Turns Out Disney Isn’t Completely Mangling 'Into The Woods' After All


When news broke last week that, according to composer Stephen Sondheim, Disney might be making some major changes to beloved musical Into the Woods, the response was quite vocal and quite angry. And not just from us. Well in a statement released today, Sondhiem walked back some of the claims that were reported in The New Yorker. (And accused them of “misreporting” him, to boot.) Sondheim says:



The fact is that James (Lapine, who wrote both the show and the movie) and I worked out every change from stage to screen with the producers and with Rob Marshall, the director. Despite what the New Yorker article may convey, the collaboration was genuinely collaborative and always productive.

When the conversation with the teachers occurred, I had not yet seen a full rough cut of the movie. Coincidentally, I saw it immediately after leaving the meeting and, having now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie.

And for those who care, as the teachers did, the Prince's dalliance is still in the movie, and so is “Any Moment.”


The alleged “misrepresentation” aside (I never got the sense from The New Yorker piece that Sondheim and Lapine weren’t willing and cheerful collaborators), this is still mixed news. My concerns about Disney’s unwillingness to both bump off Rapunzel (and damage their princess branding), and sexualize the Big Bad Wolf still hold. It’s fantastic news that they’re keeping “Any Moment”/“Moments in the Wood.” As I mentioned last week, the reprise could be a showstopper for Emily Blunt, and the first part will provide a brilliant bit of comedic hypocrisy from Chris Pine’s prince.


But the basic problem around keeping Rapunzel alive is how it turns older mums, and witches, and ordinary baker’s wives into acceptable collateral, while the beautiful princesses remain immune. If both Cinderella and Rapunzel (not to mention Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in brief cameos) make it through the bloodbath that is Act II intact, that sucks the sting out of some of Sondhiem’s murkier lyrics like: “Witches can be right / Giants can be good / You decide what's right / You decide what's good” and “Careful the wish you make / Wishes are children / Careful the path they take / Wishes come true, not free.” When you start sparing characters for the sake of corporate branding, you erode the brilliant, complicated message of this delightfully dark show.

It’s a comfort to know that, as Sondheim assures us, some of the darkness remains. (We have to wonder how displeased Disney was with his earlier comments and how much that displeasure had to do with his subsequent statement.) And it’s also wise, when it comes to adaptation, to reserve final judgment until you’ve actually seen the film. But at this point, bloodthirsty as it may sound, anything less than a flattened Rapunzel will be a bit of a letdown.

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