The Backyardigans get positively medieval

Fans of The Backyardigans have less than a week to go before the next big hour-long movie event, “Tale of the Mighty Knights,” according to a recent press release:

[P]remiering Monday, Jan. 14 (7 p.m. – 8 p.m. ET/PT) [...] in “Tale of the Mighty Knights,” royal knights Uniqua and Tyrone are ready to do mighty deeds in service to their King (Pablo). It seems like a pretty simple task until the King asks them to babysit an egg, which grows legs and runs away! A rock opera soundtrack moves the action along as the knights pursue their egg in Goblin Land and encounter a grabbing goblin (Austin), through Fairyland where they meet a tiny and mischievous fairy (Tasha), and finally to Dragon Mountain where they face a mighty baby dragon (Adam Pascal). Will the knights conquer their greatest challenge yet?

And as if that isn’t exciting enough, the movie will spawn a live stage show, too:

Based on the primetime special, The Backyardigans Live! will follow the success of previous Nickelodeon touring shows Go, Diego, Go Live! and Dora The Explorer Live!. The Backyardigans Live! tour will visit over 50 cities across the USA kicking off in York, Pennsylvania on March 28, 2008. Nickelodeon’s live stage shows have been among the top grossing touring family shows at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

During Backyardigans Live!, Pablo, Uniqua, Tasha, Tyrone and Austin will need the audience’s help as they face a mighty dragon and return the egg to the king. The stage show will have the entire family singing, dancing and laughing along to songs from the rock opera.

Other scheduled tour stops include: New York, NY; Boston, Massachusetts; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Baltimore, Maryland; Camden, New Jersey; Atlanta, Georgia; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Tampa, Florida, San Antonio, Texas; and Houston, Texas. For schedule information visit http://www.nickjr.com.

Personally, I always find live versions of animated characters to be a bit frightening. (Then again, I’m also scared of clowns. Draw your own conclusions.) But with the wild success of the Backyardigans (not to mention the music being something adults can enjoy without bleeding eardrums), my guess is the stage show will be wildly successful.

Rock on, Backyardigans!

High School Musical on stage, on tour

High School Musical has taken to the stage with roaring success. Disney had always planned to license it for school/amateur productions, but when the property proved such a smash hit, they went ahead and expanded into professional production as well. The results thus far have been very positive. (The effort I’m expending not to type “duh” at the end of that sentence is substantial.)

But if Disney runs out of HSM-themed avenues, my offer of the synchronized swimming idea still stands. You know, just in case they need it.

I can’t stop humming

I’ve told you before that my son is a big Spider-Man fan, and perhaps I didn’t pay the Webbed One due respect when I wrote about him. At least, my son didn’t feel that I did. But as superheroes go, I do enjoy Spider-Man. I mean, hey, consider some of the alternatives. The Incredible Hulk? He’s, like, every mother’s nightmare. I mean, just think about how many shirts and pairs of pants that guy goes through. And we’re not made of money here, you know. You have to take care of your things. Also, if you can’t control your temper, you’re going to be spending a lot of your life in time-out, mister.

Wait, sorry. I veered a little bit off-course, there. What were we talking about?

Oh! Right! So, Spider-Man. Is there anything he can’t do? I mean, he can walk up walls, he can shoot webs, he can sing on Broadway….

What’s that? Oh, no, that wasn’t a typo. Haven’t you heard? Fasten your seatbelts for Spider-Man the Musical:

Marvel Studios has confirmed that plans are underway to produce a Broadway musical based on Marvel’s ever popular Super Hero, Spider-Man. Produced by Hello Entertainment/David Garfinkle, Martin McCallum, Marvel Entertainment, and SONY Pictures Entertainment (billing in formation), the musical will be directed by Tony Award-winner Julie Taymor with U2′s Bono and The Edge creating new music and lyrics for the project. A reading is scheduled to take place this summer. No dates for a Broadway opening have been confirmed at this time.

Playbill is reporting some of the casting call details, including that there will be a so-called geek chorus:

[...] consisting of “three teenage boys and one girl” are described to “meet to ritualistically retell the greatest Spider-Man stories.”

Oooooo… kay….

At first, you know, I was speechless. But I’m warming up to the idea. I mean, why not? It’ll be like West Side Story meets… ummm… wait, don’t tell me… well, I’m sure it’ll be interesting. Spider-Man can perform the classic hit “Swingin’ in the Rain” and maybe Mary Jane can sing “Arachnids are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Yeah, I’m starting to visualize it now. Very catchy.

It’s really a shame they didn’t hire me to help with the score. I’m a natural at this.

Taking the good and making it… more slippery

It seems like just yesterday that I was musing about taking good movies and retooling them for the stage, and how it seemed to me like the transition between the two mediums must be sort of difficult. Okay, it wasn’t yesterday, but just a few days ago. And that’s long been the formula for bigger-and-better success when it comes to a good piece of entertainment: If it works one way, do it another.

So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that High School Musical is heading to the ice rink.

But I have a confession to make. I don’t get it. I know this is a common thing for Disney productions, to become an ice extravaganza. And I know people love them. But I don’t see the appeal. Heck, I can’t even sit through the commercials for most of the Disney On Ice spectaculars without wondering how a person actually skates while wearing a big puffy dog costume, or whatever.

What makes it so magical to do it on the ice? Is the added dimension of wondering whether the actors might fall on their behinds so intriguing?

Oh well. When the excitement of Fill In The Blank On Ice wanes, they’ll need a new gimmick. I’d like to suggest they stick with the water theme, but change it up a little bit. High School Musical At Sea? High School Musical Synchronized Swimmers? I really think there’s an untapped market out there.

And Disney? Feel free to use my excellent ideas, free of charge. Consider it my gift to you. No need to thank me.

The Little Mermaid headed to Broadway

making The Little Mermaid into a musical. A few years ago I probably would’ve rolled my eyes at this—how could they possibly make that into a stage production?—but I am now older and wiser and have come to believe that Disney knows what it’s doing, whether on the big screen or the big stage. Ahem.

Once you stop and take it all in, it makes such perfect sense I almost wonder what took them so long. Little girls everywhere are still clamoring for all things Disney Princess. Here’s a way to please both the kids and the parents, and if other Disney stage extravaganzas have taught us anything, it’s that audiences will eat this stuff up with a spoon.

I’m torn, because on the one hand I have to maintain just a smidge of righteous indignation over the typical Disney heroine treatment; the story has been vastly changed from the original, and the girl can’t be happy until she lands a man. It’s hard for me to see past that, as prevalent as it is in Disney folklore. On the other hand, when I’m able to set that aside? I have to confess that The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney movies. The music is great (and will lend itself well to a stage production), the characters are lovable (even Ariel, poor man-seeking girl that she is), and what’s not to dig about a villain who’s part octopus?

If your interest is piqued, keep your eye on the Broadway production’s blog for news and updates (hat tip: Animated News). I was particularly intrigued by this post on different puppetry styles employed in various Disney stage productions (The Lion King and Finding Nemo are both discussed). The creativity and sheer amount of manpower that goes into these productions astounds me!