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Cautiously Optimistic

Disney Announces Into the Woods Movie, We Doubletake

This morning, in a move not unlike George Lucas announcing a Spaceballs remake, Disney has announced that they are preparing to bring the heavily narratively deconstructive Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods to the silver screen. Now, before you get worried that all the narratively interesting parts are going to be stripped out before it gets to the set, James Lapine, the original writer (of the text, where Sondheim penned the music) of Into the Woods is on board to adapt the two act musical to screen. If you’re wondering why this is a really interesting move for Disney, read on.

But first, the actual announcement:

The Walt Disney Studios recently announced that Rob Marshall is set to direct a film adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway musical Into the Woods, featuring Stephen Sondheim’s original music. The film will be produced by Marshall and John DeLuca through their production company LUCAMAR Productions. James Lapine, who wrote the stage musical with Stephen Sondheim, will adapt for the screen. The project is in development under a new multi-year producing deal between Disney and LUCAMAR.

Rob Marshall most recently directed Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides for Disney, but was also the director behind Chicago, so we’ll assume he can do better with a good script.

Here’s the thing about Into the Woods. It is a retelling of the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, with mentions of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty that pulls no punches and often includes more of the gruesome motifs of the actual fairy tales (like step-sisters eyes getting pecked out, and a bald Rapunzel wandering in the desert) than the Disney versions ever did. And that’s just the first act, where everybody gets what that want. That’s right: by the end of the first act, everybody is set to live happily ever after. Surely you must be wondering what’s in the second act. This:

The curtain opens and all of the characters face understandable, realistic unhappiness or disillusionment with how they have wound up (the Princes and Princesses tire of the relationships they founded on whims, the Baker and his wife long for more space to raise their new family in, Jack misses the adventure provided by the beanstalk), and the unforeseen consequences of the heroes getting what they want come back with a vengeance. The widow of the giant Jack slew, for example, rages with grief, murdering several major characters and destroying pretty much everybody’s home.

Then the entire cast collaborates to sacrifice the narrator to the giantess, major characters are accidentally killed in fits of panic and rage, every character has extended moments of moral weakness and paranoia, and ultimately everybody decides that they have no idea what is morally correct or who is ultimately to blame for their problems. They must simply try to end the current violence with more violence if necessary, and start (at the end of the play) with a clean slate, promising not to pass on this tangle of curses, oaths, and misunderstanding to the next generation, as many of their parents did to them.

Disney wading into the territory of deconstructing their own princess stories? I’m on board.

(via Wired.)


  • Anonymous

    I see your Doubletake and raise you a jaw drop. But then I get excited!

  • Anonymous

    I already don’t like it, just like I didn’t like seeing the real Into The Woods after first seeing the neutered middle school play version (which ended after the first act). Disney has their market cornered, and that market is where everything pretty much ends up Happily Ever After. I don’t want depressing realism in my Disney; it’d be like topping your ice cream with a rotten cherry.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but will they “Disneyfy” it, like they did all of the other fairy tales?  The Little Mermaid, H.C.A. version, is a whole lot more dark, with no happy ending in sight.  Disney gives us Ariel.  Now, while I LOVE the Disney’s Little Mermaid, it is in no way true to the original.  So where would that leave Into the Woods?  A happy ending in Act I and a happier ending in Act II?  I honestly have no idea.

  • Anonymous

    What do you want to bet Disney only shoots the first act?

  • Terence Ng

    Maybe they’ll release it through Touchstone.

  • Terence Ng

    Aw, shucks. And “No One Is Alone” is one of my favorite showtunes.

  • Anonymous

    Good point. Maybe if it’s not under the mouse umbrella in an obvious way, it would be ok. I still probably don’t want to see it… I have enough depressing realism in my own life.

  • Elissa Sussman

    In a frenzy of theatre geekery, I made a suggested cast list in the hopes that the movie will not be a watered down version of my favorite show.

  • Megan Jeffrey

    I do the doubletake… and then facedesk. I’m sorry, Chicago was OK, but what Rob Marshall did to NINE was horrific. Now, it’s perhaps unfair to put all the blame on his shoulders, but every song in that movie was played at the most funereal tempo and he made several narrative changes that kind of robbed the story of its heart. Glad Lapine is on-board, but I’ll approach this with some muted excitement. On an unrelated note, what the what Geroge Lucas, what the what?! 

  • Eric Lindberg

    This is one of my favorite musicals. I’ve been hoping for a movie version for years but never expected Disney to be involved. Let’s hope they don’t screw it up or water it down. Having Lapine and Marshall on board seems promising.

  • Ryan Sinclair

    Why is Disney adapting this? It sounds HORRIBLE!. 

  • Francesca M

    Its a fantastic musical, it really is. that summary might not be the best for the story, but it is NOT disney. Not at all.

  • Francesca M

    I’m not opposed to an “into the woods” movie. Just opposed to DIsney and Rob Marshall. Also who will be the Witch, Bernadette Peters owns that role.

    Also it was available on PBS for viewing years ago. If you can find it, I reccomend people pick it up.  

  • Elissa Sussman

    It should be on Netflix Streaming, as well.

  • Anonymous

    On reflection, I realized that there are currently two darkish adult fairy tale shows: Grimm & Once Upon A Time which is on ABC (Disney). Plus we have the Glee phenomenon and it all starts to make sense. In fact, a Les Mis movie, with Hugh Jackman(!) as Valjean & Helena Bonham Carter as Mme. Thénardier is being made this year.

  • Eric Lindberg

    It’s an amazing show actually. I think this post just emphasized the dark elements (and got a bit spoiler-heavy) to show how un-Disney-like it is. It’s masterfully handled in the play. A very mature take on fairy tales and the consequences of getting what one wished for.

  • Allison Cole

    I don’t know if I should be excited or apprehensive. I really love anything that Stephen Sondheim does, and I thought that the most recent movie adaptation of his work, Sweeney Todd, did a really good job dealing with a fantastic but somewhat difficult work. I still prefer the stage version, but I’ll admit that it was very good. So I know that his shows can get a successful cinematic treatment, and I honestly like the idea of Disney doing this one. I think that a company that has devoted so much to fairy tales might benefit from taking on a work that examines the form in a very insightful, and ultimately uplifting way. The article makes the show out to be a lot more cynical than it actually is. Rather than discarding the basic lessons of the fairy tale for the sake of “realism”, the musical uses it’s dark tone to demonstrate, and ultimately celebrate, the enduring value of those lessons.Disney could do worse than take on such a smart, and really wonderful show. BUT, I really really don’t like Rob Marshall as director. In my opinion, he can’t direct a musical to save his life, and I just don’t trust him. We’ll see, I guess. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m not the biggest fan of Rob Marshall, but he did really good work with “Chicago”; I think the problems with “Nine” were related to the source material. “Into the Woods” is much easier to turn into a film than Sweeney Todd, and Burton & John Logan (screenwriter) did wonders with that.

  • Elizabeth O

    Awesome picks!  I would have commented on your site, but I don’t have the proper type of account to allow me to post.

  • Francesca M

    OMFG ITS ON STREAMING?!??!?!?!?!??!?!?!

  • tardis_stowaway

    Your news about an upcoming Les Mis movie literally made my jaw drop as I clutched at my heart in excitement.  DO WANT.

  • Bianca

    Thats what I was thinking. That’s how  kids do it in schools. 

  • Bianca

    Yup. I watch it every once in a while. 

  • Bianca

    Well, Disney has been branching out a bit, with Marvel and all. 

  • Tahlia Merrill

    I was in a production of Into the Woods as a stepsister–I would love to see it as a movie…although some of those scenes could get pretty sexual when put on the screen versus the stage.

  • Francesca M

    Yes but Taylor Swift just got cast.

  • Francesca M

    See for me I had a huge problem with Chicago, because I loathed that he felt he had to explain that the musical was happening in her mind so to speak. People have been watching musicals for decades, we get it. We know its not the real world there is no need for the explanation.

  • Adam Whitley


  • Jodie

    I was in a production of Into the Woods as the Witch. I am incredibly anxious about this adaptation. ITW is my absolute favorite musical. It’s complex, snarky, poignant, and so smartly written. It would also be incredibly easy for Hollywood to screw up. Anyways, there’s already a recorded version of the stage musical with the original cast.

    They’re also making a Les Miserable movie with Taylor Swift playing Eponine. This new wave of musical movies is making me nauseous.

  • Frodo Baggins

    “Rob Marshall is set to direct”

    That’s all I needed to hear. This movie is gonna blow.

  • Frodo Baggins

    I hated Chicago, and not just because it stole the Oscars for costume design and art direction from my far more deserving franchise.

  • Francesca M

    Once again, Luv you frodo.

  • Crystal Love

    White I agree that Disney is notorious for watering things down I think we need to go back in our memory banks to the time when Disney actually made movies with creepy/darker themes (i.e. “The Watcher in the Woods,” “Escape to Witch Mountain,” “The Tower of Terror,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, “Return to OZ”, and “The Black Cauldron”) I believe DIsney is capable of pulling it off if they just remember that they are not only the creators of Happy Endings, but storytellers as well, and not every story has a happy ending.

  • Shania

    *shivers*…That story.Just…woah. Might just have to take a trip to broadway.

  • Anonymous

    I wish someone would do a movie version of next to normal

  • Wes Gooberman

    Also the sexual references and the seducing scene between the Baker’s wife and Cinderella’s Prince

  • Wes Gooberman

    And maybe they will make it an adult disney movie not for kids

  • Anna Singleton

    I heard Michelle Dockery known for her role as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey auditioned for the cinderella part. Whether she got it is another mystery