UPDATE Tuesday afternoon: Adds further comment from Disney’s Tom Schumacher, below.
EXCLUSIVE: Disney’s blockbuster The Lion King passed Cats last week to become the third-longest-running show in Broadway history. But Disney’s claim that a new ad for the show represented a first in 360-degree promotion had Cats master Andrew Lloyd Webber, well, baring his claws.
On Wednesday morning, Disney is planning to unveil a virtual reality clip of The Lion King‘s famous “Circle Of Life” opening number, noting that it’s the first time the technology has been used inside a Broadway theater. “The 360-degree footage has been compiled to create the first-ever virtual reality experience of a theatrical production number captured exactly as it is seen onstage,” according to Disney.
“There should be no debate about which show was the first to use 360-degree technology. Big cats shouldn’t be copycats!” says School of Rock‘s Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Have you no memory? asks Lord Lloyd Webber. Just last month his new show, School Of Rock, released its own 360-degree promo, the song “You’re In The Band” from the musical. OK, so it wasn’t shot in the theater, it was shot in a genuine New York City classroom (filled, presumably, with kids and not the upstanding members of IATSE Local One). Lloyd Webber was gracious about trading spots on the long-run list with the competition but had some words about Disney’s new ad.
“Just as there is no debate about who were the first anthropomorphized felines on Broadway,” Lloyd Webber, just back from an appearance at the White House, told Deadline, “there should be no debate about which show was the first to use 360-degree technology. Big cats shouldn’t be copycats!”
Disney Theatrical Productions President Thomas Schumacher purred back,
Dear Andrew ,Thank you for your note. In response to your claim that “This isn’t Cricket!,” although I’m not familiar with all 12,000 rules of Cricket, I am incredibly proud of our Lion King VR video and stand by our description of it…School Of Rock staged your number for the camera, in a classroom and captured a delightful commercial. We congratulate you on well over a million hits but these are two videos are fundamentally divergent. Thanks for keeping up with The Lion King and best of luck with SOR. I hear great things.Yours in 3rd position after Phantom of the Opera,Tom Schumacher
Padding into the No. 3 slot and leading by a whisker is The Lion King, at 7,490 performances at the Nederlander Organization’s Minskoff, followed by Cats (7,485), which is aiming at a revival next season.
School Of Rock — based on the film and with a book by Downton Abbey‘s Julian Fellowes and new songs by Lloyd Webber and Glenn Slater — is in previews at the Shuberts’ Winter Garden Theatre (where Cats once ruled then and forever…) and opens December 6.