After years of complaining about recent Disney animated features and requesting that Disney return to the “princess formula” as a way for Disney to recapture their success of the early 1990s, I realize that I was wrong. I was also incorrect in whining about computer animation as opposed to hand-drawn. After comparing Enchanted (which I loved) to Princess and the Frog (which I really liked) and the teasers for the upcoming Tangled (which at least interest me), I’ve decided that what I really miss isn’t the subject matter or the medium, it’s the style. I miss the big Broadway productions that I loved so much.
We’re not kidding anybody; I love musicals. I’m performing in a local one now (what I lack in talent, I make up for in enthusiasm -- as evidenced by a recent recording of our rehearsal that just hit YouTube). I realize that not everyone shares my love. My husband used to poke fun at musicals, claiming that people didn’t go through life spontaneously bursting into song. Then he started hanging out with more theatre folk. Now even choreographed dance routines in the middle of Wal-Mart don’t surprise him.
But something tells me that I’m not the only person that misses the Broadway format. Look at the success of the TV show Glee. Or check out the Flash Mob routines that are all over the internet. Even I’m not self-absorbed enough to believe these were all created for my benefit; other people must love them, too. So doesn’t it stand to reason that others miss the animated musicals, as well?
Of course, Disney lost a true musical genius when the talented lyricist Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) tragically died from complications from AIDS in 1991. And while Elton John of course did a fantastic job with the music in The Lion King, none of the other musicals have quite measured up, in my humble opinion. But this is Disney we’re talking about. I’ve got to believe they have the ability to attract some high caliber talent. I just think they need to remember that the Ashman/Menken team created for more memorable and lasting pieces that say, Phil Collins. (I like Phil Collins. Don’t send me nasty “hate” messages. But if you think the music in Tarzan or Brother Bear is as good as that in The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, you’re nuts.)
What do you think? Do you believe Disney could achieve success by returning to the big Broadway-style productions? Or do you think they are better off taking what I’ll call the Dreamworks route? Because that’s what the brief bits I’ve seen of Tangled remind me of. (But to be honest, I haven’t seen enough to make a truly informed opinion.) Let me know at http://www.facebook.com/disneygene!