OpinionStage

5 Musicals that Would Make Excellent Animated Movies

Amanda Doughty ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Film and Broadway have always had a close correlation with one another. Films of all different varieties, ranging from the chick flick Legally Blonde to the raunchy comedy The Producers, have been made into musicals and been quite successful. Meanwhile, Broadway musicals ranging from the classic tragedy West Side Story, the lighthearted Guys and Dolls (which supposedly has a remake in the works), and the modern phenomena Les Miserables, have all had wild success in the Hollywood box offices. Animated movies, though in lesser numbers, have also graced the Broadway stage.

However, few originally Broadway musicals have been made into big-budget animated movies. This is about to change with an upcoming adaption of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Since its announcement, many have wondered, “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” Both outlets break the boundaries of entertainment through their exaggerated sets and characters. Both seek to entertain by giving audiences a look into something that is nothing like their regular lives. If Dreamcoat is successful, there will most likely be more animated adaptations of musicals to come, and Emertainment Monthly has come up with some ideas of other musicals that would make great animated films.

Wicked

Idina Menzel as Elphaba in Wicked.
Idina Menzel as Elphaba in Wicked.

There’s been talking of a film adaptation of this for years. However, little progress has been made, and a lot of this could be attributed to the musical’s larger-than-life set and characters. Filmmakers would have an incredibly difficult time bringing the magic to the Emerald City that Broadway does so easily. But in animated features can create whatever set they want, and aren’t limited by the structures of reality like a live action feature is. Plus, after the disaster that was Oz: The Great and Powerful, the hope for a successful live-action Oz film is dwindling. Those still doubtful that this would work should watch the clip of “Defying Gravity” a Disney animator made. It’s beautiful, and it shows just how phenomenal of an animated film Wicked would be. Currently, Universal owns the rights to the show, so perhaps the company that Universal worked with for Despicable Me, Illumination Entertainment, could do a worthy job bringing Elphaba to the screen.

The Book of Mormon

Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad in Book of Mormon.
Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad in Book of Mormon.

Musicals have a way of making over-the-top stories and characters make sense in a way that live-action film do not. The Book of Mormon is one of those instances. The plot, which centers on two naïve Mormon students on a mission to convert a village of impoverished Ugandan people to their religion, is absolutely ridiculous and hilarious. The characters are equally as ridiculous, and that’s what makes them likeable. Portraying this overall hyperbolic, satirical nature in a live action film would be incredibly difficult to do – but satire is portrayed in cartoons all the time, and often done so very well, much like in the Genie’s portions of Aladdin or The Simpsons Movie. In fact, the original purpose of the cartoon was satire. Therefore, this musical would make much more sense as an animated film than it would as a live-action one. Plus, Mormon was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of one of the most successful cartoons of all time: South Park.

Matilda

The cast of Matilda. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus/Broadway.com.
The cast of Matilda. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus/Broadway.com.

Yes, a film adaptation of this already exists, and has existed for much longer than the musical has. But films get re-made all the time, and this is one worth revisiting. In the musical, these characters (particularly the adults) are pretty much cartoons already: dressed in ridiculous, flashy outfits and getting into shenanigans that would never happen in real life. The original film adaptation of Matilda is excellent, but the musical does a better job at creating the caricatures Roald Dahl created in the original novel. Being able to draw the characters and not be restricted by an actual human body would leave a lot more room to keep up with these caricature-esque beings. Plus, the subplot about the circus performers that the musical adds would be near impossible to do on film, but is perfectly feasible in animation. An animated version of Matilda could be a completely unique adaptation of what is already a classic tale.

Peter and the Starcatcher

Jason Ralph and the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher. Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson/Broadway.com.
Jason Ralph and the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher. Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson/Broadway.com.

This Peter Pan origin tale manages to take what is already an extravagant story with lavish characters and take it to the next level. Characters as extreme as the ones seen in Starcatcher would make little to no sense on film, making an animated adaptation a much better option. This show does such a wonderful job capturing the imagination of a child, and though many live action films have successfully captured Neverland that imagination would be incredibly difficult to capture on a live action screen. But in animation, this could easily be grasped. Plus, Peter Pan is already an animated classic, so why not make its origin tale the same?

Sweeney Todd

The cast of Sweeney Todd.
The cast of Sweeney Todd.

A film adaptation of this musical already exists, but it is—well, in many opinions—terrible. And the main reason it’s such a terrible adaptation is because it takes away all the humor of the musical. Yes, it’s a musical about a man in search of revenge, who (SPOILER ALERT:) kills people just because he can and then has them baked into pies. But it’s so funny in parts. This musical (up until the ending) is meant to be satire, and has some lines that are absolutely hilarious, and the Tim Burton’s film failed to pick up on that (and that’s only partially because it’s impossible to understand what the characters are saying 80% of the time). The film took itself too seriously and thus came across as a bit stupid. As an animated film, it would be incredibly dark, but the over-the-top nature of these characters and their story could be captured much better than they were in Tim Burton’s version.

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