Dewayne Bevil | Sentinel Staff Writer January 8, 2008 TORONTO - Disney officials wanted a new stage show, so they thought big.
Then they thought small.
And then, inflatable.
The result, set to be announced today by Disney executives, is a multimillion-dollar musical version of Toy Story, the 1995 Disney-Pixar animated film that shrank moviegoers' perspective to the size of Mr. Potato Head and company.
Toy Story -- The Musical will debut in April aboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship. It's the latest entry in Disney's expansive live-theater network that launched in 1993 with the purchase of a Broadway theater and has grown to include full-blown, movie-based Broadway musicals such as The Lion King, Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast.
The genesis of the Toy Story musical, said creative director Matt Almos, starts with the success of Finding Nemo -- The Musical, which debuted last year at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando. Both are shorter, smaller-scale productions tailored by the company to specific audiences.
"The cruise ship and the parks are an incredible vehicle for introducing millions of kids to theater," said Anne Hamburger, executive vice president of Disney Creative Entertainment, which produces shows, parades and other entertainment for Disney Cruise Line and Disney's 11 theme parks worldwide.
Hamburger, whose background includes her own New York theater company, isn't the only heavy-hitter on the Toy Story musical project.
John Lasseter, the Oscar-winning director/creator of the Toy Story films, was involved even before the script was written.
And designer Michael Curry, the Tony-winning co-creator of the elaborate puppets for Broadway's The Lion King, developed the ground-breaking inflatable costumes.
With so much money and effort invested, it's possible the show may be headed to the Caribbean and beyond.
"There may be opportunities to do this elsewhere," Hamburger said.
Regardless, Toy Story -- The Musical will be a giant undertaking that unfolds in the small confines of a cruise ship.