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Which version of Disney's "Enchanted" would you have made?

Which version of Disney's "Enchanted" would you have made?

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In response to last week's "Enchanted" story, I got a number of e-mails from JHM readers which basically asked:

Why did it take Walt Disney Studios so long to put this particular picture into production? If this combination animated / live-action movie had been released to the multiplexes prior to May 2001 (I.E. Before Dreamworks' "Shrek" rolled into theaters), it might have been seen as an extremely clever romantic comedy. But now this whole real-live-Disney-Princess-on-the-loose-in-modern-Manhattan idea just sounds dated & tired.

Again, "Enchanted" sounds like it might have been a great premise for a motion picture back in the late 1990s. But not now in 2005. So why didn't the Mouse move faster to try & get this movie made?

Well, it's not that development of "Enchanted" was deliberately being stalled. I mean, this project was offered to no less than four of the top directors that worked for the Walt Disney Company over the past decade (I.E. Rob Marshall, Jon Turteltaub, Andy Shankman and Kevin Lima). And four different screenwriters -- Rita Hsiao, Todd Alcott, Bob Schooley & Mark McCorkle -- were hired to try & make improvements to Bill Kelly's original script. So it's clear that Mouse House officials really were trying to get this motion picture made.

But -- that said -- if I had to pick one area where "Enchanted" 's development actually did  lag behind (a little), I'd have to say that it was the years of work that were devoted to getting the film's story just right. As in: Studio execs couldn't decide what sort of real-live-Disney-princess-loose-in-modern-Manhattan story they really wanted to tell.

Don't believe me? Then take a gander at all these variations-on-a-theme that Disney studio execs considered as possible storylines for "Enchanted" over the past eight years. The proposed premises for this motion picture included:

  • A beautiful maiden from an enchanted kingdom has a chance encounter with a handsome prince. The fairyland's queen, fearing that her son was now in love with a commoner, magically banishes this girl to modern-day Chicago. The young woman winds up at a bachelor party where she is mistaken for a stripper. This beautiful maiden then falls in love with the groom-to-be, who is a computer programmer.
  • A soon-to-be-crowned princess is extremely selfish and vain. In order to teach this spoiled young lady a lesson in humility, the court sorceress casts a spell which sends the princess flying out of her animated realm into real-life, modern day Manhattan. Where the now-real girl must use all of her wit, charm and ingenuity in order to survive in the big city.
  • A young girl is coerced into marrying a prince that she doesn't love. The night before her wedding, the girl's godmother appears. She then grants the girl her wish to visit the real-life New York City for three days. The girl then has only the allotted time to find true love and avoid the obligation to marry the prince.

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Eventually, Disney studio execs settled on a storyline for "Enchanted" that actually combined a number of pieces from these various premises. Where a young girl met and fell in love with a handsome prince. News of this romance upsets his mother, the evil queen. Who then uses her black magic to send the girl hurtling out of the animated world into the one place in the universe where there is no true love: modern day Manhattan.

The now-real girl now has to survive in the real New York City. But -- against all odds -- she does find true love in Manhattan. Only this time around, the girl winds up falling for a married man.

And -- if this situation weren't already complicated enough -- that handsome prince that the girl originally fell for? He uses his mother's black magic to also travel to Manhattan. But he's soon followed by the evil queen!

So now the young girl must decide. Should she opt for the fairy tale happy ending or stick with real love in the real world? Even though her relationship with a real-life married man would undoubtedly be much more complicated than the "happily ever after" that she's bound get if she sticks with her handsome prince.

But -- even then -- after all of "Enchanted" 's main story points had been finally been hammered out, Disney execs still couldn't decide what to do with the film's heroine. Should she be this beautiful young peasant girl, a princess-in-waiting or some sort of combo character? As in: a princess wanna-be.

More importantly, how do they make "Enchanted" 's main character palatable to today's politically correct audiences? Even though she was supposed to be a Disney princess, it just wouldn't seem very P.C. for this beautiful young lady to be rescued by a handsome prince. In order for "Enchanted" 's characters & storyline to really connect with today's movie-goers, the film's main character would have to find a way to rescue herself as well as find true love.

I know, I know. It must seem rather bizarre that the plotline of a proposed project would have to go through all of these permutations before Disney Studio execs would finally greenlight production of that particular motion picture. But -- to be honest -- this sort of thing happens all the time in Hollywood. Particularly at the Mouse Factory.

Mind you, many movie scripts lose a lot of their initial charm & focus as they go through this sort of lengthy development process. While some projects just get sharper and stronger with each rewrite they undergo.

Case in point: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." For years, the proposed movie version of this Gary K. Wolf book was supposed to star this rabbit who would act like a complete fool whenever he was in front of a camera. But then -- once the klieg lights were off -- the film's title character quickly became an urbane sophisticate. Picture Roger Rabbit as played by screen legend Ronald Colman. With a silk smoking jacket and long cigarette holder to go with his bulbous red nose and long floppy ears.

And as the film's villain ... That character's identity kept shifting from draft to draft. In some early versions of the "Roger Rabbit" script, it was Jessica Rabbit (Who are then portrayed as a Tallulah Bankhead-type) who was trying to kill her hare husband. While in other versions of the screenplay, it was Baby Herman (with an off-camera voice that sounded a lot like Sydney Greenstreet) who was out to off his obnoxious co-star. While in still other drafts of the film's script, Jessica & Baby Herman had secretly teamed up in an effort to bump off Roger.

It wasn't until Robert Zemeckis officially came on board as the film's director and screenwriters Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman were hired to go through all of the previous drafts of the "Roger Rabbit" script & cull out the very best bits ... that the live action / animated masterpiece that we all know & love today finally came into being. Where the film's title character took on Tex Avery-like tendencies and Judge Doom emerged as one of the screen's more memorable villains.

So -- granted -- eight years may seem like an awfully long time for "Enchanted" to slowly chug along Disney's development track. But if the end result is that this soon-to-begin-shooting Kevin Lima film winds up being half as entertaining as "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" was ... Well, I'm happy that Mouse House execs actually took the time they needed in order to get this movie's story just right.

But did Disney execs actually wind up picking the very best plotline for "Enchanted"? Given all of the possible permutations of the picture's premise that I've listed above, which storyline would you have chosen? Which premise do you think would have made for a more memorable motion picture?

Your thoughts?

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