I love the theater and all the stage shows that come out of it. One I recently found on Netflix and might have noticed a little late is Into the Woods. If you’re unfamiliar with this title it’s a 1987 Broadway musical about the fairy tale characters we all know and love, but with a twist to them. No, not a quirky Once Upon a Time kind of twist, but a twist that connects back to the original tales that were a little gritty and didn’t always come with a “happily ever after.” While Into the Woods has its fair share of lighthearted moments and whimsical songs, it also brings to light the darker undertones of these old stories and shows the audience that life doesn’t grant us romanticized happy endings.
Disney has already been working on an Into the Woods movie adaption that will be coming to theaters this December and even though it’s exciting to hear that Into the Woods will finally make it onto the silver screen, it’s less thrilling to know that Disney will need to do some editing – a lot of editing. The movie will no longer have a pivotal death that has a lasting effect on one of the leads as well as acting as a moral for the story and the filmmakers will also be deleting a plot changing affair (which means an amazing song will be thrown away along with it). There are already a number of articles floating around that go into the changes with detail and commentary and I’m not here to explain the cuts, I’m here to say why these cuts may not be a good idea.
Into The Woods (1987) Production Photos (http://www.playbillvault.com)
I understand that Disney needs to keep their films family friendly and that Disney is a colossal corporation that will help give the old musical a revived exposure. I just don’t think that Disney should be the one handling a complicated musical like Into the Woods. Even though it’s performed at high schools with reasonable cuts, it’s not meant to be kid friendly. It’s supposed to have gritty undertones that aren’t easily overlooked and by cutting out the darker material the entire film is stripping the musical of it’s courage and originality. Now, the musical doesn’t have R-rated material and you can take your child to watch it, but be prepared to explain that the charming prince isn’t always faithful and that even the “good” characters meet an untimely (and a little gruesome) demise. And that’s a good thing to teach to someone young and I’m sure that kids today aren’t sheltered from those pieces of truth. Not to mention that the play itself (at least the original Broadway run) doesn’t present gore or anything that would make someone shift uncomfortably in their seat. Everything is done tastefully and clean, but the audience still understands that the bad wolf wants more out of Red Riding Hood than her basket of goodies and that just because a character is labeled as “good” doesn’t always mean their actions will reflect what is traditionally perceived as “good.” I worry that Disney will clean this film up to the point where those learning events will be pushed aside or vanish entirely in favor of the classic and overly used, “if you’re a good person and believe in yourself anything is possible” type moral.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the classic Disney films and I know that not all of their movies hide the ugly truths of the world (especially when you go into Pixar territory), but Into the Woods isn’t Into the Woods without the gritty elements. It’s a shame because these elements are done with great care too and instead of throwing a moral into your face, they gently nudge it towards you through the use of clever lyrics and quips. If those elements fade into oblivion then the moral of don’t go into the woods – be cautious and understand that the world can be dark, unfair, and cruel will deteriorate. Instead of learning to be careful of the woods, new viewers will wonder what’s so bad about going into the woods after all?