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Though Disney "Frozen" may be the Snow Queen of today's movie box office, "The Lion King" still reigns supreme

Though Disney "Frozen" may be the Snow Queen of today's movie box office, "The Lion King" still reigns supreme

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You have to admit that Disney "Frozen" has already had a pretty spectacular run at the box office. Over the past five weeks, this Walt Disney Animation Studios production has earned an estimated $248.4 million domestically. And then when you favor in the $250 million worth of tickets that foreign film-goers have purchased for "Frozen" to date, that's a half billion dollars right there.

And given that this Chris Buck / Jennifer Lee movie is expected to maintain its box office momentum as Disney "Frozen" heads into awards season, it's even been suggested that this Walt Disney Pictures release might even eventually outgross "The Lion King." Which back in 1994 made $311.5 million during its domestic release.

Now don't get me wrong. I'd love to see "Frozen" continue its record-breaking run at the box office. Not to mention winning all sorts of awards when the Annies, the Golden Globes and the Oscars roll around in 2014. But as for this WDAS production actually being able to best "The Lion King" when it comes to ticket sales, there's not an Olaf's chance in Hell of that ever happening.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Never mind the fact that -- were you to adjust "The Lion King" 's 1994 box office take for inflation -- in order for "Frozen" to do better domestically than this Academy Award-winner did -- this modern-era  (some might even go so far as to say "film from the Third Golden Age of Disney Feature Animation") WDAS production would have to sell $489.1 million worth of tickets in North America. But to be honest here, that's just chump change compared to the billions that the stage musical version of "The Lion King" has made off of the Broadway production & its various touring companies.

How many billions are we talking here? Would you believe $5 billion-plus? In the 17 years since "The Lion King" first opened at  New Amsterdam Theatre back on November 13, 1997,  this Disney Theatrical Production has gone on to become the highest-grossing Broadway show in New York history as well as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.  To date, 21 global productions have been seen by more than 70 million people.

And you know what's truly bizarre? Even this late into its Broadway run, "The Lion King" continues to break records. Just this past week, this stage musical managed to break the house record for the Minskoff Theatre with a gross of $2,837,158.00 on nine performances.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Then when you factor in that "The Lion King" was the highest grossing show on all of Broadway this past year (And this stat becomes all the more impressive when you learn that there are 5 other shows currently being presented in NYC theatres which have more seats / greater capacity than the Minskoff. And yet "The Lion King" still managed to reign supreme at the Broadway box office this year) ... That's just kind of stunning. Especially when you consider that -- back in late November of 2013 -- "The Lion King" became the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history. Surpassing the 6,680 performances that the original Broadway production of "Les Misérables" presented.

For a show at this stage in its life to still be racking in that sort of dough  (Which is how -- earlier this month -- "The Lion King" became the first show in Broadway history to pass to $1 billion in cumulative gross. Which is all the more impressive, given that -- back in July of this year -- this Disney Theatrical Production became the first to earn over a billion off of the combined grosses of its North American touring companies alone) is hard for even the most hardened show business veterans to wrap their heads around. And yet the "The Lion King" juggernaut continues on. It's only the second stage show in show business history to generate five worldwide productions which have been presented for 10 years or more. More to the point, "The Lion King" has now been presented on every continent except Antarctica.

Mind you, given that people are already talking about Disney Theatrical possibly mounting a stage version of "Frozen" (And let's face it: a stage musical version of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" would be a natural when it came to making a tour stop in Antarctica), I guess it is possible that this new Walt Disney Animation Studios production could eventually come to surpass the earnings potential of "The Lion King." But to be blunt here, it would be decades before we'd actually know which Disney Company-owned intellectual property would eventually come out on top in a contest like that.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

More to the point, given that Disney Theatrical already has its hands full, what with the new musical comedy version of Disney's "Aladdin" opening at the New Amsterdam in March, the stage version of "Shakespeare in Love" previewing at London's Noel Coward Theatre in July, the North American tour of Disney's "Newsies" in October plus that stage version of "The Princess Bride" which Disney Theatrical now has in development ... I would imagine that -- even if there were any discussions going on at this point about a possible stage version of "Frozen" -- we'd at least be five years out from even the notion of that show becoming a reality.

Meanwhile, the public's appetite in "The Lion King" and its characters remains unquenched. Which is why -- when the Imagineers realized that they'd need to flatten Camp MinnieMickey in order to make enough room for James Cameron's Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom -- they then immediately made plans to relocate that theme park's "Festival of the Lion King" stage show. Which -- even 15+ years after DAK first opened to the public -- remains one of the top three attractions at this WDW theme park.

FYI: The "Festival of the Lion King" will present its final show in its original DAK theater this Sunday afternoon. And though it won't be 'til late Spring that "FOTLK" presents its first performance in its new theater (Which -- as we speak -- is being constructed in the western-most corner of  Harambe Village. You can actually see this theatre's construction site as you cross the bridge heading into this theme park's Africa section. Once work is complete, you'll be able to gain access to this brand-new DAK facility by following a brand-new pathway. Which will take Guests right past the Tusker House restaurant), Disney World is already making plans to hold some casting sessions for this DAK show next month. They'll be looking for new vocalists next Monday at the 14th Street Playhouse in Atlanta, GA and on January 13t at 519 Pearl Studios in NYC. Then on January 29th, Disney will be holding auditions for new male & female dancers for WDW's "Festival of the Lion King" stage show at Disney's Animal Kingdom Rehearsal Facility. For further information of this trio of casting sessions, please check out the Disney Auditions website.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Of course, if you'd like to see a considerably less professional production of Disney's "The Lion King" which still manages to prove the unending popularity of this particular IP, may I suggest that you check out this video ...

... which -- last time I checked -- had nearly 300,000 views on YouTube.

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  • Happy New Year, Jim and all of your cohorts at JHM, Ask Jim Hill, and the Disney Dish. Have a good one!

  • As much as I loved Frozen, I feel it was an overrated film where its failures in storytelling was masked in (mostly) great songs.  So, in comparison to Tangled which was a much deeper story with infinitely more complex characters and logical motivations, I have no problem with Frozen making its money and then not getting exploited and shoehorned into everything Disney.

    --SPOILERS--

    Since nobody asked, my biggest issue with Frozen was that every single character motivation seemed to be built as footing for a song.

    - Do You Want to Build a Snowman -

    Why did the parents encourage isolating the girls when clearly the incident was an accident? So they could try to pull off an "Up" style tearjerker montage

    - For the First Time in Forever -

    Why was Anna imprisoned in a castle for a decade when she wasn't in any danger and posed zero threat to society? Mother Gothel took Rapunzel off to the forest in a tower for selfish reasons. It was pure evil but it made sense. But what about Anna? What reason could there possibly be for her parents to hide her from the world except so she can break out and sing a fun song about her childhood being stolen from her.

    - Love is an Open Door -

    Why was Anna portrayed so naive? So they could sing an "adorkable" duet and sell us on her cute pairing with the very likable Prince Hans.

    - Let it Go -

    Why wasn’t Elsa ever allowed to use her powers? Why didnt her parents ever take her to a mountain to safely see what she could do? The joy of watching her "let it go" for the first time is an emotional uplifting, but it's also equally frustrating to think that her entire life her parents taught that despicable lesson of "Conceal, Dont Feel" as if the beautiful gift she was born with made her a monster. Again, her parents are just pure evil.

    - In Summer -

    Why did we care what a snowman thinks? Because he actually turned out to be a fun character. BUT, considering this was a film about sisters who were failing to show any depth or dimension.  (The deleted songs off the soundtrack show that there were many more scenes between the sisters that were cut in favor of songs that added nothing to the story).

    - Fixer Upper -

    Why was Kristoff suddenly written to be raised by trolls when he started off the film as part of an Ice Harvester tribe and his first encounter with Trolls was when he saw the King's horseman pass? So they could sing some muppet-esque showtune and his "family" could marry him to the fatally wounded Anna. Wait... what?!? Hans spent the entire sleigh ride berating Anna about marrying a guy she just met but then his "family" tries to force marriage on them after they also just met? Oh. And Anna was dying throughout this entire sequence.

    Again, I loved the movie but that doesnt mean it worked as a story. This was supposed to be the tragic story of two sisters torn apart but if you take out the music and just listen to the words then these characters and plot just fall flat because without the fantastic songs then you are left with only two evil and selfish parents forcing their semi-friendly sisters apart out of pure laziness.  A good musical should still work even without the music.

  • Uh, I don't think you can factor in Broadway earnings into your comparison.  Let's just talk movie to movie here.

  • Urkel - you point out the problems that the source material has for "The Snow Queen". The gaps in the story come from what is some nastiness and unpleasantness in the Anderson fairy tale. Disney had to make the story palatable to parents and their children, so Frozen is how they got there. But trolls, deceit, loss, and even a reindeer are all part of the original fairy tale.

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