Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Maybe, Disney isn’t Bowdlerising Into the Woods after all

Stephen Sondheim’s seeks to clarify remarks made in a New Yorker story as regards the film of his classic musical

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 23:10


This is a confusing one. A few days ago, we reported on a New Yorker story in which Stephen Sondheim told a group of teachers that a nervy Walt Disney, producers of the film version of Into the Woods, was set to tidy away some of the more risqué elements of that great musical. Specifically, “Rapunzel does not get killed, and the prince does not sleep with the baker’s wife.” In order to facilitate the last change, Sondheim had “probably” been forced to cut the song “Any Moment”. He has since released a statement that flatly contradicts much of the New Yorker story. Here it is:

“An article in The New Yorker misreporting my ‘Master Class’ conversation about censorship in our schools with seventeen teachers from the Academy for Teachers a couple of weeks ago has created some false impressions about my collaboration with the Disney Studio on the film version of Into the Woods. The fact is that James (Lapine, who wrote both the show and the movie) and I worked out every change from stage to screen with the producers and with Rob Marshall, the director. Despite what The New Yorker article may convey, the collaboration was genuinely collaborative and always productive. When the conversation with the teachers occurred, I had not yet seen a full rough cut of the movie. Coincidentally, I saw it immediately after leaving the meeting and, having now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie. And for those who care, as the teachers did, the Prince’s dalliance is still in the movie, and so is ‘Any Moment.’”

Upper-end American organs such as The New Yorker quite rightly take accuracy very seriously indeed. So, it will be interesting to see how the magazine responds. At best, there are some seriously crossed wires here.