The King and I is a 1999 American animated musical film romantic drama film produced by Morgan Creek, Nest, Rankin/Bass, and Rich Animation Studios, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. The only Morgan Creek animated feature film to be made, and 26th to be distributed theatrically by Warner Bros., it was directed by Richard Rich. The film is loosely based on the life of the English school teacher Anna Leonowens, it portrays a fictionalized account of her historical encounter with the King of Siam King Mongkut, and royal court. The voice cast stars Miranda Richardson and Martin Vidnovic as Leonowens and Mongkut, respectively, with Ian Richardson, Darrell Hammond, and Adam Wylie. The score, songs, and some of the character names come from Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's stage musical of the same name. Screenwriters Peter Bakalian, Jacqueline Feather, and David Seidler took creative liberties with the history and with the source material from the musical in an attempt to make the film palatable to all audiences.
The King and I was released on March 19, 1999 to mixed reactions from reviewers, who praised its musical score and songs but criticized its animation and story, while the film's racial overtones and artistic license received polarized responses. The King and I earned $12 million at the box office and it's gross was seen as a disappointment compared to that of other animated films released at the time. The film received five nominations including the London Critics Circle Film Award for British Actress of the Year for Richarson and the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing in Animated Feature.
In 1862, a ship sails from London to Bangkok, on board are Anna Leonowens and her son Louis. The Prime Minister, Kralahome uses his powers of illusion to cause it to appear as if a massive sea serpent is attacking the ship as its battered in a storm. Anna with the help of Captain Orton manage to save Louis from drowning. As they approach the Captain fills Anna in on the political structure of the kingdom.
In the Grand Palace, in Siam, Anna witnesses King Mongkut receive the gift of a slave, Tuptim a young woman from Burma. Despite being promised her own house outside of the Palace, Anna is denied such. The King drags Anna to his workshop were he tests new inventions such as hot air balloons, and trains. Louis is taken on a tour of the armory by Master Little, who barely misses injury. The King's wives help Anna unpack despite her protests, this is when Anna sees Prince Chululongkorn and Tuptim getting to know each other in the courtyard. Anna who wants to leave since she won't be receiving the house, changes her mind after she meets the Royal Children, namely Prince Chulalongkorn.
With Kralahome still plotting to over throw the king, he write a letter to the British claiming Anna is in danger. Anna begins to teach the children only to learn they've never been outside the Palace walls. To give the hands on experience she takes all of the royal children all around the City to see how other people live, this in turn angers the king. It boils over into a fight with Anna still complaining about the house she was promised but didn't receive.
Chululongkorn meets with his father to discuss traditions, wanting to be with Tuptim but knowing his father would never allow it. Confused Kongkut goes to pray to Buddha. While he is the Kralahome uses his powers on the statues in the room to try and attack the king, which the king's black panther Rama fights off. When the Chululongkorn is kickboxing, Tuptim finally learns he his the prince and that their love is forbidden. But he tells her that he doesn't care about tradition and wants to be with her. Master Little learns of their relationship tells Kralahome who plans to use it to excite the king at the right time.
Anna goes to the king, he is troubled after learning the British are coming because he is allegedly a barbarian, which she knows isn't true. Anna advising the King to throw a banquet for the British when they arrive to show they are civilized. At the dinner, Kralahome mentions the Ivory pendant the king is supposed to wear, the one which he have to his son, who then gave it to Tuptim. When it is revealed Chululongkorn gave it away, Tuptim is brought in by guards. Dishonored by the relationship Kongkut threatens to whip Tuptim to death, but she and Chululongkorn escape into the jungle along with Louis.
While they're escaping Kralahome uses his powers to guide them through the Jungle across a rope bridge. The bridge collapses and Tuptim is swept away by the river. Mongkut using one of his Hot Air Balloons catches Tuptim, and saves everyone else. But on their journey back to the Palace Kralahome fires a firework destroying the Balloon causing it to crash to the ground. Everyone but the king was able to jump into a lake to safety, when Kralahome leaves victorious, Sir Edward and the royal guards get angry at him for trying to kill the King. An injured bedridden Mongkut lays in bed telling his son to be ready to lead Siam when he dies. Kralahome loses his position as Prime Minister, and his punishment would be permanently working the elephant stables by cleaning their dung with Master Little as his boss. He then gets beaten up by Master Little after getting angry about his last tooth falling out. But the King doesn't die, he heals and presents Anna with her house outside of the Palace walls, and the two of them dance.
- Martin Vidnovic as King of Siam
- Miranda Richardson as Anna Leonowens
- Christiane Noll as Anna's singing voice
- Ian Richardson as Kralahome
- Darrell Hammond as Master Little. A running gag is that he somehow loses a tooth.
- Allen D. Hong as Prince Chulalongkorn
- David Burnham as Chulalongkorn's singing voice
- Armi Arabe as Tuptim
- Tracy Venner Warren as Tuptim's singing voice
- Adam Wylie as Louis Leonowens
- Sean Smith as Sir Edward Ramsay
- J.A. Fujili as the First Wife
- Ken Baker as Captain Orton
- Ed Trolla as Sir Edward's Captain
- Anthony Mozdy as Burmese Emissary
- Alexandra Lai as Princess Ying
- Katherine Lai as Princess Naomi
- Mark Hunt as Steward
- B.K. Tochi as Soldier
After the success of Walt Disney Animation Studios' The Little Mermaid in 1989 Warner Bros. began to seek out animated films to distribute. Which led to them releasing The Nutcracker Prince and Rover Dangerfield, in 1990 and 1991, respectively. But it wasn't until the success of Disney's The Lion King, and all Hollywood studios began looking at getting into the animation field that the company began to develop animated feature films internally. In 1991 Morgan Creek Entertainment began a production and distribution deal with Warner Bros. In 1993 the company established Warner Bros. Feature Animation led by Max Howard to produce their own animated films while still distributing third party animated films. Warner Bros. distributed Thumbelina, and New Line Cinema distributed The Swan Princess in 1994, before releasing their first internally created feature film Space Jam in 1995. With the film a financial success, the next film was quickly underway Quest for Camelot. Arthur Rankin Jr. the head of Rankin/Bass Productions, who had been brought in to co-produce the film, was able to convince the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization who is in charge of the rights to their works that an animated feature film "would be a superb way," to expand the property.
Prior to the theatrical release of the Quest for Camelot it's writers David Seidler and Jacqueline Feather were contracted to adapt The King and I for Morgan Creek, to be released under the Warner Bros. Family Entertainment label. In 1998 it was revealed the plot had been "slightly altered" from the original musical "in the interest of family viewing." But no change could be made without approval by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, it was known that the family friendly changes would be a risk, but they hoped the film would "introduce a generation of younger people to the show, earlier than they might have been under normal circumstances" according to R&H President at the time Ted Chapin.
Design and animation
Each of the characters in the film were designed by a team of animators consisting of Bronwen Barry, Elena Kravets, and Michael Coppieters. The final design of each character had to receive final approval from James G. Robinson, the head of Morgan Creek Entertainment. Over one thousand animators were hired in over 24 countries across four different continents to hand draw each second of the film. Clean-up animation was contracted to Hanho Heung-Up in Seoul, South Korea.
The film debuted Friday, March 19, 1999, in 2,352 theaters, grossing $4 million dollars in its opening weekend - number six at the box office behind two other Warner Bros. films, Analyze This, and True Crime. The King and I played for 228 days in theaters, about 41 weeks.
Despite the underwhelming box office performance of the film, upon the home media release the film July 6, 1999 on DVD and VHS by Warner Home Video, it stayed in the top 20 of Billboards Top Kid Video Chart for over 15 weeks. Leading to The King and I going on to be the 16th best-selling children's video tape of 1999. The King and I was available on Amazon Prime when the streaming service premiered on August 1, 2011. The film was listed on iTunes for digital sale in 2010.
- Main article: The King and I (soundtrack)
A soundtrack album was released on March 16, 1999 by Sony Classical Records. It was released on both CD and cassette formats. All the songs on the album were composed by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers. William Ruhlmann of Allmusic.com gave the album a rating of 3 stars out of 5, describing it as a "surprisingly adequate" soundtrack to a "badly received" film. He adds, however, that the "overly effusive vocal performances" and "overly busy arrangements" make it "by far the worst version of this music ever recorded", and cites the use of "nine different orchestrators" as a possible factor. He concludes by conceding that there is good singing on the album. John Kenrick in his article Comparative CD Reviews Part III, describes the 1999 recording as a "total disgrace" that sees "superb Broadway singers...labor against mindless cuts and gooey orchestrations". In a relatively negative review of the animated adaption, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia does say that "some of the songs survive nicely, and the singing vocals throughout are very proficient".
- "I Whistle a Happy Tune" - Anna, Louis, Chorus
- "Hello, Young Lovers" - Anna
- "Getting to Know You" - Anna, Children
- "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" - Anna
- "A Puzzlement" - King
- "I Have Dreamed" - Chulalongkorn, Tuptim
- "Prayer to Buddha" - King, Anna
- "Anna Remembers/Shall We Dance Fantasy" - Anna
- "Shall We Dance? (Finale)" - Anna, King
- "I Have Dreamed/We Kiss in a Shadow/Something Wonderful" (end credits) - Barbra Streisand
The film was an complete box office failure. It took in $4,007,565 in its opening weekend, taking the #6 spot at the box office, but only managed to gross just under $12 million at the box office, and was overshadowed by the release of Doug's 1st Movie.
The film received mainly negative reviews with a 13% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Historian Thomas Hischak wrote that it was "surprising to think that the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization allowed it to be made ... children have enjoyed The King and I for five decades without relying on dancing dragons". Hischak, in his work The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television, says the film is "easily the worst treatment of any Rodgers and Hammerstein property". The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia says "whether or not one agrees about the 1956 film of The King and I being the best R&H movie, most would concede that [the] animated adaption is the worst". It notes that it is surprising that the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization green-lit the project, and adds that it is shocking how the source material could be made into such an "awful" movie, saying "geared towards children, the story is reduced to a carefree singalong with annoyingly superficial characters, cuddly animals, a forced love story, and a wasteland of scenes without wit or intelligence". It notes that the film seems to be a The King and I for kids, though points out that the original film has been "a kid-favourite for generations already, without the addition of supernatural elements such as dragons." Roger Ebert gave it 2 stars out of 4 and felt that animated adaptations of musicals have potential but found the film rather dull.
- Due to the performance at the box office and the overwhelmingly negative reviews, the estates of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II have declared that there are to be no more animated features based on their musicals.
- This is the third Warner Bros. Family Entertainment animated film to have musical numbers, since Thumbelina and A Troll in Central Park.
Differences from 1944 novel, the 1951 musical and the 1999 film
Many differences who are never seen in the 1999 film The King and I.