Stephen Sondheim Discusses Disney’s Changes To Into The Woods

Into the Woods1

If proof were needed that the folks over at the Magic Kingdom will preserve their carefully crafted and manufactured brand of purity and innocence at any cost, we got it from Stephen Sondheim in a recent issue of The New Yorker. Discussing the forthcoming adaptation of his musical Into The Woods, he was less than reserved in detailing the process of sanitization that his original work appears to have been subjected to.

A rich cocktail of the most twisted parts of the darkest fairy tales, Into The Woods was certainly a surprising choice for Disney. This adaptation arrives with Rob Marshall (Chicago) at the helm, armed with a screenplay by James Lapine. The impressive all-star cast includes Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Meryl Streep, among others. Stephen Sondheim’s original source material, however, features infidelity, suggestive lyrics and a lecherous wolf leering at a young girl – a story that is not the typical family-friendly fare for which The House Of Mouse is known and loved. But, things can always be changed. Warning – here be spoilers…

“You will find, in the movie, that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the Prince does not sleep with the baker’s wife…Disney said, ‘We don’t want Rapunzel to die, so we replotted it’. I won’t tell you what happens, but we wrote a new song to cover it.”

But, what are the wider implications? Why would Disney even want to adapt such a lurid story, if indeed it so offended its sensibilities? Well, it’s all about compromise – on both sides. For Disney – the name that is synonymous with fairy tales – the studio gets to make a film that gives a relatively fresh take on the same thing they have been producing for decades. For the creator of the original piece, he gets to have his work adapted by a major studio.

“Censorship is part of our puritanical ethics, and it’s something that [people]…have to deal with. There has to be a point at which you don’t compromise anymore, but that may mean that you won’t get anyone to sell your painting or perform your musical. You have to deal with reality.”

The reality seems to be that if you want your work to reach the size of audience only attracted by a major studio production, then you have to let them dilute the flavour a bit. We’ll find out just how diluted the work is when Into The Woods is released on Christmas Day.

Source: The Playlist