Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”
Budget: $85 million
Box office: $340.5 million
In the animated fairy tale kingdom of Andalasia, Narissa, queen of Andalasia and an evil witch, schemes to protect her claim to the throne, which she will lose once her stepson, Prince Edward, finds his true love and marries. She enlists her loyal henchman Nathaniel to keep Edward distracted by hunting trolls. Giselle, a young woman, dreams of meeting a prince and experiencing a “happily ever after.” She, her best chipmunk friend, Pip, and animal friends of the forest have made a homemade statue of her true love but have trouble putting lips on it. Edward hears Giselle singing and sets off to find her. Nathaniel frees a captured troll to get rid of Giselle, but Edward rescues her just in time. When they meet, they instantly fall in love and plan to be married the following day.
Disguised as an old hag, Narissa intercepts Giselle on her way to the wedding and pushes her into a well, where she is magically transformed into a 3D live-action version of herself and transported to New York Times Square in the real world, a place where there are no “happily ever afters”. Giselle, frightened and confused, quickly becomes lost. Meanwhile, Robert, a divorce lawyer, prepares to propose to his longtime girlfriend Nancy, much to the dismay of his daughter Morgan. Robert and Morgan encounter Giselle on their way home, and Robert begrudgingly allows Giselle to stay the night in their apartment at the insistence of Morgan, who believes Giselle is a princess.
Pip had witnessed Giselle’s exile and alerted Edward thereafter, and both embark on a rescue mission to the city, where they too are turned into live-action versions. But Pip is instead in the form of a real chipmunk – therefore losing the ability to speak. Narissa sends Nathaniel to follow and impede Edward. In a restaurant, Narissa appears to Nathaniel in a soup pot and gives him three poisoned apples (that will put whoever eats one to sleep until the clock strikes twelve, which will kill them) to murder Giselle. Pip eavesdrops but is unable to communicate with Edward, as he cannot speak and Edward is clueless. Nathaniel keeps Pip silenced by detaining him in various containers.
Meanwhile, after Giselle summons vermin to clean Robert’s apartment, Nancy arrives to take Morgan to school. She meets Giselle and leaves assuming Robert was unfaithful. Robert is initially upset but spends the day with Giselle, knowing she is vulnerable in the city. Giselle questions Robert about his relationship with Nancy and helps the pair reconcile by sending Nancy flowers and an invitation to the “King and Queen’s Costume Ball” at the Woolworth Building.
Edward locates Giselle at Robert’s apartment. While Edward is eager to take Giselle home to Andalasia and finally marry, she suggests that they should first go on a date and get to know each other better, still conflicted about her feelings. Giselle promises to return to Andalasia after ending their date at the ball, which Robert and Nancy also attend. Narissa, who has been spying from Andalasia, decides to follow and kill Giselle herself after Nathaniel fails twice to poison her. Robert and Giselle share a dance with each other and look into each other’s eyes romantically. Giselle and Edward then prepare to leave, but Giselle feels sorrow at leaving Robert behind. Narissa appears as the old hag and offers the last poisoned apple to Giselle, promising “sweet dreams and happy endings.” Giselle takes a bite and is plunged into a deep sleep with mere minutes to live.
Narissa attempts to escape with Giselle’s body but is stopped by Edward. Nathaniel, realising Narissa was using him and never loved him, reveals her plot. Robert realises that true love’s kiss is the only force powerful enough to break the apple’s spell. Edward’s kiss fails to wake Giselle, and Edward and Nancy prompt Robert to kiss her instead. When Robert kisses her just as the clock strikes twelve, Giselle awakens and the whole crowd cheers. Narissa furiously transforms into a giant blue dragon and takes Robert hostage. Giselle takes Edward’s sword and pursues Narissa to the top of the building. Pip, who was freed by Edward, helps Giselle send Narissa falling to her death.
A happy new life unfolds for everyone, showing Edward and Nancy falling in love and marrying in Andalasia; Giselle running a successful “Andalasian fashion” business; while Nathaniel and Pip (who returns to Andalasia) each become successful authors about their experiences in the real world and find girlfriends. Giselle, still in the real world, married Robert and forms a happy family with him and Morgan.
Background: The initial script of Enchanted was “a racier R-rated movie”, inspired by the adult-risque comedy movies in the 1980s and 1990s such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and American Pie. The first draft of the script had Giselle being mistaken for a stripper when she arrives in New York City. The film was initially scheduled to be released in 2002 with Rob Marshall as director but he withdrew due to “creative differences” between the producers and him. Adam Shankman became the film’s director in 2003, but Kevin Lima had been hired as director two years later.
Principal photography began in April 2006 and ended in July 2006. The scene Lima found the most challenging to shoot was the musical number, “That’s How You Know”, in Central Park. The five-minute scene took 17 days to finish due to the changing weather, which allowed only seven sunny days for the scene to be filmed. The scene was choreographed by John O’Connell, who had worked on Moulin Rouge! beforehand, and included 300 extras and 150 dancers.
All the costumes in the film were designed by Mona May, who had previously worked on Clueless, The Wedding Singer, and The Haunted Mansion. To create the costumes, May spent one year in pre-production working with animators and her costume department of 20 people, while she contracted with five outside costume shops in Los Angeles and New York City.
Animation: Enchanted is the first feature-length Disney live-action/traditional animation hybrid since Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, though the traditionally animated characters do not interact in the live-action environment in the same method as they did in Roger Rabbit; however, there are some scenes where live-action characters share the screen with two-dimensional animated characters. The animated was done in traditional cel animation as a tribute to past Disney fairy tale films such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
It was the first Disney film theatrically released in America to feature traditional cel animation since Pooh’s Heffalump Movie. As most of Disney’s traditional animation artists were laid off after the computer graphics boom of the late 1990s, the 13 minutes of animation were not done in-house but by the independent Pasadena-based company James Baxter Animation, founded by former Disney animator Baxter.
Songs: The film’s score was written by Alan Menken, and Stephen Schwartz wrote the lyrics for six songs.
- “True Love’s Kiss”
- “Happy Working Song”
- “That’s How You Know”
- “Ever Ever After”
- “So Close”
- “Enchanted,”deleted from the film
References to Disney Movies:
- The storybook opening of Enchanted is a tribute to the openings of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Cinderella, The Sword in the Stone, Sleeping Beauty and others. It would later be used in Disney’s A Christmas Carol among others.
- Mary Ilene Caselotti, the name of the news reporter, is a reference to Mary Costa (the voice of Aurora), Ilene Woods (the voice of Cinderella) and Adriana Caselotti (the voice of Snow White).
- Narissa disguises herself as a hag, just as the Evil Queen does.
- Narissa also poisons Giselle with an apple, which rolls away after Giselle falls much like it does when Snow White eats the poison apple.
- Giselle mistakes a little person in New York City for the dwarf Grumpy.
- Prince Edward refers to the hotel television as a Magic Mirror.
- Giselle cleans up Robert’s apartment with the help of animals, similarly to how Snow White cleaned the dwarves’ house.
- When Nathaniel hands Giselle the poisoned apple, the caramel covering it makes the same skull pattern seen on the poisoned apple in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Narissa is both an evil queen and a stepmother, just like the villain of Snow White.
- Giselle looks through a pair of blue gems while constructing her dream man. One of the Seven Dwarfs in Snow White, Dopey, can be seen looking through a pair of gems as well.
- The law firm that Robert appears to work for is named after the composers of the music from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, and Paul J. Smith.
- When Narissa falls to her death, a small part of the Woolworth Building falls with her, similar to how a giant rock fell with the Evil Queen when she died.
- Giselle’s carriage looks similar to Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage.
- During the song “Happy Working Song”, there is a scene where Giselle scrubs the floor and bubbles float everywhere and reflect her, just like Cinderella during the song “Sing Sweet Nightingale”.
- Robert mistakes Edward’s name as ‘Charming’- a reference to Prince Charming from Cinderella.
- Giselle uses Robert’s curtains and Morgan’s rug to make her dresses, a reference to the dress that Cinderella’s mice friends make for her from things that her stepsisters weren’t using.
- Giselle and Morgan mention fairy godmothers and their magic before midnight, just before they go out shopping.
- Giselle takes off her heels while pulling the sword out of the floor, going after the dragon. One slipper gets left behind and Nancy tries it on after encouragement from Prince Edward and it fits.
- At the end of the film, in Giselle’s shop, we see a mouse in a pink shoe being used to carry thread. This is similar to the scene in Cinderella where the mice are making Cinderella’s pink ball gown.
- Nancy’s last name is Tremaine and is Robert’s wife-to-be for a second time round marriage, a reference to the surname of Cinderella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine.
- The effect of the poisoned apple is meant to fully work the clock strikes twelve – a reference to the time limit imposed on the Fairy Godmother’s magic and Cinderella’s curfew.
- The Troll’s earrings are made of the shell bra Ariel wears.
- As Giselle studies the fish tank at Robert’s office, an instrumental version of “Part of Your World” is played in the background.
- Narissa’s lair is similar to Ursula’s lair.
- The woman selling birdseed in the park says, “Feed the birds,” like the Old Birdwoman.
- The dancers in “That’s How You Know” also played the chimney sweepers.
- Robert is working a divorce case for a woman with the surname of Banks.
- The troll, while being flung into the next kingdom, does the Goofy holler, heard in many other Disney films and shorts.
- The bus driver’s hair is shaped like the ears of Mickey Mouse.
- Bella Notte, the Italian restaurant where Giselle, Robert and Morgan eat, is a tribute to the song from Lady and the Tramp.
- Giselle pulls Edward’s sword from the ballroom floor; this is a reference to The Sword in the Stone.
- Narissa turns into a dragon, just like Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty.
- Robert and Morgan’s last name is Philip, a reference to the prince from Sleeping Beauty.
- Giselle is initially upside down when she falls through the fountain and lands upright in the manhole, a reference to the scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice falls down the rabbit hole and lands upside down in Wonderland.
- Upon learning that Giselle and Edward will marry, Narissa called Giselle as a “forest rat”, similar to how Aladdin is called a “street rat” in Aladdin.
- While singing “That’s How You Know,” Giselle runs up a knoll in a similar fashion to Belle as she sings her theme in Beauty and the Beast. It is also visually similar to an iconic scene in The Sound of Music, performed by Julie Andrews.
- Morgan owns a doll of Belle from Beauty and the Beast and a Cinderella storybook.
- While Giselle constructs her Dream Man, a rose with a glass cover just like the one featured in Beauty and the Beast can be seen.
Cast: Susan Sarandon returns as Queen Narissa. Idina Menzel, who we already profiled for Frozen, plays Nancy Tremaine.
Amy Adams as Giselle. She made her feature film in Drop Dead Gorgeous. Her first major role came in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 biopic Catch Me If You Can. Her breakthrough came in the part of a loquacious pregnant woman in the 2005 independent film Junebug. She has also appeared in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Julie & Julia, Her, Nocturnal Animals Doubt, The Fighter, The Master, The Muppets, American Hustle, Big Eyes and Arrival. In 2013, she began portraying Lois Lane in Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League.Among her television projects, she has starred in the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects. On stage, she has appeared in the Public Theater’s revival of Into the Woods in 2012. James Marsden as Prince Edward. Marsden began his acting career guest-starring in television shows Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Touched by an Angel, and Party of Five. He gained prominence with his portrayal of Scott Summers / Cyclops in the X-Men film series and starred in Superman Returns. In 2016 and 2018, Marsden starred as gunslinger/sentient android Teddy Flood in the HBO science fiction series Westworld. Other roles include Hop, 27 Dresses, The Best of Me, The Butler, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Marsden later returned to television guest-starring in Modern Family and 30 Rock.
Timothy Spall as Nathanael. He became a household name in the UK after appearing as Barry Spencer Taylor in the series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Spall performed in Secrets & Lies, and was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Subsequently, he starred in many films, including Hamlet, Nicholas Nickleby, The Damned United, The King’s Speech, Ginger and Rosa, Denial, Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and The Party. He also performed as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films.He has collaborated with director Mike Leigh, making six films together, including Home Sweet Home, Life is Sweet, Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, All or Nothing, and Mr. Turner. Patrick Dempsey as Robert Philip. He is best known for his role as Derek Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy. He saw early success as an actor, starring in a number of films in the 1980s, including Can’t Buy Me Love and Loverboy. Later roles include appearances in Outbreak, Scream 3, Sweet Home Alabama, Brother Bear 2, Made of Honor, Valentine’s Day, Flypaper, Freedom Writers, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Bridget Jones’s Baby.
Several actresses/actors who have played characters in Disney films have cameos:
- Paige O’Hara as Angela, a soap opera character.O’Hara provided the voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
- Jodi Benson as Sam, Robert’s secretary. Benson provided the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid; she also voiced the various Barbie dolls in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3.
- Judy Kuhn as Pregnant Woman with Kids (uncredited) Kuhn provided the singing voice of the title character in Pocahontas and its sequel.
- Julie Andrews as the Narrator Andrews played the title character in Mary Poppins as well as appearing in The Princess Diaries series as Queen Clarisse Renaldi.
- Ilene Woods (voice of Cinderella) and Mary Costa (voice of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty) make a brief appearance as two guests during the ball scene.
- Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, describing it as a “heart-winning musical comedy that skips lightly and sprightly from the lily pads of hope to the manhole covers of actuality” and one that “has a Disney willingness to allow fantasy into life”.
- Todd McCarthy of Variety commented, “More than Disney’s strictly animated product, Enchanted, in the manner of the vast majority of Hollywood films made until the ’60s, is a film aimed at the entire population – niches be damned. It simply aims to please, without pandering, without vulgarity, without sops to pop-culture fads, and to pull this off today is no small feat.
- Michael Sragow of Baltimore Sun remarked that the film’s “piquant idea and enough good jokes to overcome its uneven movie-making and uncertain tone.”
- Claudia Puig of USA Today stated that “though it’s a fairly predictable fish-out-of-water tale (actually a princess-out-of-storybook saga), the casting is so perfect that it takes what could have been a ho-hum idea and renders it magical.”
- TIME gave the film a C-, stating that the film “cannibalizes Walt’s vault for jokes” and “fails to find a happy ending that doesn’t feel two-dimensional”.
- Similarly, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian commented that the film “assumes a beady-eyed and deeply humourless sentimentality” and that Adams’ performance was the “only decent thing in this overhyped family movie covered in a cellophane shrink-wrap of corporate Disney plastic-ness”.
Legacy: Disney had originally planned to add Giselle to the Disney Princess line-up, as was shown at a 2007 Toy Fair where the Giselle doll was featured with packaging declaring her with Disney Princess status, but decided against it when they realized they would have to pay for lifelong rights to Amy Adams’ image. While Giselle is not being marketed as one of the Disney Princesses, Enchanted merchandise was made available in various outlets with Adams’ animated likeness being used on all Giselle merchandise.
Sequel: As of July 2014, Disney had hired screenwriters J. David Stem and David N. Weiss to write a script for a sequel. The Hollywood Reporter reported that Adam Shankman, who was originally set to direct Enchanted, entered negotiations to direct the sequel, titled Disenchanted, and that Adams would reprise her role. Shankman announced that Menken and Stephen Schwartz would return to write songs for the film. On March 4, 2020, it was reported that the film entered into pre-production, with Shakman still being attached as director.
My take: So this film is just adorable and fun. If you’re a Disney fan, it’s a lot of fun seeing the references and tropes. Amy Adams is luminous. A lot of the success of the film hinges on her commitment to the role and character. It’s also clear that James Marsden is up for anything and I admire that in an actor.
And how great is it to see traditional 2D animation?
Available on Disney +?: no
Next Week: Oz the Great and Powerful