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“Enchanted,” which opens today, is a loving homage to many classic Disney princess movies of yore.
The movie starts out in a traditional 2-D animated world, where a fairy tale princess (voiced by Amy Adams) about to marry her prince is thrust into the real world by an evil queen. The real world is represented by New York, and once there, the princess (now a flesh-and-blood Adams) begins to change her views on life and love when she meets a cynical divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey).
The movie references many Disney movies in obvious and subtle ways, but many of the references weren’t in the initial script. “That was all (director) Kevin Lima’s doing,” producer Barry Josephson said.
Lima, a veteran Disney animator who also co-directed the company’s 1999 feature “Tarzan,” came on board two years ago and from the first meeting with writer Bill Kelly began peppering the script with homages.
“I have a lifetime of references running through my head,” Lima said. “From the time I was 5 years old and I saw ‘Jungle Book,’ and my mom swears by this story, I turned to her and said, ‘Mom I’m going to be a Disney animator when I grow up.'”
The obvious iconic references involve slippers and poison apples, dragons and little people. But little throwaways and background activities suggest a lot of thought went into the making of the film.
A seedy motel is named the Grand Duke, which is a character from “Cinderella.” A restaurant is called Bella Note, a nod to “Lady and the Tramp.” A woman Adams encounters in Central Park asks her if she wants to feed the birds, “just a dollar a bag.” That’s dialogue from “Mary Poppins,” minus the word “tuppins.”
Going a bit deeper, you’ll find that Mary Ilene Caselotti, the reporter on TV, is named after the actresses who voiced Princess Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty” (Mary Costa), Cinderella (Ilene Woods) and Snow White (Adriana Caselotti). The Banks, a couple getting divorced in the movie, is named after the family in “Mary Poppins.” And Churchill, Harline and Smith, the name of Dempsey’s law firm, is named after the songwriters from “Snow White”: Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline and Paul Smith.
Also in the law firm sequence, Giselle looks at a fish tank while the muzak in the background is “Part of Your World,” a song from “The Little Mermaid.”
A couple of the new songs in the movie — from Disney’s Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, who between them worked on many Disney animated films from the ’90s — hark back to songs in “Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
To give the 2-D animated scenes the Disney feel, Lima turned to the James Baxter Studio, whose president James Baxter did the animated work on Rafiki in “The Lion King,” Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” and Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Visual effects supervisor Thomas Schelesny and the team at Tippett Studio created the 3-D for the live action portion of the film, which played alongside the 2-D.
Schelesny recalled that Lima’s aim was to create a homage right from the start. “Kevin’s direction to us was very clear, we are not making fun … we are honoring this work and this tradition and the people that work at Disney.”
“I’m not embarrassed by the source material,” said Lima, “which makes it really easy to embrace it.”
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