Disney’s ‘West Side Story’ Remake Pitch To Leonard Bernstein Failed — Thankfully

Disney’s ‘West Side Story’ Remake Pitch To Leonard Bernstein Failed — Thankfully

Ron Dicker

Thu, 20 October 2022 at 4:24 pm

Ex-Disney boss Jeffrey Katzenberg once tried to sell Leonard Bernstein on a “West Side Story” remake that was, ahem, less than purr-fect, according to a director.

It was “West Side Story” with cats!

Katzenberg, the DreamWorks co-founder who chaired Disney for a decade until 1994, sent “Lilo & Stitch” co-writer and director Christopher Sanders to pitch the maestro, the director said in a Wednesday interview with Vulture.

“Former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg once flew me out to New York City because he wanted us to do ‘West Side Story’ with cats,” Sanders recalled. “I [story]boarded this huge sequence where these cats were battling each other. Jeffrey said, ‘We’re going to fly to New York, and you’re going to pitch it to Leonard Bernstein.’”

“All of a sudden, I was on Disney’s corporate jet. I went to the room and I set up all the boards, and I practiced and I practiced and I practiced. As it turned out, Leonard Bernstein didn’t show up for the meeting. He sent representatives. I’m sure they were people of some prominence; there was one woman in particular who had a lot of necklaces on. But you could tell it wasn’t going well. Like, ‘Oh, I think we may have made a mistake by coming here.’”

Leonard Bernstein with Isaac Stern backstage at Carnegie Hall in an undated photo. (Photo: New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Leonard Bernstein with Isaac Stern backstage at Carnegie Hall in an undated photo. (Photo: New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Leonard Bernstein with Isaac Stern backstage at Carnegie Hall in an undated photo. (Photo: New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Bernstein died in 1990. A guy named Steven Spielberg fared pretty well with his 2021 retelling of the classic Bernstein-composed musical about young lovers amid gang warfare in New York City.

So, perhaps it’s just as well the cat version got relegated to the litter box. Even “Cats” with weird humanoid cats got shredded by critics.

Katzenberg had success in backing movies at Disney during its animation comeback with “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast” before he moved on as a co-founder of DreamWorks Animation. He’ll probably never be known as Jeffrey Catsenberg.

The executive’s reps declined comment to Deadline.

Jeffrey Katzenberg on a walk in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July 2022. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images)
Jeffrey Katzenberg on a walk in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July 2022. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images)

Jeffrey Katzenberg on a walk in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July 2022. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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