Still Enchanted - Part One

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

Enchanted (2007) takes audiences on the journey of Giselle (Amy Adams), who's living happily in a 2-D pastoral fairyland until she falls in love immediately with Prince Edward (James Marsden) and is banished by his disapproving stepmother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon).

Suddenly Giselle is propelled from an idyllic world reminiscent of Disney animation into the 3-D present-day, live-action New York City. The prince comes looking for her accompanied by the Queen's henchman Nathaniel and Giselle's chipmunk friend Pip. All those characters, like Giselle, transition from classic hand-drawn animation into live-action characters.

Later, the angry queen herself appears and finds that the naïve Giselle has not suffered but embraced the Manhattan life, including a friendship with the handsome lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his 6-year old daughter Morgan. Of course, the queen decides to make sure Giselle will have an unhappy ending. When Giselle transforms into live-action, the film's aspect ratio switches from 16:9 to CinemaScope, opening up the new world not only for Giselle but the audience.

"I thought of Giselle as about 80 percent Snow White, with some traits borrowed from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty plus a little of Ariel's spunkiness thrown in," said director Kevin Lima.

In its first run, Enchanted earned a gross of $127,807,262 in the United States and Canada, as well a total of $340,487,652 worldwide. It was the 15th highest-grossing film worldwide released in 2007. Later, it became a top-selling BluRay/DVD title and was nominated for multiple awards from different film groups.

Talk of a sequel to the film started in 2010, with Jessie Nelson attached to write the screenplay and Anne Fletcher to direct. Then things went quiet as it often does with proposed films that fail to get a final approval for a variety of reasons, from Disney announced rebooting of The Rocketeer to its film version of the Jungle Cruise that would have featured Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.

In 2016, Disney hired Adam Shankman to direct the sequel Disenchanted with a script from David Stem and David Weiss, who had both been writers on Shrek 2 and The Smurfs. It is always challenging to tell a story beyond "happily ever after," and there have been many disappointing sequel failures even from Disney itself that tried to do so.

The Enchanted sequel is "set 10 years after the first movie, with Giselle finding herself questioning her happily-ever-after life and accidentally triggering events that make everyone's lives turn upside down in both the real world and in the animated kingdom of Andalasia."

In February 2019, Shankman said, "We're all here, we're ready to go. We love what the story is about." The primary performers as well as musician Alan Menken all expressed positive interest in participating in the sequel.

Shankman, who had been one of the early choices to direct the original film, added that the plan for the sequel was to contain more Menken and Schwartz songs than the first film, and at least an equal amount of hand-drawn animation as in the first film.

It is hard to believe that it has been 12 years since audiences were first delightfully surprised by the release of Enchanted and that actress Amy Adams (who has since been nominated for an Academy Award for acting six times) was relatively unknown before appearing in the role of Giselle.

Why the film remains such a heart-warming experience for so many Disney fans is probably best summed up by director Kevin Lima who said, "Most of us have grown up touched by Disney in one way or another. What Enchanted does is it takes the legacy and says it's OK to live with the joy that you felt when you were a child. Even though you grow up, you don't have to let go of the child that's in you."

Writer Bill Kelly and his producing partner Sunil Perkash developed an idea about doing a modern-day version of Sound of Music. They struggled with the main character's optimism and bursting out into song, until they decided to make her a cartoon heroine trapped in the real world so the optimism and bursting into song became just a natural part of her personality.

Kelly went ahead and wrote the script in 1997 without having a studio attached and, when it was finished, it was bid on by six different studios, with Touchstone executive Doug Short recommending purchasing it.

As Short told writer Jeremie Noyer, "I wanted to buy it immediately. It was the perfect movie for this company. Donald De Line was the head of Touchstone at the time, so he actually bought the script. Touchstone Pictures was a more adult division. I've always loved Disney animation and Disney movies. So, to me, this was similar and close but the tone of the movie at the time was a lot more adult."

That first draft was similar to the final version, except it was more risqué and adult-oriented in terms of its humor as was the style of most movie comedies at the time but still playful.

When she first arrives, Giselle in her fancy dress inadvertently ends up being hired to jump out of a cake at Robert's bachelor party where the participants think she is a stripper.

Robert immediately sees she is a confused innocent and puts a stop to the proceedings. The first script did not have the animated opening, but did include a fairytale storybook opening scene, nor did it include Robert's young daughter.

Several other writers, including Rita Hsiao, Todd Alcott, Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle, and others, as well as directors, including Rob Marshall, Jon Turteltaub and Shankman, took turns trying to wrestle the story of the clash between sincere sweetness and today's cynicism into an acceptable script.

As Short recalled:

"One of the reasons why other versions of the movie didn't get made was because they weren't good enough for the subject matter. You're going to make a movie that has classic animation and is done with a Disney Princess character. You can't make a version that's just OK.

"Your version has to live up to the expectations of the subject matter. If you're going to have fun with the Disney Princess concept, you need to understand and appreciate it and respect it, and not just make fun of it. It's easy to make fun of it but that's not enough. The struggle was always how to respect and understand Giselle and Kevin (Lima) understood that."

When Kevin Lima was hired as director in 2005, writer Kelly was brought back to work with him for nine months on another definitive rewrite that incorporated some of the best ideas of previous writers, including making Robert a divorce attorney. Robert's daughter, Morgan, was also added to help establish for the audience instantly that Robert is a good guy.

As Kelly, who admitted he loved the character of Giselle, told writer Jeremie Noyer, "It takes a certain amount of strength of personality to remain idealistic in the face of cynicism. Most stories about innocents find their humor at the expense of the innocent. I really wanted to write a story where the humor is ultimately at the expense of the cynic."

As Lima recalled:

"When I first read it [Enchanted], it was actually kind of snide. It was trying hard to be more satirical and more along the line of films like Shrek. We don't need to make fun of it; we don't need to be cynical. We had some rewrites on the script, changing the focus to be more of a love letter to Disney.

"I wanted to do the film. I told Disney that this was the perfect movie for me and they said, 'Well Kevin, we don't think you're funny enough to do this film'. They also thought I liked it so much that I would make it too sentimental. That I wouldn't be able to make it dark enough for what they thought they wanted."

Lima with his background in animation was able to create a series of storyboards filling an entire floor of a production building that convinced Dick Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, within a half hour to finally approve the production and have Lima direct.

Lima was the key factor in making the film a success. While everyone agreed he was always open to collaboration, it was Lima's vision that directly influenced everything from the design of the costumes to the storyboards to the music and choreography. He was intimately involved in every aspect of the production and had definite opinions on all of it.

He even provided the squeaks for the character of chipmunk Pip in the real world (Jeff Bennett voiced the character in the animated realm) for a preliminary scratch voice track and they were so entertaining and expressive that they were used for the actual film.

Lima was a graduate of California Institute of the Arts and went on to animate on The Brave Little Toaster (1987) and The Chipmunk Adventure (1987). Animator Glen Keane encouraged Lima to apply to Disney where Lima was a character animator on Fagin for Oliver and Company (1988), a character designer on The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and The Beast (1991), and did storyboards on Aladdin (1992) in addition to many other credits.

However, Lima was always interested in directing and ended up doing so on A Goofy Movie (1995) and Tarzan (1999). His first directing job on a live action film was 102 Dalmatians (2000) with actress Glenn Close, who had been impressed by his work on Tarzan and supported him being director for the film.

Lima stated, "That was really my goal: how do you make a live-action movie that embraces the sensibility of an animated film for the modern audience like Mary Poppins did? What I did was that I looked back to the classic Disney animated films. I said: 'How does a Disney animated film balance all of these genres?' This movie is a romantic comedy; it's a musical; it has action-adventure elements and it's a 2D and 3D animated film."

Artist Harald Siepermann had worked with Lima on Tarzan and was asked to come up with some designs. Since the real world of New York would have a lot of vertical and straight lines like Art Deco, it was decided that the animated world would be very round and curvy like Art Nouveau.

The work of artists Alphonse Mucha and Maxfield Parrish were inspirational and some of that is in evidence even in unexpected things like Giselle's hair, which is like waves.

While Prince Edward is the generic Disney prince, to establish a connection between him and Giselle so the audience knows they belong together, both of them were given puffy shoulders on their costumes. When Giselle loses that design element, the audience knows that she has grown and moved on.

That growth is continually reflected in Giselle's wardrobe. In New York, she begins in the overly elaborate wedding gown, then to the very princess-like long gown she makes from the curtains, then to a very girly but short dress, and finally, into a modern evening gown. In the same way, Robert's wardrobe regresses from suit and tie to more casual clothing, and finally to a very prince-like outfit at the ball meant to reference the costume of the Beast in the ballroom scene of Beauty and the Beast to indicate there's something there that wasn't there before.

Lima stated:

"I know some fans have felt she should have married Edward. He is a nice enough guy and would treat her well. But the story is about a woman who grows past the small world where she came from and becomes a more fully formed person. She can't stay where she was.

"She can't get married to the person she met that she decided to marry the next morning. She has evolved and grown and that means unfortunately putting aside Edward and moving on to Robert.

"She becomes real. She becomes a real woman, but she doesn't give up who she is. She doesn't give up that naiveté or that purity in order to become real.

"She becomes a fully-formed, three-dimensional woman. And she takes very much sort of the path from the child to the adult, you know. At the beginning of the movie, she's very simplistic and has a very idealized viewpoint of the world. And as she grows into a human, into a woman, she acquires a much more complex sensibility and emotional state.

"The movie thematically presses that idea that even though you grow up, you don't have to let go of the child that's in you. The film does embrace joy as its central message.

"The song That's How You Know is [Giselle] enchanting the world. It's really where the movie gets its title from, that she enchants the world she steps into and the song is, basically, at its heart, her giving music to the world, giving her gift to the world."

As storyboard supervisor Tony Quane told writer Jeremie Noyer:

"In the case of Robert, in some way he's a tragic character. He's a character that has been hurt by love. He wants to believe, he wants to allow himself to fall into it, but at the same time, he's been hurt so badly that he sort of built this wall to protect himself. So, at the same time, you wanted to make sure that people feel that pain, that fear, really. It's what is at the heart of this character as opposed to just being cold and sort of flat.

"And then, the same thing with Edward, you want to come from a place of sincerity as opposed to just being a comic relief dummy. It's a tricky ending because you have these two great male characters, who are both good people and who are both in love with the same woman, and there's someone who's got to lose.

"How do you take care of Edward in a way that he's not just sacrificed by the situation but so that he'd find what he was looking for in the end as well, in an unexpected place and in an unexpected way. So, yes, you can become very protective that way. You come to relate to them very closely."

Another very key factor in the success of Enchanted was actress Amy Adams. Over the years during its development, Disney had considered offering the role of Giselle to Cameron Diaz, Renee Zellwegger, Jennifer Garner, Christina Aguilera, Reese Witherspoon, or Kate Hudson, among others.

Lima remembered:

"Amy walked through the door and she kind of looked like a Disney character. Round eyes, fair skin - and it was like, 'Wow! this character really does exist!' I had seen maybe 300 actresses. Disney wanted a 'name' and I insisted on an unknown so there was no existing private life baggage. I wanted audiences to think of the character first and not the actress.

"I was really sick as a dog with a fever of 103 but I perked up. So, she did two of the scenes and 45 minutes later I forgot I was sick and knew this was the girl. And the reason was that Amy was the only one who knew how to embody the character without commenting on the character.

"She was, quite honestly, the only actress I saw who wasn't embarrassed by Giselle. She found ways to keep it in the world of Disney, but give it multiple layers. The discussions with the studio after that audition were quite easy. Amy's audition tape was all that was needed to convince them that Giselle had arrived.

"I thought of Giselle as about 80 percent Snow White, with some traits borrowed from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty plus a little of Ariel's spunkiness thrown in. "

The idea to do the opening animation in 2-D rather than 3-D was to establish her connection with the classic animated Disney princesses. Lima had no idea that Adams was a trained dancer and singer, so he was pleasantly surprised.

The wedding dress that the petite Ms. Adams wears through many of her early scenes weighed 45 pounds, was cinched tightly at the waist and was awkward to move in. She found that if she moved too quickly, she would trip over the floor length costume's 6-foot wide steel hoop skirt.

Adams told an interviewer:

"I can't tell you how many outtakes there were of me falling backward. I decided that she moves side to side so the dress never got underneath me. It was fun.

"I love Ariel, and I'm sure there's a part of her (in my performance as Giselle) because that was a big part of my early teens. I was that girl in high school torturing people with my personal rendition of Part of Your World. My favorite Disney princess growing up was Cinderella. She had a good work ethic. She helped me further believe that a dream really is a wish your heart makes.

"We are not saying one world is bad and one is good. Different places are right for different people, and ultimately the real world is where Giselle belongs. I like the idea that the woman can pick up the sword and save the prince, rather than the other way around and that we have it in us to be feminine, kind, and strong. I do feel Disney princesses have been getting stronger.

"I do hope the movie stands the test of time. Hopefully the younger kids will just have fun. They probably won't even pick up on the themes that are more adult. I remember watching Grease growing up, and I had no idea there were sexual undertones. I think this is a movie that will mature as they mature, and hopefully they will come away with a sense of hope and love and strength, with the message that they can be themselves and fight for the good.

"In that way, I think princesses are good role models in their current incarnations and not just in a pretty-pretty princess kind of way. There is also something deeper with them."

From the storybook opening at the beginning of the film—which is reminiscent of the opening of many of the classic Disney animated features, like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty—to the final ballroom dance scene, which is a reference to similar scenes in Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast, the film is filled to overflowing with homages to earlier Disney animated films.

Lima refers to them as "princess moments," and when he had to come up with a listing for the BluRay release, he ended up with over five pages and still hadn't gotten them all.

Lima added, "My daughter is in part of it. She plays Rapunzel in the tower (in Central Park). She was 6 at the time. She'd done some theater. She came out to stay with me for a little bit, and we planned it so she could have a little experience on set." Disney was in pre-production on the film that would become Tangled (2010), so the scene was to foreshadow a new Disney princess.

Next week in Part Two: More behind-the-scenes stories of Enchanted, specifically about the animation. This is one of my favorite Disney films and I've always wanted to write something about it.



  1. By Lloydian

    Fascinating story so far. I hope you'll address its absence from the Disney+ streaming service. Unlike the movies that have known expirations of licensing on other services and show expected availability dates, this one is just not there.

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