2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Disney on the Broadway stage. In 1994, Beauty and the Beast opened at the Palace Theatre and since then, Disney and Broadway have been inseparable. In fact, The Lion King is one of the longest-running Broadway musicals of all time. At the 2019 D23 Expo last month, one of the major panels was a concert celebrating 25 years of Disney on Broadway. Seeing this Disney concert reminded me just how much Disney magic can be heard and felt purely through music which is only heightened when performed live. Walt Disney also knew the power of music and was sure to incorporate it beautifully into his cartoons, films, and Disneyland theme park.
Musical theatre and Disney are so tied together and with this major anniversary and numerous Disney musical properties, I feel it was appropriate to do a series of articles exploring and analyzing musical theatre techniques and history as it relates to Disney musicals on both stage and screen, with a particular emphasis on animation. Musical theatre and animation have proved to be incredibly similar in many ways, largely because they are both art forms which force the audience to suspend disbelief in a way that live-action film does not. This is why these two mediums have been crossing paths and borrowing from each other for almost a hundred years. However, it has only been in the past 30 or so years that these two mediums finally came full circle, first on the movie screens with The Little Mermaid and then on the Broadway stage with the creation of Disney Theatrical Productions. Despite this, musical theatre techniques have appeared within The Walt Disney Company since the early days of the studio. Beginning with their first film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, I am going to be taking a look at many Disney films and stage shows and how they have both influenced and been influenced by American musical theatre.
I will be looking at primarily animated films, but also some live-action Disney entries when I find them relevant to the discussion. As a recent graduate with a degree in theatre, I find this topic utterly fascinating and hard to ignore when looking at both the history of Disney and musical theatre.