A theater full of journalists, travel agents and local school children attended the debut of a new musical based on the movie "Toy Story" onboard Disney Cruise Line's Wonder last week, while the ship was docked in Port Canaveral.
"Toy Story-The Musical" has replaced "Hercules The Muse-ical" in Disney Wonder's stage show lineup, joining the "Golden Mickeys" and the award-winning "Disney Dreams" on three-night sailings. Four-night sailings will also include a variety performance or movie in Walt Disney Theatre.
John Lasseter, director and one of the writers of the animated film "Toy Story," was on hand to introduce the show and share his thoughts on the movie turned musical. "Now these characters will stay alive long beyond the boundary of the movie," said Lasseter, standing on the side of the stage dressed in a Hawaiian shirt with little pictures of Buzz and Woody scattered about it. "I'm so excited to have them brought to life again."
Disney's Creative Entertainment division began work on adapting the Academy Award-nominated film in 2005. While the show retains the humor and heart of this rivals-turned-friends story, several elements had to change in order to convey the tale as a theatrical production. The 15-person creative team designed costumes (complete with slick plastic looking hair for Woody and Bo Peep), oversized toy set pieces, projections (one taken from the original film) plus a whole new musical score to transport theatergoers into Buzz and Woody's world.
The result is life-sized toy characters -- a few of which are articulated puppets with inflatable bodies like the 4-foot-wide piggybank, Hamm, and the tall tyrannosaurus, Rex. Both were designed to collapse and store compactly in the ship's limited storage space. The oversized set pieces, from a giant Binford toolbox and wagon-wheel toy chest to a large box of Crayola Crayons tipped on its side, give the audience a "toy's eye" perspective of a child's room.
As for the musical part of the show, key parts of the story are conveyed through songs created by GrooveLily, a husband and wife composer-lyricist team. In fact, one song in particular helped convince the once skeptical Lasseter that the story could be successfully turned into a musical. "At first I was concerned -- could we capture the personality of the characters?" Then Executive Vice President of Disney Creative Entertainment Anne Hamburger played one of GrooveLily's songs for him, "That's Why We're Here" -- a catchy tune about life as a toy -- and, Lasseter says, "it blew me away."
And of course, what would Toy Story be without Woody and Buzz? By nature, "buddy" pictures like "Toy Story" have characters that are as opposite as possible -- Shrek and Donkey, Lilo and Stitch -- and this musical's costumes reflect that. Costume Designer Ann Closs-Farley did a brilliant job creating the floppy, rag-doll, sewn-looking Woody and contrasting that with the plastic ball and joint design that makes Buzz stand tall, chest out. The effect, along with great casting, is these guys look like Woody and Buzz come to life.
Stay tuned for a full-length Cruise Critic feature about "Toy Story-The Musical."
--by Christine Koubek, Cruise Critic contributor
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Toy Story Goes Musical on the Disney Wonder
April 22, 2008