WARNING: This article contains some spoilers! Proceed with caution.
Disney’s adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway musical “Into the Woods” proved itself an entertaining and family-friendly musical production, with the sacrifice of some of the original content and socially relevant themes.
“Into the Woods” combines classic fairytales that most every child learns growing up into one gargantuan plot. The story centers around the struggles of well-known characters, such as Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). The movie’s opening number depicts each character’s strife, forcing them to travel “Into the Woods” to solve these problems. As is already known by most, Cinderella wants to go to the ball, Rapunzel is trapped in the tower and Little Red Riding Hood must visit her grandmother. There’s also a witch (Meryl Streep), dancing princes (Billy Magnussen and Chris Pine) and a couple of giants that all create havoc within these fairytale woods. All of the characters become intertwined in trying to solve their individual problems, and the musical ends with a fairly satisfying feeling of unification after the characters come together. With a cast including big names such as Streep, the recipient of eight Golden Globes, and Blunt, the movie was destined to be a hit from the get-go. The film also places a lot of faith in some relative new-comers, such as Crawford, and actors that have never before taken on a role in a musical. The mixture of star power and the unknown provided the perfect cast that the production needed to draw attention while maintaining credibility.
The main issue between the already existing fans of “Into the Woods” and Walt Disney Pictures’ audience was creating an adaptation that would tell the original story without some of the mature themes. This production was able to tone down some of the raunchiness and gruesome points of the story while keeping the main essence of the plot intact. One such aspect that was played down was the sexual tension between the Wolf (Johnny Depp) and Little Red Riding Hood. In the original production, the scene that features these two characters is riddled with sexual innuendo, and while in the Disney version this is still apparent to adults, it is displayed in a manner that would not be easily picked up by a younger audience. By toning down this scene and many others within the musical, Disney was able to ensure that this production would remain family-friendly.
However, with the simplification of some themes within the musical, the originality is lost. The stage production of “Into the Woods” has always been applauded for embracing the discussion of taboo topics. Another example in the film adaptation is that a large chunk of Rapunzel’s storyline has been cut out. In the stage version, Rapunzel becomes paranoid and goes mad after marrying her prince, eventually resulting in her being trampled to death by a giant. While it arguably makes sense for Disney to cut her gruesome death out of the movie, by avoiding Rapunzel’s mental instability the movie dodges having to deal with discussions of mental conditions within society. The film also loses its feminist appeal because it no longer demonstrates the idea that a man is not the magical answer to all of a woman’s problems. It seems as though Disney was taking the easy way out by chopping up most of Rapunzel’s storyline.
Another glaring cut in the movie version from the original was the elimination of a large portion of both of the princes’ stories. As in the stage production, Cinderella and Rapunzel are both rescued from their woes by princes. But once again, their plotlines are edited to be less scandalous. The stage version includes the princes going on rampant affairs following their marriages to Rapunzel and Cinderella. These affairs are almost completely absent from the Disney version. Cinderella’s prince does have one very minor fling in the movie, but by decreasing the scale of his infidelity, the impact of showing an audience that fairytale weddings are not realistic is also diminished. Once again, Disney is promoting the idea that men solve all of women’s problems. In a society that is wrapped up in debates over the power of women and feminism, the movie machine had a chance to make a relevant statement, while instead it chose to continue to go with what has been accepted as the norm for years. This was a disappointing choice on Disney’s part but makes the movie nonetheless entertaining without knowledge of the original plot.
Overall, this adaptation of “Into the Woods” was a success in achieving its purpose. The film was able to bring an acclaimed musical to the masses without losing the essential feel of the original. It would have been even better if socially relevant themes had not been cut out, but the movie is fairly entertaining. Hopefully, “Into the Woods” has paved the way for more musicals to make it onto the big screen without compromising their integrity.