Disney Diary; Finding Nemo: The Musical

Hello Everyone! I know it has been quite some time since our last Blog post but we here at Luner on Theatre are BACK! And we figured what better way to kick off a new year of Blog posts then one inspired by Disney!

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I found myself thinking about Disney Theatricals and the incredible productions Disney has put on over the years. Kicking it all off with Beauty and the Beast must have been some sort of sign for the success to come for the company which later produced classics such as The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Tarzan and other musicals. However, in The Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World is hands down one of Disney’s greatest productions to date yet many people know this production even exist. Make your way through the jungle and safari of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and you’ll find yourself at the doors to a theatre that holds Disney & Pixar’s Finding Nemo: The Musical.

Disney & Pixar’s Finding Nemo: The Musical first came about in the beginning of 2006 when it was rumored to be replacing Tarzan Rocks! at Disney’s Theatre in the Wild. The production was confirmed a few months later and the exciting announcement came that Tony Award Winning Composer Robert Lopez ( Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon) and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez would write new songs for the stage production. The production would “combine puppets, dancers, acrobats and animated backdrops”. Tony Award Winning director  Peter Brosius with Michael Curry, who is a puppet designer, signed on for the production as well. Curry, who created all the puppets used in the Tony Award Winning production The Lion King, was designated as lead puppet and production designer.

The production runs about 40 minutes and is performed five times a day. Lopez took direct inspiration from the movie for some of the songs such as “In the Big Blue World”, “Fish Are Friends, Not Food”,“Just Keep Swimming” and “Go With the Flow”. There are also many original songs by Lopez and his wife. The links above also include footage of the production because that is permitted in the theatre as well as photos.

Since this is a theme park produced musical that performs five times a day and the people in the roles consistently change, it is hard to technically accurately review this production. However, this production cannot go without some piece of material on it. It is that worthy.

Where do I even begin? How about with, Disney & Pixar has done it again?! Finding Nemo: the Musical is a true masterpiece of theatre in all aspects. With most movie to musical adaptations, many look the other way or turn their eye as this practice has become old and mostly does not turn out for the best. However, Disney & Pixar’s heart warming story has translated into a brillant stage piece that captures imagination, creativity and theatrically into one unforgettable production. Does it sound like I’m over exaggerating? I’m not.

Marlin & Nemo Puppets in Finding Nemo

The story, previously set up by Disney & Pixar’s movie, is moving enough as a father travels the entire ocean overcoming many personal fears and issues to rescue his son who has been captured by divers. Lopez’s music not only helps further the story but pours more emotion into the piece leaving many in theatre at points without a dry eye. Songs such as “Where’s My Dad?” or “We Swim Together” fit perfectly like they were always there and capture the true Disney feeling at the same time. The journey is not only emotional but captivating as we watch just how far some will go for family. Through troubles, fears, danger and against all odds, we watch someone complete a journey and a family reunited.

Crush Puppet from Finding Nemo

Now when it comes to production aspects, Disney & Pixar has truly outdone themselves. Whether it is the Nemo puppet to the sword fighting fish, made out of actual swords, Disney & Pixar has designed this production to the extent that makes you think you are truly in the ocean. The puppets, designed by Michael Curry, are out of this world and are so life like many at times you end up watching them as opposed to the people playing the character holding them.

Mr. Ray from Finding Nemo

Some puppets truly blow you away such as Mr. Ray which is mounted a top a bicycle or Crush which is a true sight to see as the huge sea turtle makes his way around the stage. Also, while Disney could have produced simple set pieces for coral reed life or other plants, Disney has created them out of people with giant umbrella like contraptions on their backs. And Disney has used some of their old tricks such as the multiple gazels on the actor’s arms in The Lion King, except this time is is fish or turtles. Despite that though, Disney has truly created magic in this production and most definitely a lot of that begins with these aspects.

The stage comes down the middle of the theatre and leads to the middle aisle of the theatre which is used many a times for fishes entrances and exists. However, this interesting use of the house during the production really helps create that ocean feeling Disney was clearly going for.

Disney has truly created a family friend piece here but also something that can be considered seriously. The production, which is only 40 minutes long, can be enjoyed by children, teenagers, adults and those who really enjoy theatre. If I had any advice to Disney & Pixar for Finding Nemo: The Musical, it would be one word: Transfer. I would work on making the production longer to maybe one hour and thirty minutes and leave it at that. This production could not only be family friendly but something truly remarkable in the theatre community on a much larger scale. More people deserve to see and know this production and that is something Disney should be proud of. If you’re ever in Walt Disney World’ Animal Kingdom, be sure to find time for Disney & Pixar’s Finding Nemo: The Musical. It is something truly worth experiencing.

Finding Nemo: The Musical

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