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Title of Dissertation:                       TRANSFORMING THE BEAST: THE THEATRE LABORATORIES                                                                 OF THE “DISNEY RENAISSANCE” 1984-1994


                                                        Christen Marie Mandracchia, Doctor of Philosophy, 2021


Dissertation Directed By:               Professor Franklin J. Hildy, School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance                                                               Studies



This study investigates the ways that theatre professionals brought significant changes to the Walt Disney Company, from 1984-1994, in a period affectionately referred to, in popular discourses, as the “Disney Renaissance.” These individuals, including Peter Schneider, Linda Woolverton, Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Bob McTyre, Ron Logan, Rob Roth, Matt West, Stan Meyer, and others came from Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatres, and local theatres, and represented a wide-cross section of theatrical disciplines, including production management, stage management, playwrighting, musical theatre, producing, directing, choreography, and design. In their respective Company divisions, such as animation and theme parks, they worked to transform their area of the corporation into theatre laboratories, where a series of experiments occurred. These tests challenged the lines of demarcation between theatre, animation, and theme park mediums, between the individual and the collective, between marginalization and the mainstream, and between spectatorship and participation. In 1994, these efforts culminated in the production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Broadway.

            Through a combination of archival evidence and interviews with the surviving subjects listed above, my findings demonstrate a direct link between their theatrical knowledge and practices to the rapid growth and unprecedented financial, popular, and critical success, which the Walt Disney Company enjoyed during this era. Written in a year of Covid-19, when the American theatre industry was decimated, this dissertation tells the stories of theatre makers who, over thirty years ago, ventured into the non-theatrical contexts of Disney and transformed the culture, values, and ways of doing things at the large Company, making it a more collaborative, more empathetic, more innovative, and bolder place than it was before. In this way “Transforming the Beast” refers not only to the pivotal moment of Beauty and the Beast in on film, the theme park stage, or Broadway, but the value of theatrical knowledge in transforming a large entity like Disney to do better as a business, as a creative space, and as a collective of people.

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