A Disney Musical Suggestion

There are likely a branches of the Disney media empire I’m not too big a fan of, perhaps the one that is the most confounding to me is the line of altered-for-younger-audiences musicals like Aladdin Jr., The Little Mermaid, Jr. and the like. Part of what I really don’t get is that content-wise there’s usually not much removed and simplified for younger audiences. If anything it seems to be just about managing expectations.

Now I fully recognize that the acquisition of rights, and staging could be more affordable. The musical tracks provided may well be simplified to be easier for young vocalists to learn. Having said all that the addition of the word “Junior” seems to add the connotations that a) it’s not the real thing and b) you ought to lower your expectations.

Now, I will hand it to them for allowing schools flexibility with things like the One-Act edition of High School Musical and things of that nature, which can allow those crunched for time and funds to more easily stage something accessible. While that is a much different creature than a slightly-truncated stage version of an animated classic, it’s still a less-than-ideal translation of all the intended elements of a story.

And, one might argue, rightly so, that High School Musical‘s heyday of cultural relevance has come and gone. Which brings me to my actual suggestion of a stage adaptation of something so far out of consciousness it my seem new, that and it wouldn’t be an edited version at all.

Even Stevens was one the first break-out hits Disney Channel had. It was one of the first that got me watching even though I was not the demographic any longer. Independent of the recent antics of Shia Labeouf, the show remains, as it ever has been quite funny, and in perhaps its most memorable episode it featured a musical episode that was Ren’s (Christy Carlson Romano) fever dream called “Influenza: The Musical.”

Being a half-hour (read: 23 minutes) sitcom it’s a perfect one act length that you needn’t cut. The setting is school, it relates to kids and has memorable songs.

While its still up, you can view it here, and that brings me to the last point: in an age becoming ever more digital Disney’s vaulting, and at times squatting on its own titles; burrowing them away,
not seeking to invest any more in them just makes no sense. Either downloads or disc-on-demand services would make sense for so many Disney titles; and making this a stage musical would be quite the easy feat.

Short Film Saturday: The Phantom Empire, Chapters 7-9

The Phantom Empire may be the most unique movie serial ever created. I was told of its existence by my favorite film professor in college and I was fortunate enough to have found it on VHS shortly thereafter. After having viewed it I was glad to have given it to him. Now I have since reacquired it on DVD. It stars Gene Autry in his usual singing cowboy persona, but there’s also science fiction mixed in and quite a few other things along the way.

Through Poverty Row April I will likely watch a composite version of this film, but I am glad to be able to present to you the serial version of the the film thanks to The Internet Archive. To view please visit the links below.

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Short Film Saturday: Sweet Love

Roundabout early January, when the new year hasn’t really kicked in yet, and there’s nothing good coming out, I starting searching around for what many BAM nominees would be up to this year. Turns out Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role winner, Rick Lens, was in this film.

Sweet Love is a romantic comedy, told with an all kid cast, that is set in a fictional town where a bizarro version of Willy Wonka, the town’s Burgemeester (Read: burgomaster played by Lens), has everyone under his thumb. His girlfriend, Roos (Pippa Allen), falls for a doorman, Saba (Luciano Hiwat), but is with the Burgemeester, and the drama ensues from there.

Sweet Love (2012, Family Affair Films)

What’s most interesting to note is not just the juvenile cast but the fact that this film is also a musical. Now as opposed to being a sung-thru musical (the only other thing of this length I’ve seen that’s a musical and live action would be the “Influenza” episode of Even Stevens) this film places a song strategically in each act at the right time. Another interesting aspect is that the IMDb listed this film as having aired on TV, which for a short is rare here save for specialty channels.

This is a very humorous, quirky and charming tale that’s masterfully produced with some really great cinematography throughout. It is certainly a film that already has me thinking about possibly breaking out special jury prizes at the end of the year.

I’ve not been able to locate this film online, but if/when it is available I’ll update this post.

Short Film Saturday- Every Cowboy Needs a Horse

Here’s a short I was reminded about recently by a post my cousin made on Facebook. There are a few reasons I decided to post it. In light of my recent trip to the Disney parks clearly the great shorts of the studio era. Here’s one that exemplifies Disney’s style even in a small piece, there’s music (lyrics included) and emphasis on visuals. It’s a fluid piece that encapsulates the dream-state implicit in the story. It’s very well done.