Stephen Sondheim Reveals Disney’s Sanitized Plot Changes For ‘Into the Woods’

Stephen Sondheim Reveals Disney's Sanitized Plot Changes For 'Into the Woods'

A twisted take on classic fairy tales, featuring no shortage of sexual innuendo and other not-family-friendly deeds, it was not a matter of what Disney would change in their big screen adaptation of “Into The Woods,” but how much of it would get tweaked. Well, according to the musical’s original writer Stephen Sondheim, a fair bit.

In a recent article in The New Yorker, Sondheim revealed the various changes that Disney has made to his Broadway hit, and fans will likely be disappointed (warning: some spoilers ahead). Where to start? How about the sexually charged encounter between Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and the Wolf (Johnny Depp). According to Sondheim, Disney had “objections” over how it originally played with the Wolf lusting after a little girl, and it doesn’t end there with the stuff they didn’t like about the original “Into The Woods.” 

“You will find in the movie that Rapunzel [Mackenzie Mauzy] does not get killed, and the prince [Chris Pine] does not sleep with the [Baker’s Wife, played by Emily Blunt].” And speaking of the latter scene, in which Cinderella’s prince effectively cheats on her, the song connected to the sequence, “Any Moment,” has also “probably” been cut, with Sondheim writing a new tune for the scene. But while Sondheim seems not particularly pleased with these edits, he’s also pragmatic about it all too.

“You know, if I were a Disney executive I probably would say the same thing,” he said, adding: “…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. You have to deal with reality.”

So the question is whether the compromise is worth having a big budget adaptation of your work by a major studio. Well, for Sondheim, it’s clearly an uncomfortable fit but one he’s willing to go along with for now. “Into The Woods” opens on Christmas Day. Check out theatre videos below of the sequences likely cut or altered in Disney’s movie. [Playbill/USA Today]

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New sources state that the prince is going to cheat on his wife. No word on whether Rapunzel dies.


In other words they will tranform the stage production into a kid movie. I'll leave it to the Disney fansboys to spend their money on this watered down version-I won't see it.

I'm surprised that Sondheim was allowed to talk about the changes at all-obviously the target group are not Sondheim fans but the typical Disney audience? It's funny enough that Sondheim has realeased a statement that he was "misquoted"-which translates "Disney embezzled Sondheim".

Good that "The Lord of the rings" was adapted by Peter Jackson, Disney would have cut all the evil fight scenes and sold it as "The Lord of the rings…." (lol). What they do is fraudulent labelling-they steal the plot mess around with it and sell it as "Into the Woods".

And I'd agree that Disney should come up with own movies instead of depriving artworks that were not meant for kids of their meaning by means of censorship. I'd also call it a bastardization of art.
The only good thing about the movie is that I won't have to see it.


It's too bad HBO or Showtime doesn't start producing and airing these. I'd rather see the original on cable than a watered down Disney version.


WTF! First they cut the choruses from Sweeney Todd… Now this? Why bother at all then. Guess I'll take a pass and tell those in the dark about the naught bits they are missing.


Why. The orginal was perfect and a remake is not need. Don't charge things for Disney. Instead staw with the story you had. Better yet, write something new. And when you do take it to a company that will make it your way.


I'm much less interested now in seeing the film.


They better not take out what happens to Cinderella's evil step sisters (like in both the original story and this musical)

Nicole C

"Stay With Me" was the wrong video to post. I have no doubt that "Stay With Me" will still be an important part of the film. It's the reprise sung after Rapunzel's change which will be different.

This has been done before. Fosse changed Cabaret so much the characters and plot was almost unrecognizable compared to the stage play. Most movie musicals are substantially different from the play; that's because they're not the same.

I assumed the sexual innuendo and the affair between The Baker's Wife and Prince Charming would be toned down or cut altogether.

I just can't imagine how ITW will play out without Rapunzel's death. That's the one which is most disheartening because it's a major moment for The Witch and the repercussions of that moment are felt throughout the rest of the play. But the world is getting two new Sondheim songs out of this and I sincerely hope the writers will find excellent alternatives which will surprise people (like myself) who know this show inside and out. Give the movie a chance.

And by the way, Sondheim isn't doing this for the money. He's got plenty. I imagine he's doing this to turn a new generation on to his amazing music.


Had to sit through this almost-good play several times when my son was in it in high school. I thought it would have been a good show if it had ended at intermission. It has some good songs, and a lot of forgettable ones. The second act is depressing and dull. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like Disney is doing anything to make it better.

James M.

"Hello, Little Girl" came across as sexually implicit because of characterization and stage direction, not lyrics. The number can easily be left in, with the intimation that the Wolf simply wants to devour Red as a meal, and not as a sexual conquest.

Stacy Brown

I'm fine with the proposed changes. I was really uncomfortable watching "Hello Little Girl" with my drama students when we watched the video version. In fact, I think I skipped over the thrusting/howling part altogether. When we saw it at a Christian university live, it was toned down and we were much more able to concentrate on the messages Sondheim wanted us to think about. However, I'm not sure the general public is ready for the darkness of act 2. It's unavoidable! Even if Rapunzel doesn't die, many others do. I'm hoping Disney will be able to keep the darkness, the themes, and the humor while tweaking the plot!

Roger Cotton

Stop blaming Puritans for what Progressives in Hollywood do.

It is they who run Disney and Hollywood, and it is they who are censoring Into the Woods.

Which is odd, given how uncensored Disney/ABC TV shows are.

Kelly Hamilton

I didn't love "Into The Woods" as much as everyone else did. For me, it never lived up to its brilliant concept, which could have been so much more light-hearted and captivating. Every now and then, compromise leads to a better product. The combination of Sondheim and Disney could lead to something brilliant — let's wait and see. Frankly, I'm surprised there is going to be a move at all.


Sondheim's no stranger to the need to compromise. There's a great scene in Act 2 of Sunday in the Park with George where the artist is schmoozing with donors at the opening for his current exhibition. He sings:

Link by link,
Making the connections…
Drink by drink
Fixing and perfecting the design.
Adding just a dab of politician
Lining up the funds but in addition
Lining up a prominent commission,
Otherwise your perfect composition
Isn't going to get much exhibition.
Art isn't easy.
Every minor detail
Is a major decision,
Have to keep things in scale,
Have to hold to your vision-
Every time I start to feel defensive,
I remember lasers are expensive.
What's a little cocktail conversation
If it gets the funds for your foundation,
Leading to a prominent commission,
And an exhibition in addition?

Art isn't easy-


See, my high school performed this in my junior year. And we cut out only one thing: the wolf's genitals. That was it (oh and we didn't have blood because we couldn't figure out how to make it work but nonetheless). Maybe Disney shouldn't have take this because it'll be so watered down it won't be at all like the original. I wish Sondheim would've just stuck up for the musical and just said "No"


"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. You have to deal with reality."
OR you can fight the powers that be and help take Disney down a notch. They have been whitewashing stories for decades and no one ever stands up to them. SMH


does that wolf have his genitals hanging out…


So it's going to suck. Got it.


Perhaps he could have negotiated with another studio instead of Disney, who has far more kid-friendly reputation to protect. I'm surprised to an extent that they ever even release a PG-13 film. Pirates of the Caribbean was risque for their brand!


I'm still doubting the accuracy of the New Yorker article, based on three facts:
1) Sondheim's new song comes after Rapunzel's not-death, not replacing Any Moment. Furthermore, it is replaced with the now slightly mad Rapunzel running into the night, unable to deal with the characters any more
2) Hello Little Girl is toned down, but not cut and not completely stripped
3) These changes, as well as the one I about to point out, come from the script I have read and reports from the film test screenings (which were well received), and both say the Prince and Baker's Wife cheat, but sleeping together is merely implied and Any moment remains intact
The musical will certainly be toned down, and yes, this will hurt one of my all time favorite musicals, but I still doubt these damning changes they claim


Changing or stripping out "Hello Little Girl" and the scene with Red & the Wolf…ny enthusiasm for this film just went from over the clouds to bottomed out. That is one of THE single most ICONIC scenes and songs from the show. High school Music Theatre competitors have been doing it for decades, uncensored. What the heck….Super disappointed. Don't think I even want to see it now.


Just because something has fairy tale characters in it DOESN'T mean it's for kids. You can't take something that wasn't meant for kids and sanitize to be for kids. That's a bastardization of art. Kids need to see sex, death, and infidelity for what they are. The musical doesn't teach that those are good things! There are negative repercussions for the character's actions, if one would actually pay attention to the lyrics of the musical numbers that were cut.

But it's not worth getting emotional, because we all knew it would happen. Anytime someone attempts to adapt a musical, they simply screw it over. This is no exception. So I hope all these nuns and helicopter moms enjoy taking their kids to this a padded, coddle-worth piece of crap.


I get why they are doing it but I think they are taking it too far. Death and infidelity are facts of life. Happens all the time and not anything that children should be hidden from. Kids that watch this will have to deal with things like that in life, whether it is their parents, other peoples parents, relatives etc.

But the wolf lusting after the underage girl? Yeah, we can take that out for sure.


Changing the content does not equal censorship.


I think Disney did the best thing for this musical. I'm glad they took a stand and gave the musical morals, instead of leaving it immoral. I think they are doing the world a favor.


So… The same thing every high school has been doing since it started being done by 14-18 year olds?


Just what we need. A nice pervy Disney movie with sexual undertones of molestation. Yeah like the real Disney executives :)


"Any Moment" was still in the film script and, while Cinderella's prince didn't sleep with the baker's wife, they did kiss again and again.

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