With all the casting news and other tidbits around the movie adaptation of Into the Woods, we had nearly forgotten that it’s a Disney film. But some recent insights from Stephen Sondheim make sure we know exactly what’s up—as the movie cuts a major death and a majorly sexy song. (Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the musical.)
According to the New Yorker (via io9), at a recent master class, Sondheim revealed to an aghast group of drama teachers the changes that the Mouse House had called for. The exchange reads like a sad fairy tale—“The Curse of the Disney Censors”:
“You will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the prince does not sleep with the baker’s wife,” he said.
The teachers gasped, but Sondheim shrugged. “You know, if I were a Disney executive I would probably say the same thing,” he said.
A teacher asked what would happen to the song “Any Moment” if the baker’s wife remained chaste. “Don’t say the song is cut.”
“The song is cut.”
The teachers cried out in despair.
“I’m sorry, I should say, it’s probably cut,” Sondheim said.
“Stick up for that song!” a teacher called out.
“I did, I did,” Sondheim said. “But 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.”
That new song? Is called “Rainbows.”
Fans are understandably disappointed and frustrated, because both Rapunzel’s death and the affair between Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine) and the Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt) are major turning points in the show. Replotting those moments likely removes—or, at the very least, undermines—other beloved songs, including “Moments in the Woods” and what would have been Meryl Streep’s showstopper, “Witch’s Lament.”
Not to mention that the whole point of Into the Woods is to reimagine fairy tales and “happily ever after” with real, flawed, ugly people. It’s too bad that, as we’ve seen Disney get slyer with adult references and asides in their animated films, they’re being so cautious here.
Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures