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A special "May the (Stephen) Schwartz Be With You" edition of Why For

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A special "May the (Stephen) Schwartz Be With You" edition of Why For

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Evidently that book review of Carol de Giere's "Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked " that this site ran two week back really struck a chord with JHM readers as we've received a number of Stephen Schwartz-related questions since then.

First up, Gayle B. writes in to ask:

My family and I just love "Enchanted ." We watch this movie all the time and then try and pick out all of the Disney in-jokes. When "Enchanted" first came out, I remember reading somewhere that this film's score was also deliberately loaded with jokes that paid tribute to Disney movies. But other than all the obvious stuff in "Happy Working Song," my family and I can't seem to find any musical gags. So could you please provide us with a definitive list of where all the musical in-jokes in "Enchanted" can be found?

Actually, according to Stephen Schwartz himself, it's not so much that "Enchanted" is actually loaded with musical in-jokes. But -- rather -- as the score progressed through that Kevin Lima film, it was supposed to pay tribute / send up the way music has been performed in animated features over the past 70+ years.

Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

As Schwartz explained in an February 2008 interview with de Giere (Which is reproduced -- in a slightly edited form -- in "Defying Gravity" :

... from the very beginning ... there was a discussion of whether or not ("Enchanted" 's) opening should be an "Alan Menken style" number, like "Belle" from "Beauty and the Beast ."

I felt that (at the start of this film) we wanted to be in the world of "Snow White ," "Sleeping Beauty " and "Cinderella ." (So) Alan and I watched these movies and really tried to challenge that sensibility, both musically and lyrically. Obviously. we made fun of it a little bit. But basically the idea was to both honor and send up the classic Disney-styled songs.

Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

The second song (in "Enchanted") is also a send-up of a song from "Snow White." "Happy Working Song" is basically the sensibility of Snow White transported to modern day New York. She's dealing with rats and pigeons and cockroaches, but she's still singing as if they were adorable furry bunnies and little fluffy bunny and elves and birds, et cetera.

Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But (as the "Enchanted" plot unfolds), then the songs start moving forward in time, stylistically. As Giselle develops as a character and becomes more of a contemporary young woman, the score becomes increasingly contemporary. So "That's How You Know," which is kind of the centerpiece (of the movie), is more in the style of the 1990s Disney animated features. It's meant to send up "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl" from "The Little Mermaid " ... The Caribbean quality of "That's How You Know" was directly related to the fact that we wanted to have fun with "Under the Sea" a little bit.

Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

And then "So Close" is deliberately meant to evoke the title song of "Beauty and the Beast." ("Enchanted" 's director) Kevin Lima always planned to use the famous camera move that was built into "Beauty and the Beast," where they were dancing and the camera swirls around them; he wanted to recreate that move live. So part of the assignment (when Alan Menken and I wrote that song) was to build in a dance section where that camera move could take place.

Finally, at the very end (of the movie), in "Ever Ever After," we catch up with contemporary animated features like "Toy Story" and "Shrek"), where the characters aren't even singing on screen. It's a voice-over.

So to be honest, Gayle, what Menken and Schwartz were trying to do with "Enchanted" was infinitely subtler than -- say -- having Edward & his manservant Nathaniel stay at the Grand Duke Hotel.

Kevin Lima directs Amy Adams on the set of "Enchanted."
Copyright 2007 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Speaking of Kevin Lima, he'll soon be returning to the fairy tale realm. For his "Enchanted" follow-up project is going to be a big-screen version of "Tom Thumb," which Warner Bros. hopes to have out in theaters sometime in 2010.

Next up, Terri L. writes in to ask about Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" :

"I noticed that your review of 'Defying Gravity' talked about Stephen Schwartz's work on 'Pocahontas ,' 'Mulan ' and 'Enchanted,' but made no mention of my favorite Disney project that this composer worked on, 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.' Does Carol de Giere's book skip over that project? I hope not. I love, love, love that movie and keep hoping that the stage version will eventually make it to Broadway."

"Defying Gravity" does in fact devote an entire chapter to the development of that 1996 Walt Disney Pictures release. With one of the more memorable passages describing Schwartz's research trip to Paris in October of 1993. Where ...


.. by special arrangement, (Schwartz) was able to enter the great cathedral of Notre Dame in the early hours before tourists arrived. For several days in a row, he arrived near dawn at the gothic stone structure beside the river Seine. Entering through the giant doorway, (Stephen) headed for the bell tower and climbed the seemingly endless staircase, then perched in the tower where he could look out over the city as Quasimodo might have done.

In his chameleon-like fashion, (Schwartz) mentally slipped into the character (of the Hunchback). "By that point I had done a lot of research into what Paris would have looked like in 1482 and I would sit there and look out and imagine what Quasimodo might have seen, and how he might have felt ... and I scribbled down ideas and phrases."

All of those hours spent looking out over the city proved invaluable when Stephen eventually returned to the U.S. to begin collaborating with Alan Menken on the film's score. As Stephen recalled:

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

"Alan had written a tune that he liked, which seemed appropriate for this project ... The chorus went plunk, plunk, da da da da da, and I said 'Well, it's 'out there ...,' obviously. Because this is the story about a guy who wants to go out there."

Speaking of the stage version of Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" ... There's a rumor currently making the rounds that Disney Theatrical has asked Craig Lucas to rewrite James Lapine's book for this stage show. With the hope that a somewhat lighter take on this material would then be more palatable to a Broadway audience. But as to whether this means that the stage version of Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" will actually be bowing in the Big Apple anytime soon ... Who can say.

What I can say is ... "Enchanted" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" have something in common. Given that both of these films were showcases for the amazing animation of James Baxter.

And speaking of James Baxter ... He'll be joining master animators Mike Belzer & Nik Ranieri next Monday night at Woodbury University. Where these three will join veteran Disney producer Don Hahn onstage in the Fletcher Jones Foundation Auditorium for a panel discussion about the process involved with creating animated films.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Following that evening's presentation, Don will be signing copies of his new book, "The Alchemy of Animation: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age." A limited number of these books will be available for purchase at the event. Proceeds from the on-site sales of "The Alchemy of Animation" will then benefit the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive.

For further information on Monday night's event (which begins at 7 p.m.), please click on this link.

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  • Oooh, I'd love for THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME to come to Broadway! Yet, if it does, I want it to be like the German version, not too-family-friendly. After all, the German musical was meant to show what the animators at Disney weren't allowed to show.

  • Hey Jim, thanks for a new "Why For?"...it's great to see your signature column again.

    And focusing on Stephen Schwartz...I loved his work since Godspell and really enjoy his Disney projects.  Thanks for shining more light on it.

    I'd love to see a Broadway version of Hunchback...I never made to the live show at DHS which got such great reviews, but have fond memories of the wild Hunchback show they used to do at DL.  That seems like such a long time ago, now...a new Broadway quality show would be great!

    Sue in Texas

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