October 2, 2013

Fairy Tale News Report: Six Upcoming Fairy-Tale Films and a Musical, By Nora Stasio

Mila Kunis, from Jupiter Ascending

Editor's note: Nora shows us that a rich array of movies about fairy tales (and a musical) are in the future. They seem intriguing, and let's hope they live up to the promise we find here.

Fairy-tale films are a hot trend in Hollywood these days. Recently we’ve seen retellings of "Rapunzel," "Snow White," "Little Red Riding Hood," and even "Hansel and Gretel." Some were light-hearted and classical, while others were dark and gritty. If you enjoy a good film adaptation, you’ll be excited to know that this Hollywood trend is far from over. There are plenty more fairy tales coming to the big screen in 2014 and ’15. Most of these projects sound incredibly unique and look promising in their own way. 

First off, Walt Disney Studios has purchased the rights to adapt the 1986 Broadway musical Into the Woods into a feature film. The hit show by Stephen Sondheim takes a serious look at some of the most beloved Grimm fairy tales, delving deeply into themes of family and sexuality, and exploring the consequences of our actions. 

Johnny Depp has been cast as “The Big Bad Wolf,” and his fans couldn’t be more excited to hear it. The most recent casting news, however, is much more controversial. Ten-year-old Sophia Grace Brownlee (best known for singing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show) has signed on to play “Little Red Riding Hood.” Many fans of the original show are flabbergasted. In Sondheim’s version of the “Little Red” fairy tale, the Wolf seduces the red-hooded girl, who is typically played by an adult actress. With a child in this role, does Disney plan to accommodate her by undermining or omitting the sexual themes that the musical brings up? That only begs the question, what other aspects of the original work does the studio plan on changing? And what MPAA rating is Disney aiming for? Time will tell, when more information is released. The film is slated to open December 2014. 

Disney has also commissioned a live-action version of their animated classic Cinderella (1950), to be released in 2015. The star-studded cast includes Cate Blanchett as the Stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. Lily James of Downton Abbey stars as Cinderella, and Richard Madden of Game of Thrones is her Prince Charming. 

Shakespearean master Sir Kenneth Branagh has signed on to direct this adaptation, and he’s assured fans that its plot will aim to stay true to that of the original fairytale. Fans of fairy tales with “an edgy twist” will probably be more interested in Maleficent, which is a live action version of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959), to be released in 2014. Angelina Jolie stars as the titular villainess, and the story is told from her point of view, starting from the tragic days of her adolescence. 
Nora's avatar, by Nora

The team behind such films as The Matrix (1999) and Cloud Atlas (2012) is back in the studio again, this time working on a sci-fi version of "Snow White," of all things. This one is called Jupiter Ascending, and Snow White’s character is called Jupiter Jones, a lowly cleaning lady played by Mila Kunis. She possesses “the perfect DNA” and that makes the “Queen of the Universe” very jealous. 

The romantic lead, in this version, is not a Prince, but the bounty hunter sent by the Queen to kill the fair maiden. Channing Tatum portrays the hit man, a genetically engineered albino wolf-man who falls in love with Jupiter. From the way this synopsis is going so far, it’ll be no surprise if this adaptation diverges greatly from the original fairy tale. We’ll get to see for ourselves in the summer of 2014. 

This last bit of movie news is a conundrum. Have you ever pictured Robert Downey Jr. as the dancing wooden boy, Pinocchio? How about the old wood carver, Gepetto? What would you say if I told you he may be playing both parts, in one film? 

Warner Brothers has been planning a live-action adaption of the classic story “Pinocchio” for some time now, with Tim Burton as director. When Burton dropped out, Ben Stiller, comedian and director of Tropic Thunder, took his place. Downey Jr. was originally set to play Gepetto, but rumor has it, he may also be portraying the wooden boy. It is unknown whether this will be a voice-over role, or if Downey Jr. will actually put on a prosthetic nose and dance around in lederhosen. 

This last bit of news is not film related, but is too tantalizing to leave out. A new musical fairy tale opened in London last month. It’s called “The Light Princess,” and it’s based on a lesser-known fairy tale by beloved Scottish author, George MacDonald. The story revolves around Althea, a princess who cannot cry and is not bound by gravity, and therefore must be locked away -- but she’ll find her escape, and her prince, in due time. 

Singer-Songwriter Tori Amos composed the music and lyrics, and Samuel Adamson wrote the book. It opened in the National Theater on September 25th, 2013. If you happen to be in the UK, to may be able to find a ticket, although they are pretty scarce, with most performances being sold out.

Which of these projects are you most excited for?

Bio: Nora writes, "I have been a lover of creative writing and fairytales for basically my entire life! I just graudated Cum Laude from Rutgers where I completed a minor in English, with a focus in Creative Writing and Shakespeare (I majored in Psychology)." 


  1. One important update: As of mid-September Sophia Grace is no longer playing Red. Her parents and agent "had concerns as rehearsals continued" and decided to withdraw her from the film. 12 year old Broadway "Annie" star Lilla Crawford will now be Red. You can read the details here: http://fairytalenewsblog.blogspot.com/2013/09/breaking-casting-news-into-woods-swaps.html

  2. Also check out our film, H & G, inspired by Hansel and Gretel. Playing film festivals now. www.HG-movie.com

  3. George MacDonald's "The Light Princess" has been my favorite fairy tale for years and years, and I'm a huge fan of musicals. This has been the most exciting news I've heard in a very long time -- thank you! (I'm excited about the movies too!)

  4. InkGypsy, thanks for that update! I wrote this article some time ago, so its a little out of date. Seeing that the replacement girl is only 12, though, that still presents the sames issues as it would for a 10 year. Interesting. Thanks!

  5. I am actually intrigued by the premise and story changes of all the upcoming projects! And thanks to inkGypsy for the update on Ref. :)

  6. I loved reading this essay. I am such a movie fan that I will try to see all of these movies if they open in my small Southern town. I hope Nora will continue to write about this topic.

  7. I tend to be leery of fairy tale movies because I fear they won't be what I want them to be. I am very fond of Into the Woods, but am concerned about how it will come out.