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Review: “Into the Woods” reinvents fairy tales as Disney wins over Sondheim fans and musical newcomers alike

Review: “Into the Woods” reinvents fairy tales as Disney wins over Sondheim fans and musical newcomers alike

I wish…

True to Disney form, “Into the Woods” begins with a wish. The new film explores the reality of wishes — what happens when you make sacrifices for your wish, avoiding distractions that appear to lure you from your wish and, worse, what if you finally get your wish and it’s nothing like what you hoped it would be.

“Into the Woods” follows a variety of fairy tale characters as they pursue their wishes. Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) heads into the woods to see her grandmother, young Jack (Daniel Huddlestone) dreams of saving his beloved cow from being sold at the market, and the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) long for a child. The Witch (Meryl Streep) appears and reveals that the Baker and his Wife are childless because of a curse that was placed on them years ago. But she promises the Baker and his wife will have a child if they will go, yes, into the woods and collect four special items for her. So they venture forth – again, into the woods – to collect the items for the Witch at precisely the same time Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Jack head – you guessed it – into the woods to begin their journeys. (There’s no doubt the material is aptly titled.)

The film is based on the Broadway play that debuted in 1987, with music written by Steven Sondheim. Sondheim’s music is notoriously challenging and “Into the Woods” has some songs that are extremely difficult to perform. Producer Marc Platt calls Sondheim’s music “calculus for singers.”

I was a newcomer to “Into the Woods,” not familiar with the original work but left the movie having thoroughly enjoyed it. ITM contributor Big Fat Panda is a longtime “Into the Woods” fan, holding himself back from singing loudly along during a recent screening. Get his thoughts on how well the notoriously dark play translated to Disney’s big screen in the video review below, then keep reading for my thoughts.


Video: “Into the Woods” review from Big Fat Panda


The majority of the performances in “Into the Woods” are fantastic. Meryl Streep is a perfect Witch, appearing at some times as scheming and sketchy, and elegant and powerful at others. In a recent press conference with the cast and crew, Streep chimed in with her inspiration: “Everybody’s storyline has something that resonates with a modern heart — the idea that people do very bad things for sometimes very good reasons.” The Witch reveals her motivation for her decisions, shining a beam of realism and depth on her character that Streep portrays perfectly.

Anna Kendrick delivers a fantastic performance as Cinderella, whose “On the Steps of the Palace” encompasses her character perfectly. As a refreshing contrast to the sterotypical Disney princess, Kendrick’s Cinderella has commitment issues and is indecisive whether palace life is for her.

Another notable, albeit brief, performance is Johnny Depp as a simultaneously entertaining and deeply unnerving Wolf. But some of the funniest moments in the film belong to Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen) in their show-stopping duet, “Agony.” It’s perfectly over the top.

Corden is certainly the relative unknown amongst a cast of big Hollywood stars. At the recent press conference, he admitted feeling out of place: “At about day four I went home to my wife and said, ‘Honestly, I’m being deadly serious, I think I might get fired. Because it’s just inconceivable to me that I might belong here in this company, this feels a huge mistake.’” Naturally this wasn’t the case, as Corden does great justice to the role of the Baker.

The biggest issues with “Into the Woods” are the loose ends that wind up untied at the end of the film, which slows dramatically in its last act. This is perhaps a hazard that comes with adapting the original play while also performing the juggling act that is following at least six different plot lines, but there are quite a few setups that don’t have payoffs and leave unexplained backstories.

Ultimately, “Into the Woods” makes the leap from the Broadway stage to movie theaters much more successfully than many previous plays-turned-films, maintaining the balance between pleasing die-hard Sondheim fans and appealing to audiences new to the musical.

“Into the Woods” premieres in theaters December 25 — a Christmas present from Disney you’re sure to love.


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Topics: Disney, Disneyland, Disneyland Resort, Entertainment, Theme ParksTags: , ,

As “Frozen” descends upon Disneyland, the first elements of Arendelle have arrived to Storybook Land Canal Boats in Fantasyland.

The animated city’s familiar buildings are now featured in miniature along the boat ride, including the film’s two castles and Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna.

(Photos by Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland)


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Top 20 Disney Christmas Gift List for last minute shopping this holiday season

Top 20 Disney Christmas Gift List for last minute shopping this holiday season

Christmas day is getting closer and closer and if you still have some Disney Christmas gifts to pick up, check out our Top 20 Disney Christmas Gift Picks for a bit of help!

Find a gift that will suit any of your Disney loving friends or family, from Frozen waffle makers to Star Wars LEGO kits and beyond. These are the best selling items we’ve recommended over the last few weeks, almost guaranteed to have at least a little something for everyone. But be sure to order soon with the big day on the way!

See more gift ideas on our Merch Blog.

Guardians of the Galaxy Baby Groot 7-Inch Action Hero Vignette Pre-Assembled Model Kit

BUY HERE

Disney Be My Mickey Sweatshirt

BUY HERE

 

Star Wars R2D2 Kitchen Timer

BUY HERE


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Review: Trattoria al Forno opens at Walt Disney World, replacing Kouzzina’s Greek flavors with simple but solid Italian dishes

Review: Trattoria al Forno opens at Walt Disney World, replacing Kouzzina’s Greek flavors with simple but solid Italian dishes

This week Walt Disney World debuted a new Italian restaurant at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. It’s called Trattoria al Forno, taking the place of the now-closed Kouzzina.

“Trattoria” means a casual Italian eatery and “al forno” describes food that has been baked in an oven. Disney’s new restaurant lives up to its name with a cozy, relaxing environment serving up delicious dishes, most of which are indeed fresh from the oven.

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Stepping inside the restaurant feels like entering a large, fancy house. Warm woods with brick accents and Earth tones are inviting while cushy seating allows patrons to wait comfortably for a table. Walls are lined with vintage photos of Italian families, giving the impression that someone’s grandmother is in the kitchen cooking up a feast.

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

But upon stepping into the dining room, it’s quickly clear that there are most definitely professional chefs at work here, seen whipping up dishes in an kitchen that’s open to the equally inviting, ample seating. The configuration is roughly the same as when the location was Kouzzina, but its new look is even more casual and welcoming.

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Service begins with warm, crusty Italian bread, perfect for sopping up olive oil, which guests can pour themselves.

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World

Trattoria al Forno at Walt Disney World


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New Disneyland Fantasmic! FastPass options add delightful dining packages, but don’t declutter New Orleans Square

New Disneyland Fantasmic! FastPass options add delightful dining packages, but don’t declutter New Orleans Square

Disneyland recently changed the way theme park guests can view the popular nighttime Fantasmic! show in a new experiment. Rather than have guests sit and wait for hours in front of the Rivers of America, Disneyland has instituted a Fantasmic! FASTPASS distribution, much like the system that has been operating at California Adventure’s World of Color for a few years now.

In addition to the free FASTPASS distribution that takes place on a first-come, first-served basis, there is now a special “Preferred Viewing” option for those willing to dish out some extra money for one of the Fantasmic! dining packages.

But is this change good or bad for guests in the long run? Let’s see how the new offerings measure up…

There are four Fantasmic! dining packages, including sit-down meals at Blue Bayou Restaurant and River Belle Terrace, a dessert party at Hungry Bear Restaurant and on-the-go meals from Aladdin’s Oasis. I decided to go with the River Belle Terrace option, which offered a prix fixe three-course meal complete with starter, main course and dessert.

The meal itself was quite good. Being a vegetarian, I partook in the pasta main course which featured fresh vegetables and a very tasty garlic cream sauce. The fresh mixed greens to start was a healthy and yummy option, and both the caramel apple pie and chocolate mousse cake dessert options were excellent caps to the meal.

After finishing dessert, the staff provided a FASTPASS to each member of the party and instructed us to line up in front of Pirates of the Caribbean no sooner than 8:15 pm. Finding the queue location was a difficult exercise in itself, since with the new Fantasmic! FASTPASS system, there are several different areas organized for lining up.

“Preferred Viewing” guests were not to be let into their viewing area until exactly 8:15 pm, but many patrons started lining up 15 to 30 minutes beforehand, waiting to be let in so they could grab the best spots available. This resulted in some overcrowding and unfriendliness between guests, especially as some who arrived right around 8:15 pm managed to skip the line with ease.

While the premise of the Fantasmic! FASTPASS may be to help clear the walkway in front of the Rivers of America prior to showtime, this plan begins to go haywire around 7:15 pm. Trying to make your way from Critter Country through New Orleans Square, you can easily get lost in a sea of bodies heading in the same direction. The chaos, rather than being lessened, has been rerouted to the area behind the French Market restaurant, while the Fantasmic! viewing area remains mostly clear, with a smattering of guests walking toward Critter Country.

As for the location of the “Preferred Viewing” section, it did not disappoint. The Fantasmic! dining packages offer the most coveted views of Fantasmic!, front and center. And unlike many of the other sections designated for Fantasmic! audiences which required guests to stand, the “Preferred Viewing” area involved sitting on the ground for the duration of the show.

On the plus side of this new arrangement, guests who want to see Fantasmic! will no longer have to wait for upwards of five hours to claim the best spots for the show. The barrier to entry now, however, is either getting into the free FASTPASS distribution queue first thing in the morning or paying quite a bit of money for a Fantasmic! dining package.

In short, this new system has done little to curb the major issues surrounding Fantasmic! The bottleneck that ensues around New Orleans Square is still very much alive, albeit in a different way. And while the Fantasmic!. FASTPASS may save a lot of time for guests who are willing to pay more for a better experience, there is still some waiting around involved (even after being let into the “Preferred Viewing” section at 8:15 pm, audiences must still wait 30 minutes until showtime). As for those who prefer to go the free FASTPASS route, there may still be an hour of queuing or more, as guests start lining up for those spots earlier than those with “Preferred Viewing”.

The new Fantasmic! viewing options may not entirely remove the pandemonium, but they do make things a little more streamlined. And for those who are able to, I heartily recommend trying out a Fantasmic! dining package. It may be pricey, but as a one-off experience it promises a truly great view of the show and a very good meal on top of it.


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