Scar is making advances on her. Nala sings Shadowlands to explain that she can't stay anymore."

Using the next Disney musical slated to tour as an example, Schumacher said Mary Poppins works well onstage because its story -- a blend of the original novel and the 1964 film -- expands the dynamics of a family that was broken.

Other than The Lion King -- the 1998 Tony winner for best musical -- most Disney musicals have met with a mixed to negative critical response in New York.

From Ben Brantley's January review of The Little Mermaid in The New York Times: "Loved the shoes. Loathed the show. OK, I exaggerate. I didn't like the shoes all that much. But the wheel-heeled footwear known as merblades, which allow stage-bound dancers to simulate gliding underwater, provides the only remotely graceful elements in the musical blunderbuss."

Meanwhile, reflecting the Broadway community's still-wary response to Disney's "invasion" of its turf, the Tony awards have often overlooked Disney musicals or relegated them to lesser design nominations.

Even so, The Little Mermaid and other Disney shows have found an audience.

"The Disney name is a hefty thing," Schumacher said. "We also have a global theater business. We have 17 productions running right now, and only three are on Broadway." "
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Post by Ben » September 26th, 2008, 2:17 pm

Extremely interesting! :)

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Re: Upcoming Disney musicals...

Post by EricJ » September 26th, 2008, 4:13 pm

Jérémie wrote:Other than The Lion King -- the 1998 Tony winner for best musical -- most Disney musicals have met with a mixed to negative critical response in New York.

From Ben Brantley's January review of The Little Mermaid in The New York Times: "Loved the shoes. Loathed the show. OK, I exaggerate. I didn't like the shoes all that much. But the wheel-heeled footwear known as merblades, which allow stage-bound dancers to simulate gliding underwater, provides the only remotely graceful elements in the musical blunderbuss."

Meanwhile, reflecting the Broadway community's still-wary response to Disney's "invasion" of its turf, the Tony awards have often overlooked Disney musicals or relegated them to lesser design nominations.
FWIH, the bad reviews/no-Tonys on Little Mermaid (notice how the mighty Tarzan seems to be suspiciously absent from the article?) finally convinced Bob Iger to gut Disney Theatrical out of the franchise-musical business--Which's why they're only dabbling in new musicals, if at all:
Stage was Mike's interest, and existing-title marketing was Jeff's baby (qv. Hunchback musical discussions, which they're waste-not cleaning up on to cut losses), and Iger's specialty has been promoting the company in brand-identifiable areas where they've been proven to WORK, such as animation and travel.

...And Tarzan and Mermaid weren't working.

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Re:

Post by Neal » September 26th, 2008, 6:31 pm

So is the Peter and the Starcatchers musical what's going to come out of the talks that it'd be made into an animated movie? The plans for the movie went quiet a long time ago. IMDb still lists it as a 2009 release which is obviously false. But does this mean no PatS animated film?
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Post by Ben » September 27th, 2008, 2:25 pm

I would wager that the movie has now become a stage musical...and that's that.

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Post by Neal » September 27th, 2008, 2:37 pm

Yeah. I don't even really care one way or another. I never read the books. I heard they were terribly unfaithful to Barrie's novels. Lasseter probably saw it as another one of the dreaded sequels. The four TinkerBell spin-offs and Return to Neverland are enough of Peter Pan/Neverland for me.
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Post by EricJ » September 27th, 2008, 4:10 pm

The books were essentially licensed over the fact that the hundred-year rule has just pushed JM Barrie's original Peter Pan into Public Domain--
Leaving the estate representative for the Great Ormond St. Hospital VERY OPEN to ideas about how to make new money off of Neverland.

(Except for Disney's Tinkerbell movies, which of course, were just one more salvo in the Barbie Wars.)

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