As president and producer at Disney Theatrical Group, Thomas Schumacher has overseen the Broadway adaptations of several hit animated films, including The Lion King and the company's first attempt, Beauty and the Beast. Most recently, Schumacher has been responsible for bringing Aladdin to the stage 22 years after the film first debuted in theaters. Thanks to the massive success and a Tony Award win and the fact that The Lion King has become the first production to cross the $1 billion mark on Broadway, there are no signs of Schumacher (and Disney) slowing down.
The producer sat down with The Hollywood Reporterto reflect on Disney's success and what's next for the company.
On choosing what properties go from film to stage:
You have to say, "Do the events in the film feel like they would be enhanced by seeing them happen in front of you?" You're always looking for the theatrical "in," as opposed to just putting a film onstage.
On bringing Frozen to Broadway:
There's something purely theatrical about the relationship between these two women [characters, Elsa and Anna]. You can see it. My job is to corral the writers of the movie. I'm already talking to directors, and I have a design concept, and we have to begin to fashion this idea. It doesn't need to be fast. It needs to be great.
On maintaining The Lion King's legacy:
When I look at that number, $6.2 billion, what's impressive to me is the sheer count of people [more than 75 million] who have come to see the show. It's not on the shoulders of the movie anymore; it's its own entity. Is it daunting? It's a responsibility to maintain it. You're endlessly figuring how to position it, change it. The expression I love, since I've established my pathetic farming abilities, is: "The best fertilizer is the farmer's shadow." You have to be there; you have to be vigilant and supervise your field.
On the secret to Disney's success:
One is the juice of our properties. They were inherently musicals and in many cases were created by theater people. These are theatrical things at their core. The second piece is that we genuinely committed to work on it. I live here full-time, like every other real producer on Broadway. The Walt Disney Company made it very possible for us to actually build a business here. And then look at the people we've worked with. Look at this array of directors and designers, the caliber of artists we work with. We try to give them the best resources we can, and then we sit here as good shepherds every day. And Disney, whether starting with Michael Eisner or obviously with Bob Iger today, is deeply dedicated to the quality of this business, not just the economic return.
Read the complete interview, which also features a look inside Schumacher's home, at The Hollywood Reporter.