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Into the Woods: Has Disney gone too far cleaning up Sondheim’s naughty forest?

Themes of infidelity and lust in Sondheim’s musical prove too risqué for Disney.

It looks like Into the Woods fans are in for a few shockers when the film hits theaters this December. Disney, the studio behind the musical adaptation featuring A-list celebrities like Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, has decided that some of the twisted fairy tales the musical presents are a little too naughty for the Disney label.

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Into the Woods tells the story of a witch who plots to teach important lessons to various characters from popular children’s stories, including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. The fairy tales address adult themes and involve a number of violent deaths and broken hearts, all punctuated by some truly fabulous songs.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

With Disney making changes to the story line, however, some of those songs find themselves in danger of being cut.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, the musical’s author, Stephen Sondheim, explained that Disney objected to more than a few key plot twists, including the lascivious nature of the Big Bad Wolf (played by Johnny Depp). In the stage musical, the wolf lusts after Little Red Riding Hood, which dramatizes the danger older men can be to young women. Disney was uncomfortable with the idea of Depp seducing a young girl on screen, however, and the story has been modified as a result.

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Other changes include not killing off Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and doing away with an adulterous scene between one of the story’s princes (Chris Pine) and the Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt).

“Disney said, we don’t want Rapunzel to die, so we replotted it,” explains Sondheim. “I won’t tell you what happens, but we wrote a new song to cover it.”

And with the adultery scene cut, there’s little reason for the prince to sing “Any Moment”, crushing fans everywhere.

While it’s certainly no surprise that Disney wants to be sensitive to its family base, one has to wonder if they’re going overboard with some of the demands they’re making of the script. Fans will no doubt be upset that the story has changed (and that one of the best songs has been cut as a result), but what about the story’s originator?

“You know, if I were a Disney executive I would probably say the same thing,” said Sondheim. “Censorship is part of our puritanical ethics. There has to be a point at which you don’t compromise anymore, but that may mean that you won’t get anyone to sell your painting or perform your musical.”

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Sondheim’s response may sound a little pessimistic, but we have to admit, we’re looking forward to hearing the new Rapunzel song. Changes may be in the works, but since the man making the changes is the master himself, maybe a slightly different forest won’t be such a bad thing, after all.

Into the Woods opens in theaters this December.

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