The Lasting Impact of Disney and Julie Taymors “The Lion King”

Costume Piece from The Lion King.

Costume Piece from The Lion King.

“The Lion King” premiered on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre on November 13, 1997. The African Savannah was brought to life in New York City that day, and there has remained.  Created by Disney and Julie Taymor, “The Lion King” continues to run as the fourth most successful show of all time. This musical has left a great and lasting impact on the world of theatre. Besides setting a standard for beautiful theatrical design, “The Lion King” played a crucial part in creating a place for Disney productions on Broadway, and the success of the show has created opportunities for audiences all over to witness the magic of Theatre.

When it was decided that “The Lion King” was to be made into a stage production, Disney chairman Michael Eisner asked Julie Taymor to direct and design the adaptation. Taymor had become known as an innovative director with beautiful design work in costumes, masks and puppetry. She brought with her the idea of clothing actors onstage in traditional African costumes while putting stylized animal masks atop their heads. Disney loved the creative ingenuity of Taymor and gave her creative control over the production. The main goal of the design in “The Lion King” was to create a realistic image of the African Savannah while maintaining the animated energy of the original Disney film. It was important to Disney that audience members would be able suspend their disbelief and fully immerse themselves in the theatrical experience.  Taymor and her design team were able to do just that, and created one the most breathtaking and moving spectacles on modern stage. The critical and commercial success of “The Lion King” is in part due to the elaborate designs incorporated into the production. The popularity of the production has thrived because of the visual experience the audience is given through design.  It is for this reason, that “The Lion King” holds great value in the world of stage productions as a game-changing example of the power in design.

In addition to impacting the design world of theatre, “The Lion King” also played a role in the type of Theatre that audiences would have the opportunity to see. Following huge success from the Broadway version of “Beauty and The Beast,” Disney Theatrical Productions created the “ The Lion King” in hopes of securing a place as a storyteller of the stage. The success of the company was in part hinged on the success of “The Lion King.” Because the production was so well received, it opened the door for future musical adaptations. Following “The Lion King”, Disney Theatrical Productions has released three acclaimed productions including Mary Poppins, Aladdin, and Newsies, as well as productions of Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, and High School Musical. The influx of Disney productions onstage has almost created a new genre within musical theatre. Disney on Broadway has become commonplace and is one of the most financially successful theatrical companies. In addition to a Muppets Musical, Disney is also currently working with Tim Burton in creating a musical based on his 2010 film Alice and Wonderland. Because of the great, early success that “The Lion King” brought Disney Theatrical Productions, the company continues as the creator of some of the most popular productions on Broadway, and has helped to give Broadway a visible spot in American culture.

After the tremendous financial success of  “The Lion King” on Broadway, doors were opened that allowed for touring opportunities of the production. Not only has the show been performed all over the United States, it has gone global with runs in 15 different countries and on 5 different continents. The wide showing of the musical has given the chance for people all over the world to experience the magic of theatre. The visibility of “The Lion King” over the last few years may perhaps be its most important contribution the show has made to the world of theatre. It is incredible to think of the thousands of audiences that have been able to experience this rich, and captivating show. By touching the minds and hearts of audience members all over the world, this show has definitely left a lasting impact in the world of theatre.

It has been 16 years since the first audience saw “The Lion King”. Since then, the show continues to be a longstanding success and is one of the best-known musicals of all time. Setting a standard for beautiful theatrical design, “The Lion King” played a crucial part in creating a place for Disney productions on Broadway, and the success of the show has created opportunities for audiences all over to witness the magic of Theatre.

Taymor, Julie; The Lion King: Pride Rock On Broadway;


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