Production of The King and I spurred a desire among its partners-Warner Bros.’s subsidiary Morgan Creek in Burbank, California, producer Rankin/Basstoons in New York and The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization in New York-to build a franchise around animating Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, yet the movie slate, which includes Oklahoma and The Sound of Music, is on hold until producers can determine whether soft box-office results for The King and I will be augmented by a strong video release. As of April 11, the movie had tallied US$10.2 million in the U.S. since its release on March 19.
‘We’re anxious to do more,’ notes Peter Bakalian, screenwriter/producer of The King and I. ‘We were very pleased with Rick Rich (Swan Princess), the director of the film, who did a very good job.’
According to the film’s executive producer, Robert Mandell, at Morgan Creek, the Warner Home Video release on July 6 will be boosted by a major marketing push that includes TV, print, on-pack and display advertising, as well as promotional tie-ins. ‘Warner Home Video’s distribution system is one of the best, and we expect the video to do very well,’ says Mandell. Expectations are already high enough for the franchise that a direct-to-video sequel to The King and I is in development. ‘It’s something we are going to fast track,’ he says, projecting a spring 2000 release for the title. Mandell says the film’s QSR partner, Subway, and master toy licensee, Playmates Toys, were very satisfied with the property’s performance in terms of their efforts.
Rankin/Basstoons partner Arthur Rankin, a longtime Broadway musical producer, has first-look access to the rights to the remaining Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, according to Bakalian. However, Mandell says the power to go forward with the franchise or not ultimately rests with The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. Critics complained that The King and I movie changed the original musical too much in its goal to introduce kids to the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein, so further projects will be closely scrutinized by the organization to make sure that they remain true to the originals. ‘Animation offers so many ways to interpret the material,’ says Mandell.