It’s time for a rap session
Disney+ hopes to make history with small-screen version of Hamilton
When Lin-manuel Miranda posted the trailer for his new Hamilton film on Twitter Sunday night, it blew up bigger than a Hamilton-jefferson rap battle. By the next afternoon, more than 220,000 people had liked the tweet from the Hamilton creator, with the trailer getting 4.2 million views.
Yet that’s only the beginning for the #Hamilfilm, as the upcoming screen rendering of the stage smash is known on social media. When the event, which was shot with most of the original Broadway cast onstage four years ago, premières July 3 on Disney+, it will serve as a bellwether for the streaming service.
Even more important is what the debut says about the broader concept of streaming. Since its inception, streaming has been about delivering serialized episodes of individualized content, a place of a thousand niches and endless binges. The #Hamilfilm offers the reverse — an attempt to bring old-school, gather-in-theliving-room entertainment values into a digital world.
“Hamilton is not a series but a major one-off. And Disney+ has never had a one-off,” said Dan Rayburn, a streaming consultant and expert.
It would be hard to imagine that more cultural or economic meaning could be wrung out of Hamilton. The rap-driven Broadway musical about the United States’ founding fathers and mothers that opened in 2015 swept the Tonys, sold out soundtracks and world tours, grossed more than half a billion dollars in New York alone and ignited a renaissance for Broadway musicals among teenagers.
Yet the movie’s release ups the ante. The #Hamilfilm is being planned as a kind of national barbecue. With Americans lacking concerts and ball games to attend, Disney hopes they will mark the holiday in a quintessentially 2020 manner: by staying home to watch a show recorded in 2016.
“I think (an at-home viewing of ) Hamilton is definitely a weird way of uniting people on a holiday,” said Josh Spiegel, a cultural critic and commentator who often focuses on Disney, “but it will be a very effective way. People won’t share the experience in theatres like they do with movies, but they’ll share it with a lot of people on social media.”
Disney, via a spokesperson, declined to comment for this story.
Acquired for some $75 million, the Hamilton movie stitches together several performances of the show, as Aaron Burr, George Washington, Angelica Schuyler, Thomas Jefferson and, of course, Alexander and Eliza Hamilton mix it up and have it out at the dawn of America.
The #Hamilfilm was originally slated for a theatrical release in October 2021. But the pandemic forced Disney executives to shuffle its upcoming releases around.
Disney executives met with Miranda, the show’s creator, as well as the show’s director, Tommy Kail, and producer, Jeffrey Seller. The trio agreed that a shift to the small screen and the pandemic-entertainment landscape was the best move.
“In light of the extraordinary challenges facing our world, this story about leadership, tenacity, hope, love and the power of people to unite against the forces of adversity is both relevant and impactful,” Disney executive chairman Bob Iger said in announcing the release last month.
The Washington Post