Disney's family friendly image looks to be scrubbing away elements of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods.
Teaching drama isn't easy.
Larissa MacFarquhar's latest piece for The New Yorker offers a lot of disappointing revelations for fans of the broadway hit. Especially those teachers in the audience of the Academy for Teacher's master class.
Major spoilers are below. Beware.
According to the original score creator, Sondheim, the House of Mouse, there will be pretty big story line changes to the film version. In a sanitized world of purity, a Disney staple since inception, all the darker twisted elements have been stripped away of Into The Woods.
In other words, Johnny Depp's Wolf will no longer lust after the young Little Red Riding.
Kevin Gallagher, of Dalton, asked the lyricist on how to handle the backlash of administration and parental concern. "In middle school, I try to do pieces that are a little more edgy, rather than the fun, light stuff that everyone wants to see." It's easy to read the frustration for the lack of support.
After Sondheim's interruption for clarification of what's the main objection, the teacher offers an expected response. "Infidelity, a wolf being lascivious, that the whole connection with Red Riding Hood is sexual."
Just as Sondheim's response is on point. “Well, you’ll be happy to know that Disney had the same objections."
Nothing can ruin the family friendly image that's sustained the company for at least 75 years. Disneyland's creation pretty much rebranded Anaheim and ABC at the same time.
However, the erasure is odd since the sexual connection has been around pop culture since at least 1966, thanks to the hit "Li'l Red Riding Hood" by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. While not the only artists to make such songs, Sam the Sham has been recorded for movie soundtracks, including Amanda Seyfried for Red Riding Hood (2011).
Dark and twisted fairy tales have gained a strong following over the past several decades. Ask an older millennial and Sigourney Weaver's Evil Queen from 1997's Snow White: A Tale of Terror will still make the eyes go wide in alarm. SyFy's recently made a killing on the appeal thanks to Wizard of Oz updates like Tin Man and a reimagined Alice in Wonderland. Disney is creating a sequel to it's own darker Alice in Wonderland (2010).
What else is going to change?
Sondheim’s pronouncement of “you will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the prince does not sleep with the baker’s wife” caused a collective gasp. “Any Moment,” the song about the baker’s wife questionable chastity has been cut and replaced. Allegedly.
Sondheim offers a piece of advice for teachers struggling with jaded students. “But you have to explain to them that censorship is part of our puritanical ethics, and it’s something that they’re going to have to deal with.”
And a hard lesson for all.
“You have to deal with reality.”
Sources: The New Yorker, Twitter