[Update: More Into the Woods images have been released online.]
There are two big family-friendly movie musicals opening around Christmas this year. First is Annie, which is a modern-day adaptation (or remake, if you prefer) of the famous Broadway musical about a young orphan and her wealthy would-be stepdaddy, and then Into the Woods, which is the Walt Disney Company's big screen adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Tood: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street).
Into the Woods, as directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine), features a number of A-list stars - like Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Johnny Depp - playing well-known fairy tale characters that a Baker (James Corden) crosses paths with on his journey to undo a witch's (Streep) curse that has led him and his wife (Emily Blunt) childless. Depp, as The Wolf in the Red Riding Hood story thread of Into the Woods, is kept under wraps in the film's teaser trailer, but a fresh set of magazine covers has revealed the actor's look as the character.
Depp and Marshall are coming off having previously worked together on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - a huge box office hit but a critical dud - so it's understandable that some film buffs have mixed feelings about the duo collaborating on another Disney-backed tentpole - one where Depp, per the norm nowadays, wears an elaborate costume and plays a character with an equally larger than life personality.
That said, Depp as The Wolf (a predator in more ways than one) reads as being good casting. The same goes for Streep as The Witch, Kendrick as Cinderalla, and so on, in terms of the crew's acting strengths. (We'll leave it to you musical theater enthusiasts to debate the cast's singing abilities in the comments section.) You can check out (overly?) polished versions of the cast members in character - including Lila Crawford and Mackenzie Mauzy as, respectively, Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel - in the EW magazine covers below.
Into the Woods boasts all the high production values that one would expect from a big-budget Disney live-aciton "event" film, including some excellent costume design by the three-time Oscar-winner Coleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman) and - going by what's shown in the trailer - impressive production design, used to bring the world of fairy tales to life, by Oscar-winner Dennis Gassner (Big Fish, Skyfall).
Both the source musical book by James Lapine (who also wrote the film version) and Sondheim's music/lyrics work are celebrated for offering a more thematically-rich and complex examination of the lives of fairy tale characters - their hopes, their dreams, and the consequences of their actions. It's this aspect of the project that attracted Streep to the Into the Woods movie adaptation in the first place, going by what she had to say to EW (see below).
“I’ve been offered many witches over the years, starting when I was 40, and I said no to all of them. But this was really fun because it played with the notion of what witches mean. They represented age and ugliness and scary powers we don’t understand. So here’s my opportunity to say, here’s what you wish for when you’re getting old.”
Update: EW has posted several additional Into the Woods images online, which you can peruse through below:
Seeing as Into the Woods has been Rated PG for "thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material," it appears that some of the more adult elements of the source musical have, as expected, been softened or perhaps removed. Nonetheless, Marshall has indicated before that the movie adaptation will prove to be more faithful to the original stage show than some might be anticipating.
Overall, though, right now Into the Woods seems like something that might well be worth checking out on the big screen this holiday season - assuming that you're a fan of the musical genre, naturally.
Into the Woods opens in U.S. theaters on December 25th, 2014.