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Listen: How Disney Taught a Generation to Love Musicals

Hard as it is to imagine now, there was a time when Disney was the new kid on the Broadway block.

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Disney Theatrical Productions, the powerhouse behind mega-selling shows like “The Lion King,” marks its 25th anniversary this year, and Thomas Schumacher, DTP’s president and producer, has been there from the beginning. On the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, Schumacher takes listeners back to the studio’s early days in town — and even further back, when, as an animation exec, he had a hand in reviving the fortunes of Disney Animation with films like “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.”

Those films were one of a number of cultural factors that have helped revive a wider interest in musicals — but, Schumacher notes, it did take a while for them to really catch on.

“By the time we got to ‘Mulan,’ there was a fatigue setting in because we hadn’t raised an audience yet to love these [musicals],” he said. “What I have now discovered is that these movies are more beloved today than they were then.”

On Stagecraft, Schumacher also drops a few tantalizing hints about the new revivals of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aida” currently in the works, and reveals how DTP thinks about adapting properties from Disney’s other brands — namely Marvel and Star Wars.

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Marvel had a tumultuous, ultimately unsuccessful foray on Broadway with “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” But there are other ways to tell comic book stories on stage, Schumacher says: “We’re going to do it again with Marvel characters, but in licensing. About what happens to Peter Parker, what happens to Squirrel Girl, in their real life. … These are plays to be done in classrooms and things.”

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on Apple PodcastsStitcher or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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