The upcoming Disney World musical version of “Finding Nemo,” the hit 2003 Pixar computer-animated film about a widower clownfish and his son Nemo, received a short preview presentation on Wednesday on the stage of Broadway’s Palace Theatre. (The press, too, were invited to sit onstage with the cast.)
Finding Nemo — The Musical is the first major musical produced for the Walt Disney World Resort by Disney Creative Entertainment — the creators behind Disney's Aladdin (at Disneyland Resort in California), The Lion King (at Hong Kong Disneyland), Twice Charmed (on the Disney Cruise Line) and The Golden Mickeys (at Hong Kong Disneyland and on the Disney Cruise Line). Disney Creative Entertainment vice president Anne Hamburger, who formerly was a site-specific avant-garde artist, described the production as a “short form Broadway caliber show.”
Designed specifically for Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, the show represents the first time Disney has taken a non-musical animated feature, as well as a Pixar film, and transformed it into an original musical production. It is slated to play several times a day at the Florida resort in the newly enclosed 1,500-seat Theater in the Wild. Preview performances will begin in November, with the official premiere of the half-hour long work set for January 2007.
Featuring original songs by Avenue Q co-composer Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anders-Lopez, the production is meant to immerse Disney parkgoers in a unique theatrical experience that combines puppets, dancers, acrobats and animated backdrops. A ballad titled “Big Blue World” was performed by the composers at the piano, followed by an upbeat ensemble song titled “Go with the Flow” that was performed by nine cast members that had been flown in from Florida for the press event.
“It’s so cool to adapt a movie you passionately love and bring something of yourself to it,” Robert told the crowd. Kristen also noted that she was pregnant while they wrote the musical; their daughter is now 18 months old. At the moment, Robert is still at work with Avenue Q co-composer Jeff Marx and “South Park” writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone on The Book of Mormon.
In a theatrical style similar to both The Lion King and Avenue Q and influenced by styles of puppetry such as rod, Bunraku and shadow, the puppets will operate as extensions of the performers’ bodies, with fish puppets housed above their heads. The administrative officials hosting the event referred to their cast members as “quadruple threats” – singers, actors, dancers and puppeteers. Such images will include tap dancing sharks and puppets riding bicycles. Crush, the sea turtle character, is nearly the size of a Volkswagon; and Nigel, the pelican, is 22 feet tall.
Peter Brosius, artistic director of the 2003 Tony Award-winning Minneapolis' Children's Theatre Company (where Broadway's A Year With Frog and Toad debuted), has directed the new work. The choreographer is John Carrafa (Urinetown, Into the Woods, Good Vibrations).
Guest information is available by calling (407) 824-4321 or online at disneyworld.com.