Fantasy to the fore | Sunday Observer

Fantasy to the fore

11 October, 2020

The Plot

As the result of the curse of a once-beautiful witch (Meryl Streep), a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are childless.

Three days before the rise of a blue moon, they venture into the forest to find the ingredients that will reverse the spell and restore the witch’s beauty: a milk-white cow, hair as yellow as corn, a blood-red cape, and a slipper of gold. During their journey, they meet Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack, each one on a quest to fulfill a wish.


Into the Woods is a 2014 American musical fantasy film directed by Rob Marshall, and adapted to the screen by James Lapine from his and Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 Broadway musical of the same name. A Walt Disney Pictures production, it features an ensemble cast that includes Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Lilla Crawford, Daniel Huttlestone, MacKenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen and Jonny Depp. Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales of Little Red Riding Hood ,Cinderella Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel, the film is centered on a childless couple who set out to end a curse placed on them by a vengeful witch. Ultimately, the characters are forced to experience the unforeseen consequences of their actions.

After several unsuccessful attempts by other studios and producers to adapt the musical to film, Disney announced in 2012 that it was producing an adaptation, with Marshall directing and John DeLuca serving as producer. Principal photography commenced in September 2013, and took place entirely in the United Kingdom, including the Shepperton Studios in London.

Into the Woods held its world premiere at the Zeigfeld Theatre in New York City. on December 8, 2014, and was released theatrically in the United States on December 25, 2014. The film was commercially successful and received generally positive reviews, receiving praise for its acting performances (particularly Streep), visual style, production merits, and musical numbers, but received criticism for its lighter tone compared to the source material and the changes made for the film translation. It grossed $213 million worldwide. Into the Woods was named one of the top 11 best films of 2014 by the American Film Institute; the film received three Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Streep, and three Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.

The early attempts of adapting Into the Woods to film occurred in the early 1990s, with a script written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. A reading was held with a cast that included Robin Williams as the Baker, Goldie Hawn as the Baker’s Wife, Cher as the Witch, Danny Devolto as the Giant, Steve Martin as the Wolf, and Roseanne as Jack’s Mother. By 1991, Columbia Pictures and Jim Henson Productions were also developing a film adaptation with Craig Zadan as producer and Rob Minkoff as director. In 1997, Columbia put the film into Turnaround, with Minkoff still attached as director, and Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and Susan Sarandon reportedly in talks to star. After the report by Variety, a film adaptation of Into the Woods remained inactive for 15 years.

While it was initially reported that Disney had decided to make some major plot changes for the film version, Stephen Sondheim revealed that this was not the case and that any changes in the film version had been approved by him and James Lapine.

Thus, the film does slightly differ from the stage production. The songs I Guess This Is Goodbye, Maybe They’re Magic, First Midnight and Second Midnight interludes, Ever After (Act I finale of the original play), So Happy, Into the Woods Reprise, Agony Reprise and No More (performed by the Baker) were cut from the film, although both Ever After and No More are used as instrumentals in the film. Meanwhile, many of the songs in the film have slightly different lyrics than their stage counterparts due to the slight tweaking of story lines.

Other changes include a major reduction of the significant role of the ‘mysterious man’, who manipulates much of the action in the first act and is eventually revealed to be the Baker’s father.

Additionally, the character of the narrator was cut, and the film is instead narrated by the Baker. The minor role of Cinderella’s father was cut, and he is instead mentioned as deceased. Due to the film’s compressed story line, Rapunzel’s pregnancy is eliminated, as is the subplot where the two princes have affairs with Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. In the film, the Giant’s wife first attacks during the marriages of Cinderella and Rapunzel to their respective princes; in the stage show, the Giant’s wife first attacks the Witch’s garden. Rapunzel’s ultimate fate is also changed: rather than being killed by the Giant, she refuses to cooperate with the Witch and flees with her prince.