The visionary Disney leader, who served as the CEO of the house built by Mickey from 1984 to 2005, was interested in turning the 1994 animated film “The Lion King” into a theatrical musical.
Then, he brought the idea to the film’s creative team.
“He first asked everyone’s opinion: ‘What do you think about putting him on stage?’” Recalls Roger Allers, who co-directed the blockbuster film with Rob Minkoff. “And all of us around the table said, ‘We think this is a terrible idea.'”
Turns out some members of the creative team had already discussed the possibility of a musical, but, says Allers, “All we could imagine were people in big furry animal costumes and we thought, ‘This is going to be ridiculous. It won’t have any impact.'”
But despite all the negative feedback received from Eisner, the CEO still decided to give the green light to the project.
“He asked everyone’s opinion and then said, ‘Well, we’ll do it,'” Allers says with a laugh.
Of course, Eisner turned out to be right. Once again. The musical “The Lion King” would prove to be one of the most successful theatrical productions of all time.
Twenty-five years after it opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater on November 13, 1997, “The Lion King” is still going strong in 2022.
It has been seen by around 100 million fans around the world, with legions of new fans continuing to fall in love with its broad appeal – including evocative, not-so-blurry costumes and signature headdresses – every year.
Expect even more converts, plus thousands of repeat customers, when “Disney’s the Lion King” returns to the Bay Area for a three-week commitment.
The Tony Award-winning musical, which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary as a traveling production, runs August 3-21 at the Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose.