EXCLUSIVE: Disney’s live-action team is in early development on a movie for Disney+ about the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles and its founder, artistic director and longtime conductor Charles Dickerson III.
The studio picked up the pitch from writer Bobby Smith Jr (Jason’s Lyric), who will serve as writer and executive producer. Longtime Disney production executive and producer Brigham Taylor (The Jungle Book, Lady and the Tramp) will produce via his Taylor Made Film Productions banner.
Founded in 2009, the ICYOLA is the largest majority African-American orchestra in America and has helped transform the lives of hundreds of young Angelenos who go on to perform in settings including the Getty Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall and Staples Center, as well as throughout South Los Angeles’ church community.
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Dickerson, who has spent decades trying to make classical music more inclusive to communities of color, was a guest on Good Morning America earlier this year, saying: “Music in itself has so many parts to it that bring benefit to one’s life. It instills within a person personal discipline, personal self-determination, [and] the pursuit of excellence to do something meaningful.”
Last year, the orchestra was expanded to Chicago, where it is a free program funded through nonprofits.
“We started with Chicago because, once again, Chicago is experiencing this epidemic, epidemic of gun violence,” Dickerson said. “There’s a substantial African-American and Latino population there, and there is no youth orchestra that serves that community. That’s why we went there and started to do what we did.”
Attorney Mark S. Temple negotiated the Disney+ deal on behalf of Bobby Smith Jr. who also runs production company Ashore Entertainment.
Taylor is well known for working on a string of Disney tentpoles during his 20-year career at the studio, including Tron: Legacy and the Chronicles of Narnia and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. He segued to an exclusive producer deal with the major six years ago.