The King and I , Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical about the relationship between a 19th-century King of Siam and an English schoolteacher hired to teach his children, will take cartoon form in the spring of 1998. The film, produced by Morgan Creek Productions, marks the first time a Rodgers and Hammerstein work has been transformed into an animated feature.
Film actress Miranda Richardson, taking a break from such dark art films at Tom and Viv and The Crying Game, will lend her speaking voice to Anna Leonowens, the English governess. Jekyll & Hyde's Christiane Noll, meanwhile, will handle Anna's singing, interpreting such classic tunes as "Getting to Know You" and "I Whistle a Happy Tune."
Martin Vidnovic, most recently seen on Broadway in Disney's King David at the New Amsterdam Theatre, will speak and sing for the King. Vidnovic's monarch will sport Yul Brynner's classic bald, bare-chested look. The role of Prime Minister Kralahome will be spoken by Ian Richardson, a classically-trained English actor who has been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company since 1960.
According to Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Morgan Creek, the plot of the musical has been slightly altered in the film, mostly in the interest of family viewing. The King, for instance, is now a widower and not a polygamist, and has fewer children. Also, a secondary love story between Tuptim and an emissary from Burma has been changed to a romance between Tuptim and the Prince. And what would an animated movie be without human-seeming animals? Beasts not seen in the stage play include Moonshee, a mischievous monkey devoted to Louis; Rama, a wise black panther devoted to the King; and Tusker, a sweet baby elephant devoted to Tuptim. Also new is the character of Little Master (voiced by Darrell Hammond), a tubby toady to the evil Kralahome.
The score will be recorded by either the London or Seattle Symphony Orchestra, said Robinson. Morgan Creek is hoping to convince a pop singer to record one of the songs for inclusion on the soundtrack and possible release as a single. Robinson said they are talking to Jewel and Barbra Streisand, among others.
The King and I will be directed by Richard Rich, who was behind The Swan Princess. Jacqueline Feather and David Seidler, who scripted the upcoming The Quest for Camelot, are the writers.
-- By Robert Simonson