Anthony J. Piccione
I love Disney. I have my entire life. Movies such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Toy Story were all significant parts of my childhood. I’ve visited Disney World a total of nine times so far in my life, the most recent of which was for my 21st birthday in January 2014, even though I was a broke college student at the time. I could go on with more examples that show how much I love Disney, but I think you get the idea.
So naturally, one of the many things that I hear from some people that is annoying, is when they try and tell me that Disney is just for kids. They essentially say that it is nothing more than children’s entertainment, and shouldn’t be seen as anything more than that by adults.
I have a long list of examples that show how that couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’m sure others who love Disney that are reading this, can attest to that. However, for those of us in theatre, the best example comes in the form of the high-quality musicals that Disney has produced over the past couple of decades.
It is undeniable that some of the most successful Broadway shows among all ages of the past quarter-century have originated as Disney films. I had the privilege of being in a community theatre production of Beauty and the Beast back in 2009, and believe me when I say – as someone who has been involved in this show before – that the quality far exceeds that of the original film adaptation, which itself had been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1992. Although I will say that – will its incredible usage of music, puppetry and set design – it is The Lion King that truly epitomizes great musical theatre more than not just any Disney show, but also most other musicals on Broadway to be premiered in my lifetime. Mary Poppins went on to become the 30th longest running show in Broadway history. Finally, there is Aladdin, which is one of the most popular shows on Broadway today and earned James Monroe Iglehart a well-deserved Tony for his portrayal of the Genie.
In these audiences that come to these shows, I do not just see parents taking their children to see them. In many cases, these are just typical theatergoers who attend for the same reason that they would attend any other theatrical production: They just want to see and hear some great music, performers, set and lighting designs. It is this that convinces me once and for all that the idea that Disney is just for kids is simply a myth, and I think most of the people who have actually had the pleasure of being in one of these audiences would agree with me on that.
So if there is anyone out there reading this that still believes that Disney is merely children’s entertainment, I encourage you to attend any of the shows I mentioned above. Or maybe just wait for there to be a musical based on Toy Story (it’s gotta happen at some point) or Frozen (not my personal favorite, but also bound to happen at some point) or The Incredibles (hey, we’re allowed to have dreams, right?) to premiere on Broadway. Especially if you love theatre and appreciate great musicals such as these, you should have no trouble waking up to the reality that Disney has plenty to offer for kids of all ages, the best example of which (that doesn’t involve the highly-expensive cost of going to Disney World, at least) is seeing a Disney musical on Broadway.
This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Student, playwright, actor, poet and blogger currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Anthony and his work, please visit his personal blog at www.anthonyjpiccione.tumblr.com. Also, be sure to like him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), follow him on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and view his work on the New Play Exchange (www.newplayexchange.org/users/903/anthony-j-piccione)