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From ‘The Lion King’ to ‘Newsies’: Every Disney Broadway Production, Ranked

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From ‘The Lion King’ to ‘Newsies’: Every Disney Broadway Production, Ranked

Disney has habitually expanded their repertoire into other areas of media, such as television and theme parks. But one avenue that often goes overlooked by many is Broadway musicals. They’ve created many theatrical experiences playing in regional theaters and even television specials. However, only ten have played on Broadway, making for unique shows.



RELATED: 9 Animations that Became Great Stage Musicals, From ‘Shrek’ to ‘The Lion King

They range from simple copies of the film in a live-action environment to complete artistic reinventions that breathe new life into classic stories. But, no matter their quality, all of them are the result of dozens of performers, creative leaders, and technical wizards who work tirelessly to bring such works to the stage.

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‘Frozen’

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that this popular film would come to the stage. The songs are well-orchestrated, Olaf and Sven are made into genuinely charming puppets, and the costuming replicates the film’s iconic style to a tee. But, unfortunately, that’s also this show’s biggest problem.

It suffers greatly from trying to copy the film almost beat for beat while changing small things that mess with the bigger picture. For example, moving the film’s iconic song “Let It Go” to the end of the first act; it provides a powerful showcase for the performer but a less effective emotional culmination.


‘The Little Mermaid’

The film that helped kick-start the Disney renaissance of the late ’80s and early ’90s was specifically written to be like a Broadway musical, so it only makes sense that it would come to the great white way someday. Sadly, while the Broadway production had a unique aesthetic, it was also somewhat underwhelming.

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The revelation that Ursula is King Triton’s sister makes for a unique deviation from the film’s storyline, but the sea witch is defeated far too quickly. Still, the script has moments of genuinely clever touches, and the score is timeless as always.

‘Tarzan’

Translating the story of a man raised by apes is no easy task, but this short-lived production found a way with a unique production design. It depicted the gorillas as humans with facial makeup and excessive hair and represented the jungles of Africa with little more than a background curtain canvas of trees and ropes.

With the music, the show utilizes Phil Collins’ classic soundtrack, but unlike the movie, the characters sing their songs, allowing more of an emotional connection to their scenes. Certain character moments get dropped from the show (including the main villain’s death), but the sheer ingenuity makes it worth a watch.

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‘Mary Poppins’

The flying nanny was reinvented for the stage as a co-production between Disney and powerful producer Cameron Mackintosh. While keeping all the original songs, the storyline differs somewhat from the film.

Mr. Bank’s issues with his employers are given slightly more focus, the children are more actively disobedient, and Mary temporarily leaves the family for a brief period before intermission. Don’t expect to see any dancing cartoon penguins, but there are still tap-dancing chimney sweeps, spoonfuls of sugar, and Mary flying with her umbrella – even over the audience. While different from the movie, it still provides that delightful mix that only Ms. Poppins could provide.


‘Aida’

The only Disney theatrical production not based on a previous movie but rather a Giuseppe Verde opera. The original piece told the story of a Romeo and Juliet-type romance set in Ancient Egypt. This classical piece is reinterpreted, along with a slightly lighter tone and the hint of a happier ending, with the music of songwriting duo Elton John and Tim Rice.

RELATED:11 Must Watch Animated Musical Movies Not Made by Disney

Certainly an unusual choice for Disney to make, but Elton John’s music, much like his other big Disney hit, is diverse and eclectic, giving almost every song a unique sound and energy. Combine that with a classical love story, and Aida creates a special Disney experiment.

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‘Aladdin’

Three wishes. Two dreamers. One Genie and a lot of sparkles. Aladdin strikes the perfect balance between following the film while carving out its own identity. The musical uses several songs from Howard Ashman’s original version, including Aladdin’s three (human) best friends and his hope for his deceased mother to become proud of her boy.

The Genie himself is the perfect fourth-wall-breaking character for the stage, referencing other Broadway musicals and Disney songs. Put it together with a genuinely breathtaking flying carpet effect, and it’s a magical night out for the whole family.

‘Peter and the Starcatcher’

Based on the book of the same name, this tells the story of a ship, mysterious stardust that makes your dream come true, a crew of vicious and well-mustachioed pirates, and an orphaned boy who learns to fly.

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It’s a minimalist reimagining of the Neverland mythos with a small cast playing multiple characters and set pieces consisting of boxes, ropes, and wood beams, relying on the viewer’s imagination as much as anything else. More of a straight play than a musical, the songs present do follow set the tone and scene for an epic adventure.


‘Newsies’

This is one of few times when the stage version may be better than the original film. In 1899, NYC newspaper boy Jack Kelly dreams of heading out west, but before he can get there, he needs to lead a group of newsboys on strike against Joseph Pulitzer.

RELATED: How Disney’s ‘Newsies’ Went from Box Office Flop to Broadway Blockbuster

The show is the only Disney musical specifically based on a true story, and while light and fun, it doesn’t shy away from some of the darker realities of the period. Another aspect that leaves this piece distinct from other musicals is the utterly pulse-pounding choreography that will move any audience out of their seats.

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‘Beauty and the Beast’

This was the first Disney movie made into a musical and it set the tone for all the company’s future theatrical productions. The musical brought the film to life with dazzling visuals, prosthetic makeup, and elaborate set pieces. In addition, the songs that come from the film are masterfully performed, while the newly written songs fit in perfectly with the original tone.

Perhaps the production’s greatest strength is the way it enhances the Beast’s character, showing his growth from an ignorant monster to a compassionate friend step by step. It shows the agony of what he is going through and his happiness at his chance of redemption.

‘The Lion King’

While Beauty and the Beast began Disney’s reputation on Broadway, The Lion King cemented it. Not only is this the third longest-running production in Broadway history, but it is also the most profitable venture in the company’s history.

Director Julie Taymor transforms the film into a masterpiece of artistic merit that expands on the film’s characters, visualizes them with beautiful puppets and costumes, and deceptively simple set pieces that become the grandest of canvases. It’s little wonder why it is among the most successful musicals in history.

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KEEP READING: 10 Best Musical Numbers in Muppet Movies, Ranked

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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