ABC is actively developing a live-action musical version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” for the net’s “Wonderful World of Disney” franchise.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron of Storyline Entertainment (“Cinderella,” “Annie”) will serve as exec producers of the project, which will draw from both the Disney animated version of “Hunchback” and the Disney Theatrical Prods.’ tuner currently running in Berlin.
Insiders said the ABC adaptation was born in the wake of Disney’s decision, in light of the continuing success of “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” not to take the Berlin version of “Hunchback” to Broadway. When that decision was announced, Storyline’s Zadan and Meron approached Disney about a TV take on the tale, studio insiders said.
Scribe Sally Robinson is writing the screenplay for the new “Hunchback.” Jeff Bleckner, recently nominated for a DGA award for his work on the ABC/Storyline biopic “The Beach Boys: An American Family,” has signed on as helmer.
Menken steps up
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz will write the music and lyrics for the project, as they did for the feature and tuner.
Execs supervising the production include Disney Theatrical Prods. co-prexy/Disney feature animation prexy Thomas Schumacher; DTP exec VP Stuart Oaken; and ABC movies and minis topper Susan Lyne.
The ABC take on “Hunchback” will revolve around the the characters in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel about lonely and deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo and the lovely and talented Esmerelda. If the script is greenlit, producers are expected to cast a young Quasimodo instead of the traditional middle-age lead.
Tone of the project is expected to fall somewhere in between the lighthearted ani pic and the darker Berlin tuner. Because the project is still in the early stages of production, execs at ABC and Storyline declined to discuss the new “Hunchback” on the record.
According to Schumaker, he and his Disney colleagues regularly look at ways to exploit Disney franchises across multiple platforms.
A wide scope
“If you look at us, we’ve got a TV network, an animation division, a live action division, theme parks, New York stage productions and ice shows,” he said. “Could any one of our properties end up in more than one place? It’s logical.”
Schumaker notes that “Hunchback” has already been a movie, a stage production and a theme park attraction.
“Everything that we do gets looked at,” he said. “It’s just the way we run the company. Each one of the platforms is economically viable.”
As a result, it’s entirely possible that a “Hunchback” stage run will still be launched Stateside following an ABC presentation.
“‘Cinderella’ is touring right now, and that was kicked off by an ABC event,” Schumaker noted. “Whether we do it or not ultimately on ABC doesn’t affect whether we tour it. They’re not interlinked.”
Storyline has an overall deal with Disney and ABC to produce musicals for the “Wonderful World of Disney” banner.
Upcoming projects in the works under that deal include the Matthew Broderick starrer “The Music Man,” Cher as “Mame,” “The Wiz,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”