By Katie Aramento, Staff Writer
This past week, new footage from the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods” was released, and included clips of songs that we had never heard before. The film’s released date is Christmas of this year.
For those who have been following the production of the film since the beginning, the release of this footage is super exciting. In the video, we hear Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick sing Sondheim’s beloved classics as the Witch, the Baker’s Wife and Cinderella, respectively. And you know what? I didn’t hate it. I mean, Meryl Streep made “Mamma Mia” sound good, and we all know that’s a feat. So it wasn’t surprising when she sang the Witch’s “Stay With Me” absolutely beautifully. It’s haunting, really. Which is exactly how it’s supposed to be.
However, although I really do want to love this movie, there’s something about it that I can’t get past.
“Into the Woods” is a musical with a very important message: be careful what you wish for. In the same respect, the show addresses the idea of adult and parental influence on children, and how vital it is that we are aware of what we say and how we say it. It is for this reason that I simply see it as imperative to the story that Rapunzel is killed after a long struggle for freedom from her mother, and the Baker’s Wife cheats on her husband with Cinderella’s Prince before the giant crushes her. These are major, unavoidable plot points.
Not surprisingly, though, Disney has decided to remove these aspects of the show from their film adaptation.
They can’t kill off Rapunzel because the kids who see the film will cry, and they can’t have the Baker’s Wife cheat because it’s too far out of their comfort zone — I can’t think of a single instance when a fairytale Disney character has even contemplated cheating. But what truly irks me about this is that if Disney wasn’t willing to keep “Into the Woods” the story that it is, they shouldn’t have bought the rights to the film.
Of course, I understand that this is an “adaptation,” and that Disney has never really been true to the fairytales as they were originally written. In the original stories, Ariel is turned into sea foam when Prince Eric doesn’t choose her, and Prince Phillip rapes Sleeping Beauty during her slumber. Most fairytales aren’t exactly kid friendly, and Disney has found a way to adapt the dark stories into upbeat, animated classics.
But sometimes Disney takes things a little too far. At one point, it was even rumored that Disney was going to change the names of the characters in “Into the Woods” to fit those that had already been created in previous animated movies. Rapunzel’s Prince would now be known as Flynn Ryder, the Witch as Mother Gothel, etc. Yikes.
This is where my entertainment values and my theatrical morality collide. I loved the new footage that Disney released. I think that the cinematography is memorizing, the costumes are gorgeous and the actors were very well cast. However, it just isn’t okay with me that Disney doesn’t feel comfortable enough with addressing the consequences of these complex characters’ actions. “Into the Woods” is obviously very dark, but it leaves you feeling something. If, after running away from her exceedingly over-protective Witch-mother and bearing twins with her blind prince, Rapunzel isn’t crushed by the giant, what lesson is there to be learned?
Disney may as well just produce the first act of the musical — everyone would live happily ever after, with no consequences for their selfish wishes. With these major plot points removed, it seems that Disney is just creating a lack-luster fairytale — and this is coming from the girl who knows every lyric to every Disney princess movie ever made. I love Disney movies, and I don’t want to degrade them, however silly they may be. But I also strongly believe that “Into the Woods” is written the way it is for a reason, and the story shouldn’t be so drastically changed in order to garner more viewers and make a bigger profit.
Sondheim and Lapine have had a huge hand in the making of this film, and I would like to believe that those two wouldn’t agree to change anything so drastically that it would anger fans of the show. I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt — my fingers are crossed!