When news broke that Into the Woods, one of the most popular works by the immensely celebrated Stephen Sondheim, would be made into a movie, there was plenty of excitement to go around. When that news included the fact that it would be produced by Walt Disney Studios, however, that excitement was more than a little dampened. Many fans, myself included, were worried that the squeaky clean company with a penchant for glossing over (or straight-up re-writing) anything objectionable in a fairy tale would make drasticchanges to the musical and its very adult overtones.
When Playbill released some comments Sondheim made regarding the film’s production, it seemed all our fears were realized.
Fairy tales have been retold time and again throughout our history, and the versions of popular stories differ depending on what year and in which culture the stories are being told. For example, in the oldest version of Cinderella, her slipper is made of gold, and in the version popularized by Disney, the slipper is made of glass. And who can forget Tangled’s Rapunzel saying, “I have magic hair that glows when I sing!” (I sure can’t.) These smaller differences only served to make stories that were meant to teach morals a little more fanciful. But there have been bigger differences as well.
Recently a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, Maleficent, hit theaters. As you know or might have guessed from the title, it’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the evil fairy’s point of view. It added a whole magical world full of fairy creatures onto the original kingdom ruled by King Stefan. But in the original tale, fairies didn’t exist, and obviously none of the “magic” they performed did either.