Don’t you think that Starlight Express would work brilliantly as a CGI film? I think it’s possibly the only way to imagine an effective film adaptation of the show, especially if it was produced by a company like PIXAR who is able to develop remarkably fleshed-out characters from stock character types.
For me, one of the fundamental problems with Starlight Express is that we never get deep enough into the characters – even for a piece of “fluffy” entertainment. One should want to care about what happens to Rusty, understanding what the specific and universal stakes are when he wins or loses the race. There is an attempt here, as in Cats to place an entire mythological way of life onto the stage and, for me, I think the exploration could be a little more intense. The narrative is never going to become more complex, but the world in which it exists can.
PIXAR, in particular, makes animated films that transcend the child/parent entertainment boundaries and that their films have a mass appeal to all ages. The folks at PIXAR are also not afraid of telling their stories from the point of view of the older/adult characters in the plot and I think that Rusty’s rites-of-passage/coming-of-age narrative in Starlight Express would be a perfect vehicle for them.
The basic framework of the child playing with his trains could also be retained and possibly fleshed out slightly so that there is a reflection of the main plot in the bookend segments (which would take care of the child’s experience when viewing the film, the way that the “Nemo” sections of Finding Nemo does). And I think that there should be free use of all the material created for Starlight Express in the main body of the film (which would be akin to the the “Marlin/Dori” sections of Finding Nemo, which bring the teen/adult viewing experience into focus) so that the best songs can be used to tell the best possible version of the story.
I think this would also offer the opportunity to make use of really good singing voices for the characters, as I often feel that there are compromises made in Starlight Express – which certainly become evident on the cast albums – so that a proficient skating cast can be assembled.
A neat idea, no? Even if it is a highly improbable one…