What is it about the woods?

Anna Kendrick (and her cheekbones) as Cinderella

This has been a big 24 hours for “Disney’s Into the Woods” updates. A series of 10 still photos AND the first official trailer (and not the fake “teaser” that has infuriatingly been passed around for months) have been released. Taken together, they don’t really tell us anything we don’t already know. But after months filled with nothing but concerns about cut scenes and songs (which might not be cut in the first place/second place)–and during which the bizarre ANNIE remake has gotten TWO trailers–I’m willing to savor the potato caught by the slotted spoon and not worry about how little soup is there. Some quick thoughts:

  • Based on the information before us, “Disney’s Into the Woods” looks like all the other contemporary re-imaginings of fairy tale worlds we’ve seen this decade. CGI beanstalks and thorn bushes break through the earth with the same crunching sound that dominates every trailer from Maleficent to Pompeii. I don’t think this means the movie has been re-conceived as an action-adventure movie (but there isn’t much to imply it’s anything else either).
  • They’re being awfully coy with the reveal of Johnny Depp as The Wolf, leading me to wonder what sort of tickery they have in mind for the character. (What I really want to know is whether Robert Westenberg will make a cameo as the wolf’s penis.)
  • Meryl Streep’s Witch is the only character who gets to so something besides “I wish”, and her “go to the WOODS!” is appropriately deranged.
  • The move seems very excited to have Chris Pine in it, but shoots Billy Magnussen as a horse-riding spec on the horizon, like he’s Marla Hooch in A League of their Own.
  • This is a “serious trailer”, so we don’t see any glimpses of Tracey Ullman as Jack’s mother or Christine Baranski’s Step Mother (though there are still shots of both).
  • There’s no singing either. The underscoring cleverly weaves familiar musical themes throughout, but not a sensible sixteen-bars of “Children Will Listen”. At some point they’re going to have to tell people that this is a musical…but that point may be Christmas day, 5 minutes after the movie begins.
  • But I wonder if the Gothic nature of the trailer is more than a blatant attempt to trick people who are not interested in musical comedies into seeing a musical comedy: Perhaps it is Disney’s way of signalling to the fans riled up by Sondheim’s reports that the studio demanded the elimination of a few mature plot points that the Mouse is not afraid of the musical’s darker subject matter.

Isn’t it nice to know a lot? (And a little bit not).

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