When it comes to Broadway adaptation of movie musicals, the best by far is Julie Taymor’s reinterpretation of The Lion King. Disney in fact owns a large corner of the Movie-to-Broadway market. Many of their biggest hits have been adapted, from Beauty and the Beast, to The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Marry Poppins, and High School Musical— plus, Frozen just finished previews in Denver and set to open in February. It makes sense that they would adapt these properties because many of Disney’s decisions are based on how many truckloads of money it will earn them. That’s also why they’re remaking their most popular animated films into live-action movies.
So why adapt a bomb?
Newsies (1992) only made back 2.8 of the $15 million that was its budget, and currently sits at 39% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for five Razzies, including Worst Picture, and brought home Worst Original Song for “High Times, Hard Times”. The film stands as one of the worst failures in Disney history, along with the likes of The Black Cauldron and The Country Bears. Meanwhile, Newsies (2012), ran for two years in its original Broadway run, has had multiple national and international tours, has a filmed version currently available on Netflix after a limited theatrical release, and was nominated for eight Tonys, winning for Best Choreography and Best Original Score. It’s by no means the runaway success of Wicked or Phantom or Les Mis, but it is very successful as far as Broadway shows go. See, Newsies (1992) got popular and remained popular thanks to (what else?) Home Video, unlike some of Disney’s other bomb. It’s one of Disney’s true cult classics, and has even made the jump from VHS to DVD and Blu-Ray.
But there is a major difference between most of Disney’s shows and Newsies, and that’s just how much they revised the story in adaptation. Is it better? Is it worse?
That’s a different matter entirely.