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ABC is getting in on the live musical trend.
Ahead of its upfront presentation Tuesday, the network announced that it has not one but two live musical specials in the works for the 2017-18 season.
First up is The Wonderful World of Disney: The Little Mermaid Live, which will intertwine the beloved 1989 animated film with live musical performances via cutting-edge technology. The live-action/animated hybrid will feature a roster of celebrity artists singing Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s Oscar-winning songs. These celebrity performances will be woven seamlessly throughout the original animated film.
Premiering Tuesday, Oct. 3, the two-hour special will be produced by Done + Dusted (CBS’ Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show), with Hamish Hamilton, Ian Stewart, David Jammy, Katy Mullan and Richard Kraft, of Kraft-Engel Productions, serving as executive producers.
While a departure from the traditional live-action musicals that have aired on NBC (The Sound of Music, Hairspray) and Fox (Grease) in recent years, ABC’s decision to combine the animated film with live performances is a nod to similar live concerts held at the Hollywood Bowl. Last June, A-listers including John Stamos and Darren Criss performed the tunes of The Little Mermaid live while the animated film played in the background.
The title is also a nod to ABC’s long-running Wonderful World of Disney brand, which the network used on and off for decades, dating back to 1969, to showcase Disney films and other projects. That moniker was most recently used in 2015.
Following The Little Mermaid, ABC will pay homage to Rolling Stone magazine for its second live musical event. Rolling Stone 50 will pay tribute to the brand’s influence and impact through a curated journey of its most important moments from those associated with the long-running publication. The three-hour special, telecast live from New York City, will offer a combination of live performances, short films, iconic onstage moments, never-before-seen musical pairings and celebrities.
Done + Dusted will also produce this special, which is slated to premiere Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. Rolling Stone‘s parent company Wenner Media will also produce, with Jann Wenner, Gus Wenner, Stewart, Jammy and Mullan set to exec produce.
The collaboration with Rolling Stone is the latest such joint venture between the publishing world and TV. E! has the upcoming docuseries So Cosmo, centering on the editors at Cosmopolitan magazine. In recent years, Conde Nast has also been aggressive in its push into both scripted and unscripted programming for multiple platforms.
The two live musical specials come as ABC prepares to unveil its first musical event in recent years, a pretaped remake of Dirty Dancing starring Abigail Breslin.
The news also comes days after both NBC and Fox doubled down on their own live musical specials. In addition to December’s Bye Bye Birdie Live, NBC will air Jesus Christ Superstar Live on Easter Sunday, while Fox will debut the live musical A Christmas Story in December, followed by a live musical production of Rent.
The decision to push further into musical programming comes after ABC successfully landed the American Idol revival. The network also has a second music competition series, Boy Band, set to debut this summer. ABC is also expanding its unscripted slate with new spinoffs of its Dancing With the Stars and The Bachelor franchises joining Idol as well as the network’s slate of game show revivals, including Match Game and $100,000 Pyramid.
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