In the end, though, there's no reason to expect Disney not to be as successful with Lion King as any other of their ventures--EuroDisney notwithstanding. Disney brought Beauty and the Beast to the stage to decidedly mixed reviews in 1994; at last count, the play had generated about $150 million in profit. And despite public fretting that under the direction of MacArthur "genius" grant recipient Julie Taymor the musical might be too difficult for an audience trained on theme-park shows, the production has already set a local record for single-day ticket sales, raking in more than $1 million.
And with Disney, of course, the play's not necessarily the thing anyway. Or not this play. Soon, Uncle Walt's minions will be premiering a work directly on the stage: an Elton John-scored adaptation of Aida. "By making it not exactly the film, they are doing what Disney does best, which is making a whole new line of merchandise,"says an admiring McCollum. "What's great is after the show, the audience walks out, and there's already a retail shop set up."