Bridget McCarthy ’17 / Entertainment Monthly Assistant Editor
The highly anticipated Disney film adaptation of Into the Woods will hit the big screens this Christmas 2014. Until then, anxious fans of the stage version must live vicariously through the trailer released this past summer.
The aesthetic of the movie is a far cry from the campy (but loveable) 1991-filmed stage version starring the original Broadway cast. Director Rob Marshall has branched far out from the minimalist set, and in contrast he is even outdoing Disney itself in grandeur.
Stunning graphics have given the woods a life of their own, literally taking audience members deep into the eerie landscape of trees and branches. The larger than life animation continues, highlighted in Jack’s beanstalk. The famous fairytale plant is shown growing as it spirals upwards and Jack climbs toward the giant.
The graphics provide viewers with a standard of realism that could never be reached in the stage version. Still, the movie holds on to an element of imagination, maintaining the story’s magic.
Along with the breathtaking visuals, the trailer has a chill-inducing orchestral score. The music is a powerful drive as credits show the star-studded cast, including Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine.
Still, there remains one thing missing from the trailer: singing.
If a person with no background on Into the Woods saw this, would they even know it’s a musical? As bizarre as it sounds to advertise a movie-musical as a non-musical, maybe that’s what Disney was going for. Around the same time as the release of the trailer, the 1991-stage version was taken off of Netflix after being there for over a year. Coincidence? Or is Disney purposefully trying to market Into the Woods as a movie first, musical second?
By not letting the public know the characters break out into song and dance, they are allowing for a wider audience range. People who do not especially enjoy theatre will want to see the movie, and musical lovers will want to see how it matches up. It’s a smart move.
The real question is not whether or not it is a musical. No matter how Disney chooses to market it, there will be song and dance numbers. The real question, however, is how much has been changed for the silver screen?
Stephen Sondheim, (who wrote the music and lyrics,) and James Lapine, (who wrote the book,) have guided the process of stage to screen. James Lapine even wrote the screenplay adaptation, which will hopefully ensure that the movie holds onto musical’s true colors. Still, what has been changed?
According to playbill.com, Sondheim revealed that Rapunzel will not be killed and the Baker’s Wife will not sleep with the Prince. Due to the fact that the movie is teamed up with Disney, a lot of the darker plot lines had to be censored.
But here’s where it gets blurry. Although it has been said that changes were made to make the movie lighter, the trailer Disney released is noticeably very dark. So then, did Disney make this trailer especially intense to cover up the alterations?
Some elements are understandable to cut, such as the overtly sexual wolf costume, (which dongs a furry penis,) or even the infidelity between the Baker’s Wife and Cinderella’s Prince. But to change deaths or take out the more depressing parts appears to some as a betrayal of the musical’s core values.
At its heart, Into the Woods is an extremely emotional musical. It is driven by the fact that these fairytale characters are actually three dimensional, and suffer the same troubles everyone else must endure in life. It is the opposite of your typical “happy-ending story,” and it shows that achieving your desires will not always bring happiness. If the darkness is cut out and Disney takes over, they might as well be telling a different story entirely.
Also, since when does Disney have a problem with death? Mufasa? Bambi’s mother? Of course, Rapunzel is one of the newer Disney Princesses, as seen in the 2010 movie Tangled. It’s possible they didn’t want children to think this death overlapped between the two films.
Still, it is always scary when changes are made to theatre to fit the screen. It is unclear how the movie will carry the story out, but the excitement continues to grow as Christmas approaches.
As people wait for the movie, theatre-lovers can only hope that the film version of Into the Woods will stick to its musical roots.