A spokesman for Disney Theatrical Prods. has confirmed that Disney Animation’s hit “Frozen” is in early development for the stage, following a Fortune interview in which Bob Iger said the studio was in discussions about it.
It’d be more surprising if they weren’t. Anytime there’s a new musical hit in the Disney family, it’s only natural to consider whether it’d be a viable candidate for the next “The Lion King.” The 2007 live-action tuner “Enchanted” has previously been batted around as a legit possibility and the Disney Channel’s 2006 smash “High School Musical,” while it never played New York, proved a success as a national touring production.
The thing about Disney’s stage activities, though, is that they’re not just in the business of producing the next “Lion King” — or for that matter the next “Aladdin,” cued up to begin Broadway previews later this spring.
Disney Theatrical also oversees a robust licensing business as well as bustling international activities, so stage versions of Disney properties have plenty of other places to go besides Broadway, from Stuttgart to regional and amateur theaters around the U.S. “High School Musical” and the subsequent legit adaptation of “High School Musical 2” are prime examples. Disney’s 2010 animated outing “Tangled” is in the works as a cruise ship production, songwriter Alan Menken said during last year’s D23 expo. Even “Newsies” was originally developed as a property to license out to all the regional and amateur theater clamoring for a live version of the cult 1992 pic; Disney execs themselves were pleasantly surprised when reception proved overwhelming enough to warrant a move to Broadway.
In fact, “Frozen” songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez have previously penned the Disney Parks stage version of “Finding Nemo” (not to mention the tunes in 2011 animated outing “Winnie the Pooh”). But Lopez also has plenty of Broadway pedigree, with stage successes “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon” both to his name. Besides, the cast list for “Frozen” is filled with Broadway babies: Idina Menzel (“Rent,” “Wicked,” the upcoming “If/Then”), Jonathan Groff (“Spring Awakening”), Santino Fontana (who orignated the role of Prince Charming in the current Rialto revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella”) and Josh Gad (whose breakout gig was “Book of Mormon”).
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All of that makes “Frozen” look like a natural candidate for Broadway. But then, given its storyline, it also looks like the next clear candidate for a Disney on Ice tour. With development still in the earliest stages, there’s no guarantee it’ll hit the stage at all — and if and when it does, Broadway is just one of the many places it could end up.