November 25, 2014

Into the Woods: Will it be Deep or "Disney-fied"?, By Nora Stasio, Fairy Tale News Reporter

There's been so much buzz about Disney's film adaptation of Sondheim's Broadway hit musical, Into The Woods, I figured it was high time for a focused article on it. We only have one trailer so far, but quite a few still images have been released. I highly recommend you look them up--everything I've seen is really gorgeous. Right now, I've got some cast details for you, plus a few of my thoughts. And at the end, feel free to share yours as well!

This is a star-studded cast if I ever saw one. I'm most excited to see Meryl Streep as "The Witch." Have you seen her costume yet? She looks wonderfully wicked, with silver-blue hair, black mutton sleeves and sharp, untrimmed fingernails. 

British comedienne Tracey Ullman plays the Mother of Jack, from "Jack and the Beanstalk." Daniel Huttlestone, who played Gavroche in 2012's Les Miserables, is Jack. He's only 15 years old.

We've also got Anna Kendrick (from Pitch Perfect) as Cinderella, Chris Pine (Star Trek: Into Darkness) as her Prince, James Corben (One Chance) as the Baker, and Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria) as the Baker's Wife. 

So far, we haven't seen any images of Johnny Depp as "The Big Bad Wolf," aside from a shot in the trailer of one hairy, clawed hand. I guess they're trying to keep his appearance a surprise until opening day. Hopefully that means it'll really knock our socks off.

In a previous article, I'd reported that 10-year-old singer Sophia Grace Brownlee had been cast as Little Red Riding Hood. I had had some concerns about that. Turns out, I wasn't the only one. Sophia Grace's parents pulled her from the project last year. Dominic Brownlee, Sophia's father, spoke about his decision on Twitter. "It was a joint decision between us and the director and producer of "Into the woods" to withdraw Sophia Grace from the film." He continued, "After careful consideration we the parents of Sophia Grace felt that as rehearsals progressed that she was too young for this part."

It would have been interesting to have seen Sophia Grace acting in a serious role, but at least she's got her own Nickelodeon TV movie to make up for it. That should keep her busy enough. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Lilla Crawford will be replacing Sophia, now that her stint as Little Orphan Annie on Broadway has come to an end. 

Despite the Brownlee Family's concerns, I have a feeling the film will not portray the relationship of Little Red and the Wolf as having sexual undertones as per original musical. That would be very un-Disney-like, wouldn't it? After all, Lilla is only 13, and Johhny Depp is 51. That would surely raise more than a few eyebrows. 

Some may ask, why did the musical portray the girl and the wolf in this way? Actually, it is not uncommon for fairy-tale theorists to interpret the original fairytale, "Little Red Riding Hood," as a cautionary tale, to teach young women to steer clear of potential sexual predators. These days, when we read the story to children, we tell them the moral is simply, "don't talk to strangers." But those undertones are always there if you're looking for them. 

One of the reasons the 1970's (note: make that 1980's) musical was so highly regarded was the way that it took the fairy tales we grew up with and made them deeper. By that I mean, of course, that they had always been deep, but adults have always simplified these stories for the sake of children. Many of the most beloved fairy tales of our day are told quite differently now then they were hundreds of years ago. Scenes that were considered too risque or too gruesome for those with puritanical tastes were often removed, or transformed into something a little easier to swallow. 

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods made a deliberate attempt to include aspects of the original stories that had previously been censored or simplified. It also introduced a new theme of "real-life consequences," seeking to explore what may have happened after "happily ever after."

For those who've never seen the show, I don't want to give anything away. But I'm wondering if Disney will stay true to Sondheim's vision, and portray the tales as they once were - deeper, fuller, a little more raw and ugly. Or will Disney turn around and "Disney-fy" what Lapine and Sondheim had previously "un-Disney-fied?"

Judging by the trailer, I think it will be somewhere in-between. Either way, will you be seeing Into the Woods on Christmas Day? Have you seen the musical, and what did you think of it? 

I may follow-up on this story next year, if there's enough to say. See you then!
Bio: Nora writes, "I have been a lover of creative writing and fairy tales for basically my entire life! I recently graduated Cum Laude from Rutgers where I completed a minor in English, with a focus in Creative Writing and Shakespeare (I majored in Psychology)."

Nora, by Nora


  1. Just a FYI, Into the woods was first done on stage in 87. So it is not a 1970's musical.

  2. I'm looking forward to it, although with some reservations about how well they sing. (and the Bernadette Peters Broadway version left behind large slippers to fill). But, FYI, there is another trailer that shows a little more of Johnny Depp than his hand. His expression when he asks RRH what's in her basket could be interpreted the darker way, but I'd like to see the entire scene before I make my final judgment.