Traveling to the exotic kingdom of Siam, English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens soon discovers that her most difficult challenge is the stubborn, imperious King himself.Traveling to the exotic kingdom of Siam, English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens soon discovers that her most difficult challenge is the stubborn, imperious King himself.Traveling to the exotic kingdom of Siam, English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens soon discovers that her most difficult challenge is the stubborn, imperious King himself.
that of bringing one of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's most legendary Broadway hits to the screen --- as an animated motion picture. Alas! The result turned out to be "The King and I"; and in its 1999 version, produced at Richard Rich's Rich Animation Studios in partnership with Nest Entertainment --- the creative team behind "The Swan Princess" --- there were quite serious flaws, the most important of which was unquestionably the simple truth that "The King and I" has, almost from the moment 20th Century-Fox's movie version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein legend was first released, pretty much been doomed to remain anathema among the people of Thailand, for whom the King of Siam is an historic figure worthy of being held sacrosanct. What, then, went wrong? Well, first things first, I believe that moviegoers went into this animated "King and I" expecting the awesome, unique, one-of-a-kind animation which for nearly forty years was at the heart of every Rankin/Bass Production. What the audience got instead, sadly, was a farmed-out, overly stereotypical, 90-minute exercise in badly done children's animation. Moreover, R/B's other co-founder had no involvement in this production. A Rankin/Bass Production without Jules Bass? Unthinkable! Even worse, Morgan Creek's recent filmography since "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," its biggest blockbuster ever (and, one would surmise, its ONLY such blockbuster), has spawned a series of less than incredible titles --- making one question why Warner Bros. continues to distribute Morgan Creek's films at all. But I have had access to the real story behind this failed 'toon; and, truth be told, it is at best a cautionary tale, and at worst a lesson in how not to bring a Broadway soundtrack to life on the screen. It seems to me that The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, by arrangement with whom this film had been prepared, had wanted to support Mr. Rankin's dream; once the animated "King and I" flopped, unfortunately, it was clear that they could not support such a concept for any reason. Subsequent plans to animate other R & H stage legends --- "Oklahoma!" and "The Sound of Music" among them --- were ultimately scrapped, leaving Arthur Rankin, Jr.'s dream in tatters. To me, that's a shame --- because here was a unique opportunity to introduce younger audiences to the epic power and beauty that only a live stage show can provide.... an opportunity squandered through the addition of overly-cliched, racially stereotypical characters and Saturday morning-esque dialogue. I would guess, in the end, that the moral of this story is: If you can dream it, don't always necessarily do it.... because you never know what kind of film-related traps you may stumble into in the end.
- Aug 15, 2000