Once Upon a Time . . . Things Went Very, Very Badly

Originally set to premiere this December, the movie adaptation of Into the Woods has been delayed until January 2015. You may have seen its trailer in theaters this summer, in fact, and if you haven’t, here eet ‘tis.

This version of Stephen Sondheim’s (remember Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street–yea, that’s his type of work) musical is set to be rather star-studded (Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, James Corden, geez, shall I go on?). However, from the trailer, director Rob Marshall and screenwriter James Lapine seem to be aiming for a much . . . happier version? I’m not sure what word works here. 

Sondheim’s original musical involved two parts: the amalgamation of several fairy tale character storylines such as Little Red Riding Hood, Jack in the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella in Act One, and then in Act Two, the snowballing effect of how real life just doesn’t work out that way. Seriously it gets fantastically meta.

This 2015 film does not look like it will be factoring in Act Two much at all, which makes me sad. If you’ve ever seen the musical or participated in it (don’t ask me what part I portrayed in high school – it made no rational sense), you’ll know what I mean.

Sondheim’s almost-never-ending songs can make you both laugh and cry trying to learn them, but his themes, satirical lyrics, and overall grittiness draw you in. I can only hope this movie conveys a fraction of that feeling. Sadly, the current PG rating dampens my expectation just a wee bit.

Doesn’t mean I’m not still excited to see it!


Here’s my effort to ensure that Sondheim’s incorporation of the bloodier aspects of the 1812 Grimm Brothers’ Children’s and Household Tales need not be lost. Basically, I’m telling you what Disney sucked out of these stories in order to make them all shiny and happily-ever-after. If you’re at all clingy to such endings, don’t continue reading. Your childhood memories may suffer.


  • There is no fairy godmother. Instead, Cinderella prays at her mother’s grave under a tree and finds a dress in its roots.
  • She doesn’t accidentally lose her glass slipper on the steps of the palace. The prince lines them with pitch and ensnares the shoe that way. Clever, clever. But creepy, yes?
  • Cinderella’s two step sisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the tiny shoes. Later, while trying to regain favor at Cinderella’s wedding, they get their eyes plucked out by Cinderella’s helpful birds (not mice).


  • Rapunzel and her prince “do the dance with no pants” before escaping the tower. Dame Gothel, the evil witch–who actually obtained her in a bargain with her thieving parents–finds out and disowns her, making her fend for herself in the woods.
  • The prince finds the witch there the next day and jumps from the tower in despair. For this act of suicide, he is blinded by the thorns below.
  • Ah, but the pair do reunite later, so don’t cry.

Red Riding Hood

  • The wolf does actually eat Little Red and her grandmother whole. The huntsman only frees them by slicing the wolf’s belly open . . . which he then fills with rocks so that the wolf can’t flee and dies instead.
  • There is a second wolf (!) that waits to eat Little Red when she’s headed home, but she tricks him with a pail of sausages. Yea. Take that how you will.

Jack and the Beanstalk

  • Note: Not a Grimm Brothers fairy tale, but an English one known mostly from Joseph Jacobs’ The Home Treasury in 1842.
  • Pretty much the same story: magic beans create a beanstalk into a giant couple’s home, into which Jack climbs and steals their valuables.
  • In the end though he chops the beanstalk, killing the giant, and his impoverished mother and he get to keep all the loot.

EXTRAS (not in Into the Woods)

 The Little Mermaid

  • A Hans Christian Anderson tale in which the mermaid must make the prince love her or DIE.
  • All the while, her magical legs make every step feel like walking on broken glass.
  • The prince marries the wrong woman and the mermaid has to kill the prince in order to live and go back to the ocean. Well, she doesn’t do it and instead turns into sea foam. Very romantic.

Sleeping Beauty

  • In this Giambattista Basile tale, a king finds Aurora sleeping and, failing to rouse her, rapes her. And then leaves after he’s done.
  • She wakes up only when she gives birth to twins—and not because of birth pains, oh no, but because one of the babes sucks the spindle poison from her fingers.
  • The king returns and apparently he’s a lying sonovabitch because he gets her to fall in love with him.
  • His wife–oh yea, he’s freakin’ married already–tries to kill the twins in order to cook them and serve them to her husband (Titus Andronicus, anyone?) but ultimately fails.
  • The king then lives on with Sleeping Beauty in blissful peace.

Yea, umm . . . yea.

To be fair, most fairy tales do end happily. It’s just the in-between violence and innuendo/outright sex that make you go “O_o?! WTF?” at some points. But I guess that’s what parents did back then–terrify the crap outta their kids. I like it.

Oh yes, if you’d rather read these horrific details with your own eyes, there’s an online list of the Brothers Grimm stories here or you can purchase a (prettier) hard copy like the one below.

Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales (Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions)

Until January, then, folks. Enjoy your once-upon-a-time’s.


9 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time . . . Things Went Very, Very Badly”

  1. Great, unexpected post! I never knew Sleeping Beauty was so f’d up.

    Regarding the trailer–I like it. It gave me chills, especially when the Witch says “Go to the Wood!”

    The cinematography looks stellar, although the film itself seems to have a lot of CGI–which is to be expected. I’m also glad Meryl Streep isn’t just doing a Bernadette Peters impression.

    AND it’s an early(ish) trailer, which is most likely trying to get the general audience hyped up for it. The crazy awesome meta narrative that kicks in during Act Two is a bit of a plot twist, so maybe they’re keeping that under wraps. I do agree, that with the way the trailer makes it look, that change in style would be very jarring. Which is not a bad thing, I guess, but would definitely be out there.

    PG rating? I wouldn’t worry too much. When I watched your Tony Award-worthy performance as Cinderella’s Asian mother as a kid, I still enjoyed it without blood. Likewise, last year they put this show on at Newman, and there was, again, no blood. Still awesome.

    High hopes! Boo at the delay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Yes, the tree must have turned her Asian.
      Good point about the early trailer. I hope it does cover Act Two; it makes the difference. As for the CGI, well after the amount they had for The Great and Powerful Oz and the 3D aspect, it’s like a competition really.
      Still sad i missed Newman’s show.
      At least I know I won’t be disappointed by the movie to much — that music! 🙂


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