On December 19, Annie will be hitting theaters and hoping to bring in big money from the holiday family crowd. Some critics have complained about modernization of the classic musical and how songs have been cut or remixed for a 2014 audience. Whether the changes pay off at the box office has yet to be seen, but pop song remixes and Cameron Diaz are not the craziest things to happen to Annie. Read on for a rundown of all the Annie films, sequels, and spin-offs in order from cute and cuddly to absolutely batsh*t crazy.
Annie, the Broadway Musical – The Broadway musical is by far the best version of the character of Annie. There is a reason why theaters across the country are still staging it, even as young audiences are less and less familiar with the original comic strip or radio dramas. The show is full of classic crowd-pleaser songs like “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “Tomorrow,” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” If that wasn’t enough, there is a scrappy adorable mutt and big Christmas finale. It is practically impossible to hate Annie.
What gives Annie longevity, though, is the show’s title character. Annie is the every-girl. She is savvy but kind-hearted, sweet but able to take care of herself. She has no home or parents, and yet she remains optimistic about her future. Jokes about Herbert Hoover set the musical firmly in the Great Depression, but the message of Annie is timeless.
Annie Warbucks – Annie Warbucks was the second attempt at a stage musical sequel to Annie. The first attempt, Annie 2: Miss Hannigan’s Revenge, is coming up on the list. Unlike the first attempt, the show was mildly successful and is still staged fairly often by regional theaters. It never reached the prominence of the original stage musical, but Annie Warbucks is fairly innocuous.
The storyline is the craziest part of Annie Warbucks. In the show, Daddy Warbucks is ordered by Child Welfare Commissioner Harriet Doyle to get married in 60 days or Annie will be sent back to the orphanage. Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ personal assistant, is the obvious choice, but a new character, Sheila Kelly, also vies for his affection. Sheila isn’t all that she seems, though, and she has less than honorable reasons for marrying Warbucks. Her mother is Harriet Doyle, the commissioner who is making Warbucks get married in the first place, and they hope to cash in on Warbucks’ fortune after the wedding. The scheme is preposterous, but it is less preposterous than other villainous scheming in the Little Orphan Annie canon.
Annie, the 1982 Film – Structurally and story-wise, the 1982 and 1999 Annie film adaptations are very similar, but the 1982 film manages to edge out as the less crazy of the two films. Next to the original musical, this film is the most widely known and recognized. Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan is inspired casting, and her villainous co-stars are none other than Tim Curry as Rooster Hannigan and Bernadette Peters as Lily St. Regis.
The more nutty elements of the 1982 Annie involve Punjab and his magic powers. Punjab was a character carried over from the comic book and did not appear in the Broadway musical or 1999 film adaptation. In the 1982 film, Punjab serves as Daddy Warbucks’ bodyguard and saves Annie at a critical moment in the climax of the film. Looking back, it is hard to ignore the mystical foreigner character tropes that Punjab embodies. Considering that Hollywood still has such a problem with diversity in its heroes, however, it is visually striking to see Punjab, an Indian man with a turban, as a hero on-screen. This doesn’t excuse the stereotyping by any means, but it does bear mentioning.
Annie, the 1999 TV Movie Musical – The Wonderful World of Disney’s 1999 TV movie adaptation of Annie does not have Punjab, and in many ways, it is more faithful to the original Broadway musical than the 1982 movie. The songs “N.Y.C.” and “Something Was Missing” were both restored, and while it is difficult to match the cast from the 1982 film, the 1999 cast includes Victor Garber, Audra McDonald, Kathy Bates, Alan Cumming, and Kristin Chenoweth. All of them are Tony nominees, and nearly all of them are Tony winners. Audra McDonald actually holds the record for the most number of Tony Awards won by a performer, period. Having her in the cast automatically elevates the entire movie.