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Musical Movies We'll Never Get To See

The movie musical is in the middle of a modern renaissance. Thanks to recent box office hits like 2017's "The Greatest Showman" and 2016's "La La Land," not to mention Disney remakes like 2019's "Aladdin" and 2017's "Beauty and the Beast," audiences are showing up in droves for movies where people sing and dance. This trend doesn't show any signs of dying down, either: Fan anticipation for movies like "Everybody's Talking about Jamie," "Dear Evan Hansen," and "West Side Story" is at a fever pitch. Hollywood's renewed love affair with the musical isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

However, just because Hollywood has a long history with the genre doesn't mean that every proposed musical gets off the ground. In fact, many high-profile movie musical productions have failed to materialize as theatrical features. This unfortunate list includes adaptations of some of the most beloved Broadway musicals of all time, as well as completely original concepts boasting big-name talent. As the world basks in the glow of a new wave of feature-length musicals, let's get to know the movie musicals that never got to take center stage.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

During 2017's CinemaCon, STX Entertainment made a splashy announcement: They were going to make an animated film adaptation of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." This movie was slated to contain music from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, and Elton John. There was no word on who would be writing the screenplay, or who the director might be, but the musical dream team already assembled made the proposed feature worthy of significant attention.

After that news, though, no further updates emerged on the project, which is now considered shelved. No official reason has been offered for why "Joseph" hasn't gotten off the ground. However, its lack of momentum may have to do with STX's difficulties in the original family movie space. The studio's first major foray into this field, 2019's "UglyDolls," didn't make much of a splash, while other prospective family movies starring Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy never amounted to anything. Meanwhile, Elton John's desire to spend more time with his family likely derailed his commitment to "Joseph," depriving the musical of one of its most famous creative participants. Despite the prospect of a theatrical movie adaptation of this musical sounding "handsome," "smart," and "like a work of art," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" never actually got made.

Miss Saigon

"Miss Saigon" is one of the most well-known musicals of the modern era. However, the show has been garnering criticism since its 1989 premiere, particularly regarding white actors' portrayal of Asian characters. Though newer runs of "Miss Saigon" have worked to address this problem, criticism of its storytelling has only become more heightened in the decades since its release. 

Despite that baggage, Hollywood loves a familiar name, and that meant it was inevitable that news would eventually emerge of a "Miss Saigon" film adaptation. The most recent attempt at this project came in May 2016, when Broadway World reported that "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle would be directing a "Miss Saigon" movie, set to film in 2018. There were no further details on how exactly the property would be adapted for the big screen, nor on who might be cast. No other updates emerged on "Miss Saigon" at all, in fact, and Boyle eventually pursued 2019's "Yesterday" as his next directorial effort. That decision appeared to put a stop to "Miss Saigon," with Boyle further distancing himself from the proposed musical by adding additional projects to his schedule. Moviegoers will have to keep waiting to see someone tackle the complicated nature of "Miss Saigon" in a theatrical feature.


Tim Minchin, the songwriter behind musicals like "Jesus Christ Superstar," was once set to graduate to a whole new level of notoriety through a passion project entitled "Larrikins." An animated musical for DreamWorks Animation, the movie was set for a February 2018 release date. It got far enough along to cast massively well-known talents like Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, and Ben Mendelsohn in lead roles. However, the production was scrapped less than a year before it was set to hit theaters.

In March 2017, Deadline reported that "Larrikins" had been "shut down," with lacking creative development named as the reason. At the time of this announcement, Minchin posted an emotional statement: "The animated film to which I've dedicated the last 4 years of my life was shut down by the new studio execs." He went on to note that the loss of "Larrikins" left him with "impotent fury and sadness." With this development, Minchin's passion project was reduced to a bunch of storyboards and unfinished animation. Many elements from "Larrikins" did live on, however, in the 2018 animated short "Bilby."

The My Fair Lady remake

At the end of the 2000s, a new version of the Best Picture-winning musical "My Fair Lady" seemed imminent. However, this project ended up with a twisted production history that never managed to culminate in anything. In providing an update on the film in February 2011, The Playlist chronicled the film's struggles in putting together a proper cast. Moreover, director Danny Boyle had been traded out for filmmaker John Madden, who had himself left at least once already.

Legal issues surrounding who owned the rights to the source material were also swirling, with Sony and CBS Films having varying degrees of ownership over the property. Moreover, various parties' insistence that only Colin Firth could headline the project kept this new take on "My Fair Lady" from becoming a reality. Despite these hardships, it appeared, for a moment, that the prospect of combining a bunch of big stars with an iconic musical was enough to make it all work out. But since then, further developments on the film have been scarce. It looks like all the various obstacles "My Fair Lady" faced at the end of the 2000s were too much for this remake to overcome.


One wouldn't peg James Ponsoldt as a musical filmmaker. But at one point in time, the Weinstein Company hired the director to tackle the genre through a new adaptation of "Pippin." From Ponsoldt's point of view, he was an unorthodox but perfect choice for the project. "In many ways, I think I'm a good person for it," Ponsoldt explained to Collider in 2013. "I mean, I'm not a musical theater dude. Or rather, I don't watch everything, and love everything, and have every album. The ones that I love — like I've seen 'The Wizard of Oz' a hundred times. 'West Side Story' I love. I love 'Singing in the Rain,' I love 'White Christmas.'"

In addition to establishing his musical bona fides, Ponsoldt also said, "What's really great about 'Pippin,' is that ... the tone is like 'The Princess Bride' or 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.' It's an absurdist, episodic take that's irreverent. At it's core, it's a coming-of-age story about a guy who's 22 and wants to live an extraordinary life, but can't even figure out what that means and how to make himself happy." Despite this clear vision for what his "Pippin" would be, Ponsoldt's busy schedule and the avalanche of challenges facing the Weinstein Company ensured the project never got made.

Frank or Francis

Charlie Kaufman does not make ordinary movies, as anyone who has seen 2020's "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" or 2015's "Anomalisa" can attest. His embrace of the strange makes him a perfect fit for the world of musical storytelling, where anything is possible and the unusual is typically the norm. Kaufman was, at one point, aiming to dive into musical filmmaking with the star-studded project "Frank or Francis." However, to this day, it has never managed to become a reality.

"I had the most extraordinary cast for 'Frank or Francis,'" Kaufman told Uproxx in 2015. "Extraordinary. I mean, it was like crazy. And the reason I kept hiring more and more crazy, well-known people was because it was the only way I was going to get any money. Even then I couldn't get money." The economic disaster that befell the world in 2008 was partially responsible as well, according to Kaufman: "Everything changed in the business after that. No, really. Sony Pictures made 'Adaptation.' Not like Sony Classics, Sony Pictures made that movie. They would never make that movie now. It's impossible for them. It's a different business." While Kaufman expressed hope about maybe getting "Frank or Francis" off the ground eventually, the realities of modern film financing have continued to make that prospect an impossibility.

The Guys and Dolls remake

Steven Spielberg's longstanding desire to helm a musical has finally come to fruition with 2021's "West Side Story." However, before that production came along, Spielberg almost got to craft a remake of "Guys and Dolls." Moreover, the production would have reunited Spielberg with "Saving Private Ryan" cast member Vin Diesel.

"I'm dying to do a musical ... I was this close [gestures with two fingers] to doing 'Guys and Dolls' with Steven Spielberg, and we ended up not doing that," Diesel told Kelly Clarkson in 2021, via The Playlist. While he didn't offer concrete details on what the film would have looked like, Diesel did clarify who he would have liked to play in this production. "For the longest time, I thought the Nathan Detroit role in 'Guys and Dolls' would be a very interesting one to revamp," Diesel teased. "The character that Frank Sinatra played." Talk about a Hollywood tragedy: The world was robbed of seeing Dominic Toretto belt out showtunes under Spielberg's watch.

Margie Claus

Lots of notable comics have found box office success by making family-friendly Christmas-themed comedies — just ask Will Ferrell, Tim Allen, and Jim Carrey. At one point, Melissa McCarthy was poised to add her name to that list when she signed on to star in the musical "Margie Claus." McCarthy would have portrayed the titular role of Margie, Santa's kindly wife, who is forced to take over his duties when he goes missing. Deadline broke the news in June 2017 that the film was set for a November 2019 release date, and would be directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy's husband and a frequent director of her movies. 

Despite seeming like a natural next step for the big-screen comedian, however, "Margie Claus" would go unmade. No reason has ever been given for why this particular McCarthy-Falcone collaboration hasn't come to fruition, though it may have something to do with McCarthy's busy schedule — 2019 saw the comedian star in "The Kitchen" instead. It's not inconceivable that "Margie Claus" could someday be revived, perhaps with a new creative team. Right now, though, it looks like McCarthy will not be tackling the part, depriving her of the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of so many other big-screen laugh-makers.

The Gypsy remake

In April 2016, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that STX Entertainment was the new home of a film adaptation of the musical "Gypsy," starring Barbra Streisand. Set to be helmed by Barry Levinson, this development came less than a year after the project's previous home, Universal, opted not to go forward with the project for unknown reasons. Though getting picked up by STX appeared to be a harbinger of good news for "Gypsy," ominous developments were on the horizon. Just four months after picking up the project, Deadline reported that STX decided to drop "Gypsy." This was apparently due to one of the film's financiers dropping out, causing STX to pick up more of the $50+ million budget. Not wanting to take on that kind of risk, STX bowed out of "Gypsy" altogether.

After that, Streisand's version of "Gypsy" was no more. Interestingly, a new take on the project involving some of the producers from Streisand's incarnation was announced in February 2019, to be financed by New Regency and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino. However, this iteration of "Gypsy" has lain dormant ever since. No matter who's involved, modern attempts to remake this musical are plagued by constant setbacks.

Oliver Twist

In October 2016, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Disney was tackling a new musical take on Oliver Twist, slated to involve two prominent figures: Thomas Kail, director of the Broadway smash "Hamilton," and Ice Cube, fresh off producing (and being portrayed by his son in) 2015's "Straight Outta Compton." Not only would this version of Charles Dickens' text involve plenty of musical numbers, Cube was set to play Fagin.

The film scored one other major development in January 2018, when "Empire" co-creator Danny Strong was hired to pen a screenplay for the production. Since then, however, this take on "Oliver Twist" has received no new updates. This is likely due to Disney shifting its live-action priorities towards remakes of classic animated films (and cinematic adaptations of theme park rides), rather than motion pictures not based on properties the studio already owns. In the end, gathering all that hot talent wasn't enough to make this unique vision of "Oliver Twist" a reality.


Disney has adapted countless fairy tales since the 1937 release of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." At one point in time, the vaunted studio was set to tackle "Jack and the Beanstalk" in the form of the proposed movie "Gigantic." "Tangled" co-director Nathan Greno and "Inside Out" scribe Meg LeFauve were set to direct – this would, in fact, have been LeFauve's first time in the director's seat. The project aimed to put a musical twist on the original fairy tale, and would have followed an explorer who befriends a young giantess. "Gigantic" was also set to feature tunes written by the dynamite "Frozen" songwriting team of Robert and Kristen-Anderson Lopez. One of these ditties was even shown off at the 2015 edition of D23, to a warm reception. Considering Disney's track record with animated fairy tales and the esteemed team at its back, "Gigantic" looked like a surefire hit in the making.

However, "Gigantic" kept facing postponements and production difficulties, with its initial March 2018 release date transforming into a Thanksgiving 2020 debut over time. Eventually, sites like SlashFilm revealed that these setbacks had all been leading up to the news that "Gigantic" was canceled. Apparently, the story was just too difficult to crack, and both Disney Animation and the film's creative team opted to move onto other projects. "Gigantic" joins the likes of "Newt" as the rare Disney cartoon to get publicly announced and never actually made.

The animated Cats movie

We're all well aware of the 2019 feature film adaptation of "Cats," which is either pure nightmare fuel or a midnight movie staple in the making, depending on who you ask. But it wasn't the first attempt to bring "Cats" to the big screen. Back in the 1990s, Steven Spielberg's Amblimation was looking to follow up movies like 1991's "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West" and 1995's "Balto" by turning "Cats" into a hand-drawn animated musical.

Just before the release of 2019's "Cats," Cartoon Brew published an in-depth look at the attempted '90s production. This take on "Cats" would have been set during World War II, and was going to attempt to wring a traditional narrative out of the famously abstract show. Initially set for a 1997 release date, the project was doomed by a variety of factors, including disagreements between the movie's producers and Spielberg shifting his animation-based interests over to DreamWorks. Eventually, Amblimation closed its doors in 1997. "Cats" would go on to hit the big screen in 2019, and ... well, we all know how that turned out.