Immersed in Blu-ray: Into the Woods

In a musical mood? Check out Into the Woods, which arrived on Blu-ray this week (Disney Home Ent.), looking and sounding spectacular.

It took decades to bring Stephen Sondheim’s beloved Into the Woods to the screen, and director Rob Marshall said he found the perfect post-9/11 metaphor: loss and comfort. He also struck the right balance between theatricality and naturalism for the subversive fairy tale deconstruction, combining pre-recording and live recording for the music. The key was choreographing this rite of passage as a big dance for Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, and company.

The first design inspiration for the ancient, majestic Woods was Angel Oaks in Georgia, which production designer Dennis Gassner found on Google. He showed Marshall Angel Oaks to get an idea of scale, size, and uniqueness. ”We could never go there for obvious reasons but had to go on the search for what are basically the Woods and all the connecting tissue and the beginning of the story of the village and all of the characters,” recalls Gassner (Spectre).

“We wanted to bring an earthy foundation and the Woods existed as a crumbling, ancient but timeless place,” adds cinematographer Dion Beebe. “So we spent a lot of time finding the palette of that. and we plotted the Woods in three acts: The first act is a daytime Woods that looks mysterious but not foreboding in keeping with the aspirations of the characters; in the second act, we enter the Woods at night and there’s more of a sense of foreboding as the characters attain their ‘happily ever after’; then everything comes undone in the third act when the characters lose the path and the Woods become devastating and dark.”

Of course, the costumes by Colleen Atwood were part of this fabric but with special requirements. Streep wanted a Blue Fairy vibe for her Witch’s glam transformation (remember she voiced the Blue Fairy in AI), and Depp wanted to re-enact Tex Avery’s iconic Big Bad Wolf with Zoot suit.

Some of the darker aspects, though, were toned down or removed, such as the death of Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), at Disney’s behest. So Sondheim wrote a new song for Streep’s Witch after Rapunzel runs away: “She’ll Be Back.” However,  the song was eventually cut because it slowed the pace and raised too many questions.

But “She’ll Be Back” is back as the highlight bonus feature.

Below are clips from a recent Sondheim tribute at 42West in New York City:

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Cinematography, Clips, Costume, Home Entertainment, Movies, Music, Production Design, Sound, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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