Rooster Revue #3 • Disney Secrets
We breakdown song placement in every Disney animated musical.
In this issue we explore the musical troves of Hulu, we take a look back at Rocketman (2019), and we share some initial findings from our Disney animated musical research, courtesy of The Department of Cinemusicalization.
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• New Trailers for In the Heights (damn this looks good!) [Deadline]
• In the Heights release moved up a week! (now June 11) [Variety]
• LMR releasing 20 years of In The Heights book [Hollywood Reporter]
• Zoey’s biggest musical number yet [TV Insider]
• Are there books that shouldn’t be musicals? [Book Riot]
• Top 10 Most Iconic Outfits From Movie Musicals (why not?) [Screen Rant]
In this issue we dove deep into Hulu’s catalog to find their best musicals.
Anna and the Apocalypse [Hulu]
An indie musical horror comedy with some serious bops. If you like zombies and musicals—this is not to be missed.
Beloved (2011) [Hulu]
Christophe Honoré's ambitious follow-up to Love Songs that was not as well received, but certainly worth the watch if you like French pop.
This NZ jukebox musical drama follows a 20 year relationship. It’s certainly ambitious and unique—even if it feels a bit empty.
We go into detail on this one below. The only biopic about a musician that we consider a musical. Cause it is one.
Trolls World Tour [Hulu]
This colorful animated jukebox musical is infectious—and has one original musical number that will knock your socks off.
Valley Girl [Hulu]
A very recent jukebox musical that was overlooked because of Covid. A remake and love letter to its 1983 source material. Colorful, glitzy and glam, if that’s your thing.
While not technically a musical, it has 2 incredible musical numbers, it documents the creation of the Cabaret movie, and it gives the undue credit Gwen Verdon deserves for Fosse’s remarkable career.
We Are Freestyle Love Supreme [Hulu]
Before there was In The Heights or Hamilton, there was Freestyle Love Supreme. The documentary film tells the story of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s improv hip-hop group.
Rocketman (2019), an Elton John biopic musical chronicling his rise to fame, his friendship with his life-long lyricist Bernie Taupin, and his struggles with addiction—set to his most beloved songs.
Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
Written by: Lee Hall
Music by: Elton John
Lyrics by: Bernie Taupim
Spoiler Alert: I’m obsessed with Elton John and extremely biased.
I would not normally call a music biopic a musical, but Rocketman is the exception.
First of all, Elton and Bernie are natural storytellers. Their songs are written from the point of view of characters and progress from barroom brawl to dancing in the street at a carnival and beyond. But I’d argue it’s the inventive way the songs are used that makes this a musical—and for that we have to thank screenwriter Lee Hall.
What Rocketman does so well is take the songs off the stage and use them to progress the story forward. Lee selects songs that not only fit the characters emotions, but also fit the time in which they were written. Then he breaks those songs into sections that effortlessly move the narrative forward.
Take for example “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.” We start in a local pub with young Reggie (pre-Elton) playing the piano, getting laughed at. When a fist fight erupts, he keeps singing as he follows the ruckus outside through a fence and we seamlessly jump forward in time to a carnival in the 60’s with Reggie picking up the song as a teenager.
In the final verse, Reggie dances his way back to the same bar where he was once laughed at and joins his band—and they rock. As soon as they finish a talent scout comes up to them and offers them their break. There’s no waste in this economic storytelling. A lesser screenwriter writing a traditional biopic could have done it all through montage or worse letting the whole song play out on stage. Or cut the song short (which nobody should do!).
To me, it’s the screenwriting that makes this biopic a musical. And a damn good one at that. Thanks Lee Hall.
Fun fact: Lee Hall wrote the screenplay for Billy Elliot, which Elton wrote the music for when it was adapted for stage. Hall also wrote for the screenplay (with Tom Hooper) for another famous movie musical that we all wish we could forget—Cats. Can’t win ‘em all.
Let’s face it. Some of the best movie musicals of the last 30 years have come out of Disney animation, starting with The Little Mermaid. Here at The Barn’s Department of Cinemusicalization, we’ve been doing an in-depth analysis of these animated classics to see what we can learn from them, from a storytelling perspective. Below is a timeline of every animated musical movie in their catalog from their “Renaissance” period forward, with songs placed where they occur in the film and for exactly how long. [Click the photo for the a larger image]
Through this research we hope to better understand where Disney animated musicals place songs, how they fit into the movie as a whole, their ideal song to dialogue ratio, what types of songs best drive the story.
Moving forward, we will begin to identify and track patterns and hopefully take away some lessons to apply to live-action movie musicals. Here are some initial findings:
Stick with us as we dissect each of these movies in depth in future issues of Rooster Revue!
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"Rooster Review" is edited by Matt Andrews, Mary Bonney, and Jeffrey Simon with contributions from the entire team at The Barn.