Welcome to DisneyBizJournal.com - News, Analysis and Reviews of the Disney Entertainment Business!

Brought to fans, investors, entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, professors, and students by columnist, economist, novelist, reviewer, podcaster, business reporter and speaker Ray Keating

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Racing Ahead with “Ford v. Ferrari”

by Ray Keating
November 28, 2019

DisneyBizJournal.com Movie Rating: 4 stars out of 5
DisneyBizJournal.com Box Office Rating:  $$ out of $$$$

Forget about Fast and Furious. If you want to see some high-speed cinema, check out Ford v. Ferrari.

And even better, while the Fast and Furious franchise is about over-the-top fantasy, Ford v. Ferrari is rooted in the true story of how Ford challenged Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966. And while Ford v. Ferrari truly excels in its many scenes of racing and testing cars, this ultimately is a story about friendship, family, and overcoming personal and corporate challenges.

Matt Damon shines as the famed driver and car designer Carroll Shelby, as does Christian Bale as driver Ken Miles. But Ford v. Ferrari also offers fine supporting performances, including Jon Bernthal as Lee Iacocca, Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles, and Noah Jupe as Peter Miles.

For good measure, while Ford v. Ferrari offers the expected moments of reaching competitive heights on the racetrack, it does not shy away from powerful character moments. In that sense, it is full storytelling on the big screen.

Unfortunately, Ford v. Ferrari, a Disney 20thCentury Fox production, has under-performed at the box office. According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, Ford v. Ferrari carried a production budget of $97.6 million, and as of November 28, generated $108.5 million in revenue.

Perhaps there will be some nominations at Oscar time that will give this worthy movie an extra boost at the box office.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda: Merch on the Way

by Ray Keating
November 21, 2019

Fans have decided that the hit character from “The Mandalorian” should be called “Baby Yoda” – though Disney uses the name “The Child.” And according to a CNBC report, “Baby Yoda” merch is on the way! 

Source: CNBC

CNBC offered two big points:

• “Apparel and accessories featuring the yet unnamed creature will soon be available through Amazon, Zazzle, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Hot Topic and Box Lunch, a person familiar with the company plans said. These items could arrive as early as Friday.”

• “Other products will also arrive at the Disney Store, ShopDisney and at the Disney Parks before the holidays. In addition, presales for toys and plush will be available in the coming weeks. It is uncertain when that merchandise will be shipped.”

Jon Favreau and his team behind “The Mandalorian” achieved an incredible feat in our Internet culture by keeping “Baby Yoda” a secret. And now Disney’s product and marketing machine kicks in with “Baby Yoda” merch.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Movie Date Night at a Disney-Owned Movie Theater?

by Ray Keating
November 20, 2019

What about heading to a movie theater owned by the Walt Disney Company, or for that matter, by Paramount or Sony? Well, it’s a possibility.

For people who are unaware, movie studios are barred from owning movie theaters due to a Supreme Court decision in 1948 that agreed with the government, and separated movie production and distribution. A subsequent series of decrees – known as the Paramount decrees – barred movie studios from owning movie theaters.

Such government intrusion into the entertainment marketplace made little sense at the time, and given myriad choices for consumers today, make no sense whatsoever in the 21stCentury.

Apparently, according to a report from Variety, government thinking might finally be catching up to market realities. 

On November 18, Variety noted: “The Department of Justice will seek to end the Paramount consent decrees, the landmark agreements that have barred studios from owning theaters for the last 70 years.” In a November 18th speech, Makan Delrahim, who heads up the DoJ’s antitrust division, “argued that the decrees are a relic of the past, as the old studio system has long since expired.” He was quoted: “We have determined that the decrees, as they are, no longer serve the public interest, because the horizontal conspiracy — the original violation animating the decrees — has been stopped. The Division finds the consent decrees no longer meet consumer interests.” 

Delrahim also noted, “We cannot pretend that the business of film distribution and exhibition remains the same as it was 80 years ago.” Well, there’s a crazy idea.

Much lies ahead in terms of making this happen, including lobbying from opponents and getting courts to end the decrees, but the process has started. Heading to the Disney Movie Theater might not be that far off.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Entering the Twilight Zone

by Ray Keating
November 17, 2019

It actually took me a couple of visits before I decided to give The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror a try. It turned out that I regretted the wait, as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror now ranks as one of my favorite rides in all of Walt Disney World.

I appreciate the look of the ride from the outside – especially the seemingly neglected building and “The Hollywood Tower Hotel” neon sign – and the inside includes the decaying, cob-webbed lobby, the spooky boiler room, and of course, the thrill of the ride’s big drops.

But there’s also the appearance of Rod Serling to welcome us into this mysterious, scary setting, just as he did with his television show The Twilight Zone. In fact, given my interest in classic Hollywood – both movies and television – Serling makes a big difference for this ride.

Interestingly, Rod Serling’s introduction in the Tower of Terror attraction came, in part, from a 1961 episode titled “It’s a Good Start.” 

Don’t get confused, though, Disney doesn’t own The Twilight Zone. It’s actually a CBS thing. But Tower of Terror is enough of a Disney link for me. And this past week, on November 14, I journeyed to the movie theater for a 60th anniversary celebration of The Twilight Zone presented by Fathom Events. The line-up featured six digitally remastered episodes, and a short documentary on Serling.

Fathom Events offered the following rundown on the episodes:

Walking Distance: Martin Sloane, a VP of an ad agency, stops his car at a gas station when he realizes he is 1.5 miles away from Homewood, the town he grew up in. He decides to walk there and finds that he has returned to the past... Season 1 episode 5 – aired 10.30.59

Time Enough at Last: Henry Bemis loves to read but he can find neither the time nor the place to enjoy his pastime. After sneaking down the vault in the bank's basement to read and emerges to find the world destroyed. He sees a great deal of reading time ahead of him. Except for one small unintended event. Season 1 episode 8 – aired 11.20.59

The Invaders: An old woman who lives alone in a ramshackle farmhouse comes face to face with alien invaders, however, the nature of the invaders is not immediately obvious. Season 2 episode 15 – aired 1.27.61

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street: After an unexplained occurrence happens to the residents on Maple Street, a series of events causes paranoia and pandemonium to set in, and the neighbors on Maple Street to turn against each other. Season 1 episode 22 – aired 3.4.60

Eye of the Beholder: Janet Tyler is in hospital having undergone treatment to make her look normal. Her bandages will soon come off, all that to say that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Season 2 episode 6 – aired 11.11.60

To Serve Man: Michael Chambers recounts recent events on Earth after the arrival of an alien space craft. Chambers attempts to decrypt a book the aliens left behind. The book's title seems benign - but it's not what they think. Season 3 episode 24 – aired 3.02.1962

I was pleased that I actually had not seen two of these episodes – “Walking Distance” and “The Invaders.” “Walking Distance,” starring Gig Young, was excellent, with Serling tapping into time travel and nostalgia, while “The Invaders” was interesting for the lack of dialogue from the main character, and the twist at the end. 

“Time Enough to Last,” with Burgess Meredith, has become one of the best known Twilight Zone episodes, and deservedly so. “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” serves up a frightening take on how close human beings are to devolving into a mob, and “Eye of the Beholder” employs lighting and camera angles in interesting ways, while Serling got to say some things not just about true beauty and what matters, and segregation, but also totalitarianism. And finally, “To Serve Man” shows The Twilight Zone with a sense of humor.

Finally, there were plusses and minuses in the documentary. Some of the talking heads were interesting; others not so much. The best parts were clips of Serling talking to students at Ithaca College about writing. Give me more from Rod Serling on writing, please!

Yes, this journey into The Twilight Zone has me thinking not only about returning for another spin on Tower of Terror, but also putting the Blu-ray of the complete series of The Twilight Zone on my Christmas list.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Much to Like with Disney+’s 10 Million+

by Ray Keating
November 14, 2019

The Walt Disney Company’s stock price took a nice jump up after the company announced yesterday that their Disney+ streaming service passed 10 million subscribers. That announcement, of course, came only one day after the service went live.

Of course, that wasn’t a one-day sign up, as you could pre-order Disney+ for several weeks. Nonetheless, that was an impressive feat, especially given that the company has projected 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2024, with about a third coming from the U.S.

CNBC offered a handy comparison with other streaming services:

  • Netflix (introduced streaming in 2007): 158 million subscribers, 60.6 million U.S. subscribers (as of October).
  • Hulu (began streaming in 2007): 28.5 million U.S. subscribers (as of November).
  • HBO (founded in 1972, began streaming outside pay-TV bundle in 2015): 34 million U.S. subscribers, 8 million HBO Now subscribers (as of October)
  • CBS All Access and Showtime (began streaming in 2014): 8 million subscribers (as of February)
  • ESPN+ (began streaming in 2018): 3.5 million subscribers (as of November)
  • DAZN (began streaming in 2016): More than 4 million global subscribers (as of May)
  • Crunchyroll (began streaming in 2006): More than 2 million global subscribers (as of November)
  • Amazon doesn’t disclose the number of Amazon Prime Video users. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated there were 100 million Prime subscribers in January, but those subscribers get many other benefits, including free one-day shipping.

When you look at those numbers, it’s noteworthy that Disney+ was ahead of HBO Now, BCS All Access and Showtime, DAZN, and Crunchy Roll – after going live for only one day.

Right now, Disney+ is live in the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands, with Australia, New Zealand and Puerto Rico coming online on November 19, and Western Europe scheduled for the end of March 2020. I don’t expect that Disney+ will have to wait until 2024 to hit 60 million subscribers.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A 5-Stars Wake-Up for Disney+ and “The Mandalorian”

by Ray Keating
November 12, 2019

• 5 out of 5 stars for the Disney+ launch
• 5 out 5 stars for first episode of The Mandalorian

So, my day started with a bagel, a caffeinated beverage, and signing up for the Walt Disney Company’s triple combo of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. With no pre-order available for the streaming bundle, I wondered if there would be challenges online. But as it turned out, the process was quick and easy. Kudos to Disney.

Disney+ went live at 6:00 AM EST this morning. I logged on to DisneyPlus.com a few minutes after six, clicked on the $12.99 per month button to sign up for the bundle, and in less than 10 minutes I was set to watch all three services.

In fact, I was watching the first episode of The Mandalorian before 6:30. And yes, this first installment from creator and writer Jon Favreau grabs you. There’s a nice Star Wars feel to it, with action, humor, a cantina, interesting aliens and creatures, mystery and mysticism. Indeed, the Mandalorian not only is a bounty hunter, but he’s awash in questions. He is an enigma, and you find yourself wanting to know more about this character (played by Pedro Pascal) – as well as about what comes next after a “wow” ending to the first episode. 

Favreau has created an unmistakable Western in space. That has been tried before, but after one episode, my expectations are that The Mandalorian will do the sci-fi, Western thing better than what’s been tried previously.

In addition, the special effects, including the Mandalorian’s ship, are off-the-charts well done, especially for a small-screen effort. But it has been reported that Disney is spending a rather breathtaking $15 million per episode on this six-episode first season.

If the rest of The Mandalorian sustains and builds on the quality of this first episode – and episodes have a staggered release rather than being posted all at once – then it will be worth every penny.

Here’s to a brilliant start to Disney+ and The Mandalorian.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Disney+ Launch Details

by Ray Keating
November 11, 2019

Are you ready for the arrival of the Disney+ streaming service? The Marvel and Star Wars sites have countdown clocks running, with the service scheduled to go live on November 12, Tuesday, at 6:00 AM EST.

And if you haven’t done so yet, you can pre-order at the Disney+ site.

Not sure what’s coming to Disney+? Well, you can always take 3 hours and 18 minutes to check out the Disney YouTube video titled “Basically Everything Coming to Disney+ in the U.S. | Start Streaming November 12.”

Don’t have 3+ hours to review all on Disney+, well, about three minutes will give you a rundown on all things Marvel coming to Disney+.

As for Star Wars, it’s hard to not get excited about “The Mandalorian” series alone.

Unfortunately, for those of us waiting to take advantage of the $12.99 per month package of Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+, we cannot pre-order. Disney tells us that the package offer will go live with Disney+.

Netflix changed video entertainment in substantial ways, and that process will accelerate with the arrival of Disney+. Where are things headed? Who knows, but it’s darn exciting for the consumer who will decide what works and what doesn’t in the end.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Friday, November 8, 2019

6 Key Takeaways on Disney’s Earnings Report

by Ray Keating
November 8, 2019

After the market closed on November 7, The Walt Disney Company presented its earnings report for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ended on September 28, 2019. The big takeaway was an increase in revenue, along with an increase in expenses largely related to its forthcoming Disney+ streaming service.

Consider 6 key takeaways from the Disney report:

1. Streaming Focus. CEO Bob Iger made quite clear, once again, that streaming is the company’s major emphasis looking ahead: “We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience, and we’re excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12.”

2. Revenue and Earnings. Total revenues for the fourth quarter grew by 34 percent compared to the same quarter last year, and were up by 17 percent for the entire fiscal year. Meanwhile, earnings per share in the fourth quarter, excluding certain items, declined 28 percent to $1.07. However, that beat market expectations.

3. Media Networks Growth. Fourth quarter revenue increased by 22 percent in its media networks division, which includes ESPN. Operating income was off 3 percent, however.

4. Streaming Outlook. Iger served up assorted information on the company’s three streaming services.

For example, Iger noted: “I'm pleased to announce that as of today, ESPN Plus has over 3.5 million paid subscribers...”

He also noted the role that FX will play going forward with Hulu: “FX on Hulu will include all seasons and more than 40 FX series and will offer episodes of current and new FX series immediately after the air on the linear network. Additionally, FX will produce original series exclusively for FX on Hulu, starting with four new series in 2020; Devs from Alex Garland, Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett, A Teacher starring Kate Mara, and The Old Man starring Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow. This is a great way to expand the FX brand and an important step for Hulu as it adds original content to compete more aggressively with new and legacy DTC platforms. The FX presence on Hulu combined with original production from our ABC and Fox Television studios and our Fox Movie studios including Searchlight will greatly enhance Hulu's consumer proposition.”

As for Disney+, Iger noted: “At launch, Disney Plus users will have immediate access to more than 500 movies including all of our beloved titles and more than 7,500 episodes of library television content, including 30 seasons of Simpsons. By year five, this growing collection will include more than 620 movies and more than 10,000 television episodes along with countless shorts and features. As planned, we first concede this service all creative engines across our Company including the teams of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, National Geographic, Disney Channel, and Walt Disney Television studios are focused on creating compelling original content for Disney Plus.”

He added: “At launch, will offer 10 original movies, specials and series exclusive to the platform, including the Mandalorian. The first live-action Star Wars series is unlike anything audiences seen before on any platform and it's a strong indication of the quality in the storytelling that will define Disney Plus. We recently screened a significant portion of the first episode of the Mandalorian compressed and the extremely positive reaction is driving tremendous buzz around this extraordinary series ahead of its debut on Disney Plus. Within a year of launch, the amount of original content on Disney Plus will increase to more than 45 series, specials and movies and will expand to more than 60 original projects per year by year-five.”

5. Parks Performance. Fourth quarter revenue rose by 8 percent in its parks, experiences and products division. Operating income grew by 17 percent.

Christine Mary McCarthy, Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, reported, “Operating income at domestic parks and experiences was up 13% driven by growth at Disneyland on higher guest spending and an increase at Disney Vacation Club.” She also noted, “Attendance at our domestic parks was comparable to the fourth quarter last year, and reflects the impact of Hurricane Dorian, which we estimate adversely impacted attendance growth by about 1 percentage point. Per capita guest spending was up 5% on higher admissions, merchandise and food and beverage spending. Per room spending at our domestic hotels was up 2%, and occupancy of 85% with comparable to the fourth quarter last year.”

Regarding Disneyland, Disney reported: “Growth at Disneyland Resort was primarily due to higher guest spending, partially offset by expenses associated with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened on May 31, and, to a lesser extent, lower attendance. Guest spending growth was primarily due to increases in average ticket prices and higher food, beverage and merchandise spending.”

As for Walt Disney World, it was noted: “Results at Walt Disney World Resort were comparable to the prior-year quarter, despite the adverse impact of Hurricane Dorian in the current quarter. Increases in guest spending and, to a lesser extent, occupied room nights and attendance were offset by higher costs. Higher costs were driven by costs associated with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened on August 29, and cost inflation. Guest spending growth was primarily due to increased food, beverage and merchandise spending and higher average ticket prices.”

Also, park revenues were negatively affected for Hong Kong Disneyland due to the unrest and protests in Hong Kong.

Looking ahead, McCarthy said, “On the domestic front, we expect Q1 revenue growth at our domestic parks and resorts to benefit from a full quarter of Star Wars Galaxy's Edge at Walt Disney World and the December opening of Rise of the Resistance at Walt Disney World. However, the revenue growth will be partially offset by meaningful cost growth driven primarily by operational expenses associated with Galaxy's Edge and higher labor expense due to the impact of higher wages under new collective bargaining agreements. So far this quarter, domestic resort reservations are comparable to prior year. We believe some guests are deferring to Disney Land and Walt Disney World until the complete opening of Galaxy's Edge at those respective locations. I'll note that awareness and intend to visit strong; booked rates at our domestic hotels are currently pacing up 5% versus this time last year.”

6. Studio Growth. Fourth quarter revenues jumped by 52 percent for studio entertainment. Operating income moved up by 79 percent. The Lion KingToy Story 4 and Aladdin contributed to revenue and operating income increases.

Right now, everything points to this coming Tuesday, November 12, and the big launch of Disney+. That’s where so much of the future of the company lies.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

“Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks” Debut Streaming Live on Evening of Nov. 8

by Ray Keating
November 8, 2019

So, if you’re not attending the kickoff of “Mickey’s Very Christmas Party” tonight at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, then the next best thing for Disney fans is to catch the livestream of “Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks.” 

Source: Disney Parks Blog

The show will air on the Disney Parks Blog on Nov. 8 at 9:55 PM EST. When you visit the parks blog, the livestream will be the top story.

During “Mickey’s Very Christmas Party,” other events will include the “Once Upon a Christmas Time” parade, the Cinderella Castle stage show “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration,” a snowfall on Main Street U.S.A., an assortment of special dining options, and of course, exclusive event merchandise.

“Mickey’s Very Christmas Party” – with tickets starting at $99 – runs on select nights over the period of November 8 to December 23: 

  • November: 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24
  • December: 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Did Audiences Flip Their Fins For the Live Action Version of The Little Mermaid?

by Beth Keating
Review (Warning: This review contains spoilers.)
November 6, 2019

Far be it from Disney to not recognize a good thing when it swims across their radar.  

Live action adaptations of Disney classics have been known to rake in the bucks at the box office, with Aladdin (2019) flying home with more than a billion dollars worldwide, while The Jungle Book (2016) slithered by with a mere $966 million.  The Fairy Godmother granted Lily James’ live action Cinderella (2015) a $542 million worldwide windfall, and this fall’s The Lion King (2019) brought in $1.6 billion to date. Disney is banking (no pun intended this time) on the fact that Disney-philes will eat up retellings of their favorite childhood stories. When Disney+ launches on November 12th, a live action version of Lady and the Tramp will likely send sales of spaghetti soaring.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it appears the live action retellings are here to stay.

This year, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the release of The Little Mermaid, Disney is offering up two vastly different versions of their iconic 80s animated classic.  The first of those entries aired last night (November 5th, at 8 pm EST on ABC), with The Little Mermaid Live!  East Coasters were able to watch as it unfolded, while West Coasters viewed the replay. The second offering, due to begin filming in the spring of 2020, is a Rob Marshall directed live action movie with additional new music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who incidentally composed for Moana as well. Miranda, you may recall, was Jack in Mary Poppins Returns (2018), and is a Tony Award winner (2016) for his work on the Broadway hit Hamilton

NBC has previously peppered the live TV arena with productions including The Sound of Music Live (2013), Hairspray Live (2016), and Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (2018), while Fox supplied such productions as Grease: Live (2016), The Passion (2016), and A Christmas Story Live (2017) to the genre. ABC came late to the party last night, as Little Mermaid Live! represents its first live action TV presentation of this type.

Last evening’s performance was quasi-live action. In order to not compete with their own Rob Marshall directed version, Disney had to come up with a unique way of presenting this early version of the tale.  Portions of the production were live, as big-name stars brought the iconic characters to life, while other segments of the show were presented through the eyes of the 1989 feature film.  This hybrid format hopefully satisfied Disney purists, as the core of the story remained true to the original film, at the same time that it added excitement to the production in the form of new and creative musical presentations pumped up with star power. Alan Menken’s wonderful scores were still there, with a few modern twists to give each artist’s personality a chance to shine.

Two-time Disney Princess Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) gave emotional voice to Ariel, with Shaggy accompanying the young mermaid as sidekick Sebastian the Crab. Graham Phillips joined the cast as Prince Eric, and Disney uber-fan John Stamos cooked up some chuckles as Chef Louis.  Queen Latifah gave a powerfully voiced performance, scaring the starfish out of us and bringing the power-hungry villainess and princess-want-to-be Ursula to life.  At the helm was director Hamish Hamilton, who is no stranger to live performances.  He has previously directed live productions, including Super Bowl half-time shows and Olympics ceremonies, as well as the Oscars. 

Little Mermaid Live! was a more-than-satisfactory endeavor. I was initially skeptical about how effectively the movie clips would blend with live action without creating a jarring switch from scene to scene. After the first few scenes though, I hardly gave it a thought. Magnificent costuming brought tremendous theatrical value to the show, while colorful puppeteers filled out the scenes and helped bring the world to life. Auli’i Cravalho performed some of my favorite Disney songs in Moana, and she equally soared in this version of Little Mermaid – quite literally.  Harnessed into her mermaid tail and rigging, Auli’i “swam” high above the crowd without missing a beat. While the show’s sound was uneven and quickly paced at times, and some of the dance sequences between Prince Eric and Ariel in the background of Ariel’s “Part of Your World” were a tad awkward, the choreography for the show was Broadway-caliber and the elaborate sets were gorgeous.  Interesting camera angles also helped tell the tale, particularly when we got the chance to “look down” into the sea at Ariel at the end of “Part of Your World.”  Shaggy’s version of “Under the Sea” imparted a fabulous party atmosphere to the evening, and Queen Latifah gave a commanding performance as the sea-witch. Even the audience was given props for a chance to participate in the event.

The big surprise of the evening was Graham Phillips.  He was great in the high-energy opening number, “Fathoms Below,” but he was particularly amazing in the ballad “Her Voice,” which was not in the 1989 Little Mermaid film, but was in the Broadway version. Also added to the show was an adapted version of “If Only,” a musical number with Ariel and Prince Eric that was originally a quartet in the Broadway version, but became a poignant love song here as a duet staged on a rotating split wall. What a great decision to give Prince Eric a more visible – and musical- role in this version of Little Mermaid! Without a doubt, it gave the Prince far more dimension than his movie counterpart ever had.

On the whole, The Little Mermaid Live! was so much more than I was expecting it to be, given that nearly half of the evening was movie based. The cast was certainly able to put their own stamp on the show, while still honoring the original film.  They brought just enough new flavor to the evening without sacrificing what fans love about the original film, providing an interesting new take on the classic.

Will audiences flip their fins over this initial Little Mermaid offering? If the demographics provided a strong showing last night, it will undoubtedly whet viewers’ appetites for next year’s Rob Marshall-directed live action version of the fairy tale. The impulsive little red-haired mermaid has long been one of the favorite princesses in our house – can it be thirty years already?  Sebastian asks, “With such wonderful things around you, what more is you looking for?” This show was a pretty good start…Hopefully, those “poor unfortunate souls” who missed it live had the foresight to DVR it for encore performances!

Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Make 2020 Productive ... and Magical!

THE DISNEY PLANNER 2020: THE TO DO LIST SOLUTION. Gain inspiration and set goals using Ray Keating’s “TO DO List Solution.” Enjoy quotes from Walt Disney, Disney leaders, experts and characters with facts about theme parks & movies.