Washington: When producer Thomas Schumacher heard that ‘The Lion King’ was going to be made into a Broadway show, he thought it was the “worst idea” he had ever heard.
15 years on, the show has earned more than 5 billion dollars, more money than any musical in history.
In fact, ‘The Lion King’ has been more profitable than all six ‘Star Wars’ films combined.
At first, almost no one thought it would work.
“I, quite famously, said, ‘That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard’,” ABC News quoted Schumacher as saying.
“The movie is fundamentally cinematic, and there’s nothing theatrical about it,” he said.
Schumacher is now the head of Disney Theatrical Productions, a division of ABC News’ parent company, and invited ‘Nightline’ to pull back the curtain and discover the secrets behind the show’s phenomenal success.
During the backstage tour, Schumacher reminisced about early arguments with his boss, then-CEO Michael Eisner, over taking the animated film to Broadway.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to be crazy,’ and he said, ‘Just get a great idea, just get a great idea,’ and I got a great idea: Julie Taymor,” he said.
At the time, Taymor was a little-known theater savant. She had directed edgy, pioneering productions and operas, but never mainstream Broadway. She became the show’s director.
“Everyone told her she was crazy to work with Disney,” Schumacher said.
“Everyone told us we were crazy to work with someone like Julie. The Broadway community just assumed this was going to be a massive disaster,” he said.
But Eisner said the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. They would go on to reinvent the 1994 Disney animated feature for the stage.
Taymor used every trick in the book, from 17th century stagecraft to African costume design and Asian puppetry. The result was a groundbreaking fusion of high art and lowbrow good fun.
In 1998, she became the first women to ever win a Tony for Best Director. ‘Lion King’ took home five more that night.
Taymor went on to direct films like ‘Frieda’ and other plays, but perhaps her most famous -- or infamous -- project is the equally ambitious, wildly expensive musical, ‘Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark,’ an almost nine-year undertaking.