How the “Disney Renaissance” marked a turning point in the animated movie musical, from Little Mermaid to Frozen.

The Broadway-ification of Disney Animated Movies

The Broadway-ification of Disney Animated Movies

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March 11 2015 12:36 PM

Part of Your World

How the Disney animated movie became practically synonymous with Broadway.


The “Disney Renaissance” that spanned the late ’80s and lasted throughout the ’90s is a well-chronicled period in cinematic history. The behind-the-scenes stories are readily accessible to anyone with a passing interest in the legendary animation studio—the various box-office records and successes have been meticulously tallied, the Oscar nominations and wins notably recounted. But there’s another side of Disney’s spectacular run that hasn’t been as fully examined: the aesthetic effects of Broadway on the animation studio’s cinematic output.

Alan Menken noted in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview that with “Part of Your World” in The Little Mermaid, Disney embarked on its first full-on “I want” musical number—“that important moment where you engage the audience in the quest of the central character so you know what you’re rooting for.” Here, we’ll take a look at the significance of this Broadway-ification of Disney, as well as the many other musical theater influences that found their way into subsequent films like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Pocahontas.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.

Anne Marie Lindemann is a video producer and designer based on New York.