Disney Will Release Adaptation of The Lion King for Production in Schools
By Adam Hetrick
Disney Theatrical Productions has announced plans to begin licensing its long-running, hit Broadway musical The Lion King as part of Music Theatre International's Broadway Junior and Kids collections, beginning in January 2015.
The Lion King Jr., a 60-minute adaptation of the Tony-winning musical, as well as a 30-minute format, titled The Lion King Kids, will be exclusively available to accredited middle and elementary schools.
Disney has been quietly workshopping the abbreviated adaptations of The Lion King over the past several years, including pilot productions at the Harlem School of the Arts, as well as several schools in the U.S., the U.K. and Germany. The Tony-winning musical is now in its 16th year on Broadway with productions currently running across the world.
The Lion King has been a long sought-after title in the amateur licensing world. Schools may begin applying for licenses in January 2015, with productions to roll-out shortly thereafter.
Julie Taymor's ambitious vision for the production, which incorporates mask and puppetry, earned her a Tony Award for Best Direction. The Jr. and Kids versions will come with expanded resources dedicated to costume and scenic designs, as well as puppet and mask demonstrations.
In addition to scripts and scores, the shows are bundled with various resources for young performers and their teachers, including fully orchestrated accompaniment recordings. Educational resources designed to introduce students and teachers to theatre craft through The Lion King are also included.
"I am thrilled we can provide the Jr. and Kids versions of The Lion King to students around the globe for the very first time," said Disney Theatrical Productions producer and president Thomas Schumacher in a statement. "The entire creative team of The Lion King got started in the theatre as children and those early experiences went on to inform our collective careers, so we are excited to be able to extend the legacy of the stage to the next generation of theatre-makers and theatregoers."
The Lion King premiered to acclaim on Broadway in 1997. Taymor became the first woman to ever receive a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical, and in October 2013, The Lion King became the first Broadway musical to gross $1 billion at the box office.
The book for the Broadway production was adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed "The Lion King" animated feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film's screenplay. The Broadway score features Elton John and Tim Rice's music from "The Lion King" animated film along with three new songs by John and Rice; additional musical material by South African Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer; and music from "Rhythm of the Pride Lands," an album inspired by the original music in the film, written by Lebo M, Mark Mancina and Hans Zimmer.
The Lion King's numerous awards include six Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical; eight Drama Desk Awards; six Outer Critics Circle Awards; two Sir Laurence Oliviers; the Evening Standard Award for Best Theatrical Event; and three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards.
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