'Disenchanted' Team Talks Sending Up Disney Tropes While Celebrating the Fairy Tales That Came Before

And yes, Idina Menzel gets to sing this time.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

From left to right: Amy Adams and Maya Rudolph in 'Disenchanted'


Part of the reason Enchanted worked so well when it was released in 2007 (it has a Metascore of 75) is because it featured a young girl who believes in fairy tales, so when a woman from the magical land of Andalasia turns up hanging from a billboard in New York City, she rushes to see her, and her father rushes after her, thus entangling their lives forever.

Fifteen years in our world later (but fewer in the world of the franchise), that little girl has grown into a teenager "who probably doesn't believe in magic anymore," sequel director Adam Shankman says. But furthermore, that magical woman's life has changed, too.

In Disenchanted, the sequel out Nov. 18 on Disney+, Giselle (Amy Adams) is now a stepmother to that young girl, Morgan (now played by Gabriella Baldacchino) and also a mother to a new baby with Robert (Patrick Dempsey), but the excitement of New York City has worn off, and she is looking for something different. ("Happily ever after sort of says that time stops because bad things never happen again, which is not how life works," Shankman points out.) So, the family moves out to a suburb where they can live in a big house (although it is a fixer-upper), but even that is not enough for Giselle. 

"When we leave her in the last movie, there's been an evolution from who Giselle is from the beginning to the end of the movie," Adams says. The sequel, she adds, is about "continuing that evolution and keeping her grounded but without losing that joy and naiveté and purity."

When given the opportunity to make a wish, she chooses to wish for a fairy-tale life. And thus begins the film's conflict because everyone in the audience knows that stepmothers are villains in fairy tales (but Giselle may have forgotten that when she makes the wish).

The film, producer Barry Josephson points out, is really a mother-daughter tale at its heart.

Giselle, then, will have to fight new feelings coming over her as the fairy-tale version of the world encroaches upon everything. But she is far from the only antagonist in the film, as Maya Rudolph joins the franchise as Malvina Monroe, the queen bee of the suburb Giselle and her family moves to — who is transformed into a much more literal queen when magic comes to the town. (Complete with a magic mirror, played by Oscar Nuñez.)

The magic has important ties to Andalasia, given Giselle's roots, and that means that Idina Menzel and James Marsden, of course, reprise their roles of Nancy Tremaine and Prince Edward, respectively. While Prince Edward is exactly as you remember him from the first film (meaning lovable but also a bit simple), Nancy, too, has undergone a bit of a transformation.

She was a "cynical New York chick," Menzel reflects on her origins in the first film, "and then I jump down a portal or a manhole" and move to Andalasia. "Adam and I would talk and I would say, 'How much of my New York accent do I still have? And how much of this idyllic, romantic, beautiful place has rubbed off on me?'"

It probably isn't a spoiler to say a lot, nor should it ruin the viewing experience to point out that the film pays homage to and directly references previous Disney films, as well as previous work of its cast members. For the latter, that is namely Menzel, whose song from Enchanted was cut out of the film, but who does get a solo in Disenchanted that was purposely written as an homage to "Defying Gravity" from Wicked.

"The fundamental construct of Enchanted is sending up the tropes," Shankman says. "If you look around when the town turns into a fairy-tale town, every shot of every sign has something of Disney winking at it. There is a not-so subtle nod in Gabby's solo song, and every shot in that song is a nod to another 'I want/I wish; song. Pip turns into Lucifer [from Cinderella]; Amy turns into many Disney villains; the Magic Mirror is a replica of the Magic Mirror from Snow White ... Jayma [Mays] and Yvette [Nicole Brown's] ball dresses are literally the stepsisters' dresses from Cinderella.

"So, it is floor to ceiling. Everywhere you look, you could swing a cat, you're going to hit a trope," he continues.