When Howard Ashman and Alan Menken arrived on the Disney scene in 1989 for The Little Mermaid, it’s fair to say they brought a spectacular Broadway-esque approach to animated musicals. These movie musicals were even adapted to Broadway. So if animated movies – like Disney’s Aladdin and Dreamworks’ Shrek – can become Broadway hits, then surely popular musicals would make amazing animated movies?
There are so many musicals to chose from that I considered doing a “Top 20” list, but I’m not sure I could even stop there. So I’m going to consider these musicals on the list as an eclectic soundboard of ideas. Something that will help get your mind wondering what musicals you’d love to see as an animated feature. So, in no particular order, let’s begin our typical Rotoscopers’ nerdy couch discussion.
An obvious choice. It’s got fantasy, romance and kick-ass songs. Songs which, I’m sure you know, were originated on Broadway by Kristen Chenoweth (TinkerBell, The Peanuts Movie, Disney’s Descendents) and Frozen’s Idina Menzel. So we already have the perfect cast for an animated Disney movie. Besides, Disney already played around with Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz the Great and Powerful. Why not explore that world more, but this time with more ballads about defying gravity?
9. Man of La Mancha
A lesser known one, but a musical that deserves attention. I thought about this one because of the theme of reality vs. imagination, and you can get a lot of interesting visuals from that. Don Quixote is worthy of any animated hero out there, even if he is a little crazy. But that’s the point, I guess. His wild imagination is perfect for animation. Can’t you just see an animated windmill that turns into – through Quixote’s eyes – a fire-breathing dragon? I can see Dreamworks doing a pretty good job of this one.
8. Les Misérables
A period movie always looks beautiful in animation, and there’s no better period musical than Les Misérables. There are a lot of characters, and the subject matter does get a little heavy, but if the right studio is given the chance it could work. After all, Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame captured the spirit of the novel well enough without having to include every plot point. So why not give this Victor Hugo novel a chance to be animated?
7. Singin’ in the Rain
I would personally love to see this one fully animated. You could play around with the era where silent movies became “talkies.” After all, animation is one of the easiest mediums to convey stories and emotions without sound. Not to mention the black and white “motion pictures” within in the movie could have a interesting chrome design similar to Disney’s short Paperman. I wonder if the song “Singin’ in the Rain” would work in 3D? But could anyone be more animated than Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor?
6. Little Shop of Horrors
Let’s talk about those off-Broadway cult-ish musicals for a moment. Two came to mind: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which Fox is currently planning a television remake of that concerns me) and Little Shop of Horrors. I chose the latter for many reasons. I want to see a giant man-eating plant as an animated character. I want to see the sequence “Somewhere That’s Green” fully-animated (there’s an animated bird already in the movie version so we’re halfway there). And we also need another animated musical with singers like the Muses in Hercules, and the Greek chorus girls in Little Shop of Horrors are perfect. Plus, the songs are written by Disney’s Ashman and Menken, so you’ve already got a winner. Just, perhaps, not a family-friendly one.
5. Avenue Q
Speaking of musicals that are not very “family friendly,” Avenue Q already is very “animated” since it’s puppetry. By converting this into animation you can fully immerse an audience into the comedy and characters, although seeing the puppet-masters is part of its charm. Of course, the music and lyrics by Frozen’s Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez would generate enough popularity for a movie version. There’s already numerous fan-edits of the song “If You Were Gay” over animated movies so it should finally get its own. Having said all this, you might have a tough time convincing children this movie is not for them.
4. My Fair Lady
I would love to see Eliza Doolittle as a Disney heroine, and since the story is also based on the classic play Pygmalion there’s enough material to work with. There are many rags-to-riches stories in animation – Cinderella and Anastasia come to mind first – but has there been one with songs as catchy as “I Could’ve Danced All Night” and “The Rain in Spain”?
3. The Sound of Music
There needs to be a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical on this list, so why not their most popular one? Seven children in one household getting into mischief is a good set-up for a movie, especially an animated one as it already sparks lively images. As long as they don’t make light of the dark parts of history (such as what Anastasia did with Rasputin) and it’s treated with the maturity it deserves, then this could work. “Favorite Things” would be the best musical number to animate. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens anyone?
2. Matilda the Musical
The book, the movie, and the West End musical are already perfect. But wouldn’t it be so fascinating to see Matilda – a young bookworm with magic powers – in an animated movie? Between Tim Minchin’s songs and Roald Dahl’s whimsy, an animated musical version could become a children’s classic. I know kids would love it because I do.
1. The Phantom of the Opera
If you’re a fan (or “Phan” as is affectionately known by the community) of The Phantom of the Opera then I am sure you’d love nothing more than to see a beautifully animated movie version. Think of the colors at the masquerade ball, think of the fun animators could have with the shadows in the catacombs, and think of the fangirls that would love the Phantom. Could he be as popular as Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle? Could this work as an anime? All I know is, I personally need Sierra Boggess (above) to voice an animated character. She was already perfect as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid on Broadway.
There are many, many musicals that I thought about but decided to leave off the list for various reasons. Some have already been turned into animated movies, like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, and some, like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, seemingly feel perfect for animation but may only work on stage because the appeal lies with the live performers. Regardless, this was so much fun to think about. So now I challenge you to think of the musicals that you’d love to see become an animated movie!
Which musicals would you love to see made into an animated movie? Which musicals do think wouldn’t work and why?
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden