I liked Beauty and the Beast but apart from that everything's a colossal pile of meh. Not interested.
For me the issue is that I have a passion for animation and Disney's main studio offers some of the best animation ever created, and a major part of that is the amount of work they put in to get the very best out of the medium. That goes for their live action films too. Disney are outstanding film makers. It's what they do. But if you're going to remake something in a different medium then you need to be able to bring something new to it — otherwise why bother? — but when Disney brings one of their films to the stage it's like "The film you love, now without all the stuff we're best at".
I can't stand animation and never could really even as a child. I remember walking out of Fantasia when I went to see it originally. Out of the musicals Mary Poppins is my favourite by far. Lion King is ok and Aladdin quite poor in my opinion. To me they are almost always aimed at children.
Beauty and the Beast was the one that started my love for musicals so I have an attachment to that. For a film to stage adaptation, it had some wonderful new songs (especially If I Can't Love Her) and the production values were beautiful to look at. Sure the animated film was better but it wasn't short of creative.
I went to New York specifically to see it after the UK tour. I also saw Aida there which I really enjoyed.
Lion King: phenomenal start but the rest is boring. Certainly, a case where the animated film can't be matched.
Mary Poppins on the other hand is not a word for word retelling of the film and all the better for it. When you take out the songs it feels less of a Disney musical. Saw the original when it previewed in Bristol and it was one of the most amazing theatrical experiences I've ever seen full of special effects and production values. And that Temper Temper is one of the few times that truly scared me.
Aladdin was just subpar. Nothing amazing.
Not bothered about the Frozen musical.
Anybody see the Goodman Theatre's Jungle Book adaptation?
but when Disney brings one of their films to the stage it's like "The film you love, now without all the stuff we're best at".
I think this cuts to the core of the problem. The animated movies rely a lot on animal cuteness, whether it's actual animal heroes like Bambi or Simba or quirky cute sidekicks to the human hero(ine). That just doesn't translate to the stage. Same with so many famous scenes from the movies, for example in the movie version of "A whole new world" Aladdin and Jasmine fly over a variety of famous sights like the pyramids, in the stage version they remain rather static in front of a blinky-blinky starry wall. With today's projection possibilities, why couldn't they fly over various sights as well and take the audience along on that journey? Why doesn't the stage show evoke any kind of "1001 nights enchantement" with some proper Arab sounds and sights?
I feel that Lion King was the only really mega-seller Disney created because Julie Taymor had the guts to create something completely different and "adult" away from the movie and with music that truly evokes Africa. It's not everyone's cup of tea (certainly isn't mine), but it's a unique stand-alone show and not just a lame pale copy of a movie.
The Little Mermaid would have had potential to be similar if they had managed to create a properly enchanting underwater world, but failed completely.
It's a pity because Disney is the only company with the money and reach to still create huge "blockbuster" musicals that really blow people's minds with special effects and lavish sets/costumes rather than the cheapskate stuff that dominates today.
One of the last shows I saw before lockdown was Mary Poppins, which I found frustrating - it sits in an odd place where it’s not ‘the film on stage’ but clearly has to include enough of the set-pieces and songs from the films to make it feel like it is. And I disliked the changes to the family member characterisations from the film.
Generally though I think that we should bear in mind that they are aimed at a family audience, and they do go down very well with children. They will be the first stage musicals many children see and a gateway drug for theatre in general - particularly internationally in countries that don’t have Panto doing that job.
So, they serve a purpose. And hey, The Lion King may not fill most here with enthusiasm but the stage show is Disney’s biggest grossing franchise. If nothing else, that encourages Disney to keep investing their money in theatre.
I've not seen many of the stage musicals but those I have seen, Beauty & the Beast and Aladdin, I found disappointing compared to the animated films. I've also avoided the "live-action" re-makes, especially as the nature of many of the characters means it's not truly live-action, since talking furniture, lions, etc. do not really exist!
I have mixed feelings about them. On the one hand, I think that they, along with the slightly earlier mega-musicals of the 80s, have helped to turn the musical theatre scene into a place dominated by the multi-million-dollar juggernauts which kills a lot of the potential variety of shows we could have occupying the West End or Broadway.
On the other hand, people do enjoy them and they create long-term jobs for many in the industry. It's good to see family shows with high production values.
Are they actually good? For the most part yes I think, but they become watered down over time. I, for one, wish that I had seen the original London incarnation of Mary Poppins which apparently had a much darker, more mature edge. Since going to the US and then onto multiple tours it has lost that and has become a shiny, colourful "product" which can be copied and pasted into any theatre in the world, which seems to be the end goal.