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Into the Woods

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Into the woods
For the Dinosaurs episode, see Episode 413: Into the Woods.

The film version of Stephen Sondheim's 1987 Broadway show Into the Woods was optioned in 1993. The project went through years of pre-production.

Originally, the film was to be produced by Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope company, with puppets by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

The script was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who were known at the time for their hit movie City Slickers. Sondheim and librettist James Lapine were signed as consultants on the film.

Fansite Sondheim.com described the content of a 1994 draft of the script:

The story basically follows that of the show's first act, although the story unfolds in a different manner, without a narrator or a Mysterious Man.

Several confusions of the play have been fixed. For example, Rapunzel is no longer related to the Baker, nor does she give birth to twins, so the question of why the family curse didn't affect her has been erased.

At the end of the first 'act', the Giant rises from his fall and goes on a rampage, allowing the rest of the story to unfold more-or-less as it did in Act II of the play. The intricate back stories of the Baker's father and the witch's mother have been deleted, eliminating "No More" and changing a bit of "Last Midnight." There is no 'second bean', so the Baker's wife's scenes with Cinderella are fairly different. Finally, at the very end of the movie the wife reappears, having tricked the Giant into thinking she was dead.

Strangely, there has been no effort to integrate "Children Will Listen" into the action. Rather, the camera just switches to a shot of the witch singing the song against a backdrop of Rapunzel's tower, followed by a montage of the survivors going about their lives after the giant. Although there will certainly be more work done on the script before it becomes a film, what we've seen is certainly promising, and will definitely be entertaining, even if it's not the Into the Woods we all know and love.

Penny Marshall was attached to the project as a director in 1994. In October, she held an all-star reading of the script in her home, featuring Robin Williams as the Baker, Goldie Hawn as the Baker's Wife, Cher as the Witch, Steve Martin as the Wolf and Danny DeVito as the Giant, along with Elijah Wood, Roseanne Barr, Bebe Neuwirth, Mayim Bialik, Brendan Fraser, Moira Kelly, Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Jeter.

When Jim Henson Productions made a deal with Sony Pictures to create Jim Henson Pictures in 1995, Into the Woods became a Jim Henson Pictures project, and Brian Henson was announced as the film's executive producer.

Late in 1995, Rob Minkoff (one of the directors of The Lion King) was signed to direct. It was announced that shooting would begin in late summer 1996, with four to six new songs written for the movie by Sondheim.

In late 1996, it was announced that the filming would begin in spring 1997, with Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Susan Sarandon in starring roles.

The film was never made. It was announced in 2012 that The Walt Disney Company had optioned the property with Rob Marshall set to direct, with no ties to the Creature Shop or Jim Henson Pictures.

Connections

Although Into the Woods remains unfinished as a film, several actors in stage versions have Muppet/Henson connections.

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