Monday, February 22, 2010

Shoulda Been Disney...

I experienced two things this weekend that made me immediately wonder why Disney didn't get involved with either of them...

The first was The Lightning Thief movie, from the popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. My 9 and 7 year old sons have been reading this series, and I've been reading it right along with them. It's pretty darned good, in my opinion...the book series, that is. The movie - not quite as good. But not bad, either.

I thought, as I watched the movie, that this series would have been a perfect property for Disney development. When I went into the theater, I was struck by the number of boys my son's age and a little older and younger than them, who were there to see it. It has everything a boy could want - adventure, cool settings, swordplay, monsters, Greek gods and myths come to life - it would have made a good addition to the Disney film library.

And it would have made an interesting subject to develop part of a theme park around - ala The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. The Underworld, Olympus, the Labyrinth (of the fourth book), and even perhaps Camp Half-Blood, where the demigods like Percy Jackson train and learn about their world...all these different locations might even have made for a richer land than Harry Potter will provide. I'm not saying that they would have seriously considered adding something like this, but it would have been a good property to have in their pocket should they want to develop an area of a theme park in this direction.

On Sunday, we went to see a stage production - The 101 Dalmations Musical - which apparently has no involvement from Disney that I could find in the credits. This was a pretty good musical production, well done in how they portray the dogs against the humans, with good songs and very good sets. Dennis DeYoung, of Chicago rock band Styx fame, was the composer for the music and wrote quite a few lyrics also, and he does have some talent in this direction. (I've always been a Styx fan since I was young, but I didn't hear anything in this music that reminded me of that band.)

The story was actually based on the book by Dodie Smith (by the same title), which is more "English" in feel. There are many of the same characters as in the Disney movie, but presented in different ways. If you've read the book, you know that Pongo's "wife" is Missus (as in Missus Pongo), not Perdita. Mr. Dearly is an accountant of sorts, not a songwriter. Cruella's husband is part of the story, as is their business of manufacturing and selling furs. And more puppies are named. In the movie I can only think of Lucky, Patch and Roly Poly, but a little puppy named Cadpig is in the book also. These are the characters of the stage play, not the Disney characters at all.

And unlike Mary Poppins, no songs from the Disney movie are used at all. One of my favorite Disney tunes is Cruella DeVil, and I was disappointed to see that it wasn't used. But not too disappointed, because the songs that ARE present are pretty good and tell the story well.

At the end of the play (and the book), we are left with the realization that there are only 100 dalmations - 97 puppies, Pongo, Missus, and Perdita, the liver spotted dalmation who is brought in to help nurse Missus' litter. Who is the 101st dalmation? (I guess you'll have to read the book to find out...or see the play.)

This is another property that I was surprised that Disney had no involvement in. With their experience in putting on stage productions, by now pretty extensive, I wondered why they chose not to be involved in this one. It would have done them proud, had they done so.

So...two missed opportunities...Olympians and Dalmations.

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