How to Turn a Disney Cartoon Into Avant-Garde Theater

Julie Taymor tells former Disney CEO Michael Eisner why she agreed to take on The Lion King.

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A Disney movie might not seem like the best inspiration for an experimental stage production. In fact, when Julie Taymor was invited to intepret The Lion King for Broadway, she had her doubts. At the time, she was in Japan putting on the Stravinsky opera Oedipus Rex. As she says wryly in this conversation with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, "Disney's aesthetic and my aesthetic are not the same."

What finally moved her to accept, she says, was the challenge of reimagining the Disney story in a stripped-down form. She wanted to figure out how to create a stampede, or a sunset, on a stage. And she made the bold decision that instead of hiding the puppeteers behind a curtain, she would "expose the magic -- expose the strings, the rods and the mechanics -- so the telling of the story would be as spiritually moving as emotionally moving as the story itself." Here, she talks about that project, and her admiration for "the low-tech beauty of theater."

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