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10 Animated Movies That Should Be Broadway Musicals

The Broadway runs of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid” have shown that these tales as old as time can be part of our (Broadway) world. Even outside of the Disney canon, “Shrek” spawned a successful Broadway musical that is now a popular choice for community theatre groups.

The popularity of animated films throughout American cinematic history leaves us wondering what other animated films might do well on the Great White Way.

Here are 10 animated movies that should be made into Broadway musicals:

1. “The Emperor’s New Groove”

One of the more underrated post-Disney Renaissance films, “The Emperor’s New Groove” contains unforgettable characters, scenes, dialogue and two awesome songs written by Sting. Originally called “Kingdom of the Sun,” the film’s plot initially included the evil witch Yzma wanting to capture the sun to retain her youth. Although “Snuff Out the Light” (sung by Eartha Kitt) was cut from the film version, perhaps it can get another chance onstage.

2. “Cats Don’t Dance”

This long-forgotten 1997 film was Gene Kelly’s last film project before he died. The movie is about Danny, a feline newcomer to Hollywood who aims to get better storylines for animal actors. It features songs by Randy Newman, best known for his Pixar collaborations.

3. “Quest for Camelot”

This 1998 movie, based on the novel “The King’s Damosel,” is about a young woman who seeks to return the sword Excalibur to its stone to restore peace to Camelot. The songs are written by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager, who were both massively successful songwriters throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.

4. “Hercules”

One of the few movies from the Disney Renaissance to not have its own stage version, “Hercules” fuses Gospel styles with more pop-leaning show-tune sounds. Aside from its catchy score, there’s enormous potential to brilliantly stage Hercules’ fight scenes with those gargantuan monsters!

5. “The Prince of Egypt”

Dreamworks’ first cel animated film contains songs written by Broadway legend Stephen Schwarz. A whitewashing controversy cancelled a stage reading of the movie’s planned musical adaptation early last year. However, the increase of shows for people of color (such as “The Color Purple” revival and “Hamilton) hopefully boosts “The Prince of Egypt’s” chance of an eventual Broadway run.

6. “Spirited Away”

This Studio Ghibli modern classic is the highest-grossing Japanese film in history and has all the makings of a hit show: character development, romance, a balance of comedy and drama and a large ensemble. With the popularity of Frank Wildhorn’s “Death Note” musical in Japan and Korea, a Broadway adaptation of “Spirited Away” would send Ghibli fans flocking worldwide to see it.

7. “Mulan”

Another Disney Renaissance film lacking its own Broadway version, “Mulan” benefits from powerful songs such as “Reflection” and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” Its unique story and setting help it stand out among other Disney films. Like “The Prince of Egypt,” Mulan would be another great opportunity to showcase racial diversity in musical theatre.

8. “The Swan Princess”

Loosely based on Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” ballet, this film featured the singing voices of musical theatre veterans Liz Callaway and David Zippel. It’s one of the more notable non-Disney-animated romances of the ‘90s and has music similar in style to that of Alan Menken and other great Disney composers.

9. “Pocahontas”

Here is yet another Disney Renaissance film not yet to have a Broadway run. The “Pocahontas” soundtrack features classic Disney songs such as “Colors of the Wind,” which won Menken and Schwartz an Oscar at the 1996 Academy Awards.

10. “Coraline”

Based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, this movie is known for its creepy, visually stunning scenes. Coraline, a young girl who discovers an idealized parallel world, realizes her fantasy has a dark secret. With a lack of horror musicals on Broadway, the cult status of “Coraline” could perhaps start a new theatrical trend in New York.

Did we leave out your favorite animated film? Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Joseph Kisiday

Joseph Kisiday is a 2016 graduate from Christopher Newport University, majoring in Music Composition. Joseph's love for theatre came at a young age through discovering the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber, such as "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera." When he is not writing, Joseph can be found watching operas or Miyazaki films.

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  1. For 2010s era Disney, I think Frozen (as overplayed as it is – – and IIRC there’s already been talks of a stage adaptation) are highly potential as well. Frozen was a runaway hit and the songs were begrudgingly catchy, and Moana can also improve diversity on stage (though the oceanic effects would be tall order for lesser productions, if it’s Disney, they can make it work).

    Princess and the Frog and Tangled were also great animated musical films, but it might be harder to convey the concept of amphibian transformation and overly long hair properly on stage.

    A great article! I do wonder why they haven’t gotten to Mulan or Hercules yet, seems like no-brainers.

  2. I would love to see Moana become a musical because the music is so beautiful and many people can get out of their comfort zone with the character types.

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