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The Untold Truth Of Enchanted

"Of all the classic Disney stories ... there has never been anything like 'Enchanted' because no other story has ever taken you to a land as strange and terrifying as ours." These narrated words began the 2007 trailer for "Enchanted," where audiences got a first look at the converging worlds of the fairytale Andalasia and the very real New York City. Now a fan favorite some 15 years later, "Enchanted" has held its own as a defining project for Amy Adams and a film worthy of its place alongside the Disney tales it pays tribute to.

Of course, "Enchanted" was hardly the first of its kind. Fairytales retold with a meta, contemporary flair was a trend arguably set into motion by 2001's "Shrek" and continued with 2004's "A Cinderella Story," 2006's "Hoodwinked," and a number of other movies. Furthermore, a fish-out-of-water character navigating New York City was something audiences had recently seen in 2003's "Elf."

So what made "Enchanted" stick? For one, this time it was Disney — the undisputed modern purveyor of fairytale storytelling — parodying its own genre rather than an outside studio poking fun at Disney's expense. With the studio's reputable arsenal of animators, songwriters, and directors, as well as an exquisite performance from its lead at the center of it all, "Enchanted" effortlessly coasted beyond its parody gimmick to find an identity all its own. So now, let's travel down the wishing well — or manhole, whichever you prefer — and discover the untold truth of "Enchanted."

Enchanted was a breath of fresh air for Disney

When "Enchanted" debuted in 2007, Walt Disney Animation Studios was in an era of forgettable duds. 2004's "Home on the Range" was savaged by critics and majorly flopped at the box office, and 2005's "Chicken Little" bombed domestically and was pummeled by scathing reviews. And while 2007's "Meet the Robinsons" got slightly nicer critical marks, basically no one on the planet saw it in theaters.

Of course, "Enchanted" wasn't created by Walt Disney Animation Studios proper — not even the film's animated segment — but it was still designed to feel akin to Disney Animation's most treasured projects. In the middle of a period of mediocrity, "Enchanted" reminded audiences of Disney's staying power by honoring the company's legacy. The film achieved universal acclaim from critics, earning the studio's highest score on Rotten Tomatoes since 1994's "The Lion King" if you want to compare it to the films in the Disney Animation canon it parodied.

While an aggregated Tomatometer score is hardly the only measurement of a movie's success, in this case, we can use its numbers to track the story of a studio in a slump and soon to be on the rise — with "Enchanted" acting as a breath of fresh air. Plus, it earned a nice $340 million at the box office. With the next immediate string of projects from Disney Animation after "Enchanted" being "Bolt," "The Princess and the Frog," and "Tangled," it wouldn't take long for the studio to find its mojo again.

Cameos from three Disney princesses

With its story being a traditional fairytale spun on its head, "Enchanted" is the ultimate Easter egg hunt of hidden references to classic Disney movies and characters. Among them are cameos from royalty — princesses, to be exact. Three actresses who previously voiced iconic leading ladies in animated Disney movies appear throughout "Enchanted" in various roles.

Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in 1989's "The Little Mermaid," plays Sam, the receptionist at Robert's office. In tribute to Ariel, a fish tank sits nearby Sam's desk, which Giselle is so excited about that she puts one of the fish into her mouth and spits it into a glass of water. Additionally, diegetic music playing throughout the office is an instrumental version of "Part of Your World," Ariel's signature song.

Paige O'Hara, who voiced Belle in 1991's "Beauty and the Beast," appears in a soap opera Prince Edward watches on television. Within the narrative of the soap, O'Hara plays someone named Angela while her scene partner is named Jerry. These are most likely references to Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach, O'Hara's "Beauty and the Beast" castmates who voiced Mrs. Potts and Lumiere, respectively.

Lastly, Judy Kuhn, who performed the singing voice of the titular character in 1995's "Pocahontas," plays a tenant in Robert's apartment complex. As Prince Edward searches the building for Giselle, Kuhn's character answers the door of her apartment surrounded by three young children and says to the regal-looking prince, "You're too late."

Veteran Disney animators drew the opening sequence with care

"Enchanted" begins with 11 minutes of hand-drawn animation before segueing into live-action. The opening sequence was intended to evoke the feeling of timeless classics created by Walt Disney Animation Studios, though at the time of production, the studio no longer had the equipment or staffing necessary to produce such a tall order of traditional animation. Animated Views shares that Disney instead outsourced the animation in "Enchanted" to James Baxter Animation, helmed by a Disney alumni who'd previously brought Belle to life in "Beauty and the Beast" and Quasimodo in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," among other iconic characters.

In assembling his crew for "Enchanted," Baxter told Animated Views he got to borrow a few Disney pros who were still with the studio. "You know, like in the old Hollywood studio system where another studio would borrow a movie star?" Baxter mused. "That was kind of like that!" Mark Henn, whose prior princess characters included Jasmine in "Aladdin" and the titular character in "Mulan," helped animate Giselle. Andreas Deja, who previously animated villains like Gaston in "Beauty and the Beast" and Jafar in "Aladdin," lent his talents to animating the hag version of Queen Narissa.

The music style progresses with Giselle's transformation

When Giselle first arrives in New York City, Amy Adams plays the character as a storybook princess dropped into reality. By the film's conclusion, Giselle becomes grounded enough within the culture of her new environment that she chooses to stay there. Interestingly, Giselle's internal journey is mirrored in the film's soundtrack. "If you'll notice, the songs continue to progress throughout the film," Adams pointed out to Collider.

Indeed, this acute attention to detail checks out. The first song in the movie, "True Love's Kiss," is grandly orchestrated in the tradition of classic Disney love songs and still takes place within Andalasia's animated aesthetic. Next, "Happy Working Song" retains Giselle's fairytale stylings, but it's performed in live-action. "And as she becomes more real, into the real world, we bring it up to a more current style with 'That's How You Know,' which is much more of a Broadway showstopper style of song," Adams continued to Collider. "It goes into 'So Close,' which is a lot more poppy, and then we end up with Carrie Underwood's 'Ever Ever After,' which is a country rock ballad." Adams noted that her vocal training even varied in style depending on the song, all in an effort to preserve the integrity of Giselle's transformation.

Some of the rats were real

"Happy Working Song" sees Giselle summoning the local animals to help her cheerily clean Robert's apartment. However, since this is New York City and not Andalasia, Giselle's usual friendly woodland fauna are substituted with rats, pigeons, and roaches. One might assume that these creatures are computer-animated, inserted into the frame in post-production. Some of them are, but a surprising amount are real, trained animals.

The mini-doc "Fantasy Come To Life: The Making of Enchanted" sheds light on the many moving parts involved to bring the sequence to life. "There were rats that were trained to sit, rats that were trained to scamper, rats that were trained to sniff," Amy Adams said of her furry co-stars. "So they're very talented rats." Re-watching the scene and knowing that those are actual rodents scurrying across the floor is enough to send shivers up anyone's spine.

As big of a deal as the animals were, their involvement was just the tip of the iceberg in this complex production number. For the moments without real animals, Adams had to pretend the empty room was alive with activity, which sometimes required some moviemaking magic. For example, one shot necessitated the star being attached to a rig that twirled her dress in a whimsical motion, which in the finished film would be accompanied by computer-animated birds lifting up the fabric.

Connections to Mary Poppins

As "Enchanted" strives to be the ultimate tribute to Disney lore, it's appropriate that the film shares a number of connections to one of the most quintessential Disney films of all time, 1964's "Mary Poppins." For starters, Julie Andrews opens "Enchanted" as the off-screen narrator. Her calm, familiar voice immediately welcomes the audience to the story and provides a practically perfect beginning that lets viewers know the movie will spare no expense in an effort to create a modern fairytale.

Later in the film, the audience meets Robert (Patrick Dempsey), an attorney who's currently handling the divorce of Mr. and Mrs. Banks (Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Tonya Pinkins). Those names reference George and Winifred Banks, the married couple in "Mary Poppins" who have their own set of relationship issues. Just like the Bankses on Cherry Tree Lane, the Bankses in Manhattan work out their problems and stay together.

Lastly, the song "That's How You Know" includes a diverse canvas of performers throughout Central Park, including a group of elderly couples. One of the older gentlemen in this song is no stranger to Disney showstoppers — "The Making of Enchanted" reveals he was one of the chimney sweeps during "Step in Time" from "Mary Poppins!"

James Marsden has the perfect phrase to describe Prince Edward

Actor James Marsden plays Prince Edward in "Enchanted." The pampered prince proposes to Giselle literally in their first conversation, and he spends the length of the film trying to find her before he eventually marries another woman, Nancy — someone he met just as quickly as Giselle. And when it comes to this unique character, Marsden has a pretty good read on the guy.

"I always describe [Edward] as having an innocent narcissism about him," Marsden told Collider. "He is very confident, he is full of himself, but in the most innocent way. He is naïve and a bit of a buffoon but a lovable buffoon." On paper, Edward is so self-obsessed that someone without context could almost read him as a villain. Shades of his personality even bring to mind Gaston, the baddie in "Beauty and the Beast" who loves himself more than anyone else on the planet. It's that "innocent narcissism" that Marsden speaks of, then, that helps Edward become someone the audience earnestly likes rather than loathes. Yes, he's his own favorite person, but his motivations are all in the right place.

Oscars night 2008 was basically an Enchanted mini-musical

The songs of "Enchanted" were penned by pros of the medium, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, whose previous collaborations included 1995's "Pocahontas" and 1996's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Separately, they've each had iconic careers in and of themselves, with Menken writing music to nearly every hit Disney film in the '90s and Schwartz writing the songs for "Wicked."

Three songs from "Enchanted" were nominated for Oscars, and they were each performed during the 2008 ceremony during their own separate moments, amounting to nearly eight minutes of the telecast. Amy Adams sang "Happy Working Song" solo, channeling Giselle while alone on stage. "That's How You Know" mirrored its elaborate production number in the film, filling the Oscars stage with dancers and emulating Central Park (though in the ceremony, Kristin Chenoweth performed the song instead of Adams). As he did in the movie, Jon McLaughlin sang "So Close" over a mesmerizing ensemble of ballroom dancers, including look-alikes of Adams and Patrick Dempsey standing in for Giselle and Robert. 

Sadly for "Enchanted" fans, in the end, the award for Best Song went to "Falling Slowly," a song from "Once."

Idina Menzel's song got cut

Audiences have been baffled for 15 years as to how "Enchanted" could include Idina Menzel among its cast without giving her a song. Menzel plays Nancy, Robert's girlfriend who later becomes smitten by Prince Edward and becomes princess of Andalasia. When "Enchanted" debuted in 2007, Menzel might not have been a household name like she is today, but she'd already originated the role of Elphaba in Broadway's "Wicked" and had more than proven herself as an accomplished performer.

It turns out the wickedly talented Menzel did have a song, but it was deleted from the finished film. Songwriter Alan Menken told Sci Fi Wire in 2007 that he and Stephen Schwartz "wrote a title song called 'Enchanted,' where Edward and Nancy first connect, and then it opens up into a montage." So why wasn't it included in the film? As Menken explained, "Really, on practical terms, it was just really, extremely difficult that late in the game to deliver that kind of song." Having Nancy and Edward sing a romantic, musical-style song together at the end of the film would've been out of alignment with the progression of the movie's songs from fairytale to contemporary as the story unfolds.

Enchanted was directed by a Disney veteran

"Enchanted" beams with pride as the embodiment of all things Disney, so it makes sense that the movie found its director in someone who was no stranger to the studio. Kevin Lima helmed "Enchanted," adding to his lengthy résumé of Disney projects. Lima had experience directing both animation and live-action, making him perfect for a film that blended both.

Prior to "Enchanted," Lima had directed 1995's "A Goofy Movie" and 1999's "Tarzan" on the animated front, while his live-action Disney credits as director included 2000's "102 Dalmatians," 2003's "Eloise at the Plaza," and 2003's "Eloise at Christmastime." Beyond directing, Lima contributed animation and character design to various projects with Walt Disney Animation Studios. The through line in Lima's work is heart-driven narrative centered around family relationships, whether biological or formed on one's own accord. Like Max Goof and Tarzan before her, Giselle discovers who she truly is by seeing the world through the eyes of someone closest to her.

Enchanted has surprisingly little presence in Disney theme parks

"Enchanted" admirably raked in over $340 million worldwide at the box office. Paired with its positive critical reception, this meant the movie was an all-around hit for Disney. Despite its success, though, "Enchanted" didn't make a very large imprint upon a medium often considered the next big step for a hot Disney franchise — the company's theme parks. There has yet to be a full-fledged attraction or show based on "Enchanted" in any Disney park.

That's not to say "Enchanted" has been completely absent from Disney vacation destinations. The film has popped up here and there. At the time of the movie's release, a mini-parade promoted its debut at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios. "That's How You Know," a song from the film, was featured for a few years as part of a trolley show on Main Street U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom, where its turn-of-the-century arrangement fit among other tunes like "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from "Hello, Dolly!"

Lastly, and perhaps most prominently, the song "So Close" is highlighted in "World of Color," a nighttime water spectacular that's been performed on and off since 2010 at Disney California Adventure. In an interesting juxtaposition, the lagoon show transitions from a replay of Mufasa's death in "The Lion King" and into a somber montage of Disney pairs set to the tune of "So Close," performed, as it is in "Enchanted," by Jon McLaughlin.

Disenchanted was a long time coming

15 years separate 2007's "Enchanted" and its 2022 sequel, "Disenchanted." That may seem like a long time, but it's certainly not for lack of trying. As early as the press junket for the first film, a follow-up appeared to be in the works. In November 2007, Collider asked Amy Adams directly if she was signed on for a sequel, to which she replied, "I believe that's in the contract."

In February 2010, Variety broke the news that Disney was moving forward with an "Enchanted" sequel directed by Anne Fletcher and written by Jessie Nelson. Variety stated that Disney hoped to shoot the movie as early as 2011, but that estimate was off by a decade. Fast-forward to October 2016, when The Hollywood Reporter shared that Disney had changed course with Adam Shankman as director and David Stem and David Weiss as writers. The timeline had its sights set on 2017 for filming, which again wouldn't be met.

Disney finally publicly announced "Disenchanted" in December 2020 and began production in May 2021 for a fall 2022 release on Disney+. The final roster has Shankman as director and Brigitte Hales as writer. The initially announced director, Fletcher, still got a chance to revive a classic Disney property, as she went on to direct "Hocus Pocus 2," a film which first had Shankman attached to direct it — meaning when it was all said and done, whether intentional or not, the two filmmakers ultimately swapped movies!