Fifteen years ago, Disney charmed viewers by sending up its own film catalog with Enchanted, and now its director is opening up about challenges in getting the movie made — and his surprise at not being asked to work on the new sequel, Disenchanted.
Enchanted’s origins date back to the late 1990s. The initial script, written by Bill Kelly (Blast From the Past), focused on Giselle, an animated woman who enjoys singing with animal friends (much like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty) but longs for a happily-ever-after. After Giselle and the prince of the magical kingdom fall in love, the evil queen banishes Giselle to a live-action New York City. Kelly tells of his initial inspiration: “How could you do a modern-day Sound of Music?”
Over the years, the script went through rewrites, and such directors as Rob Marshall, Jon Turteltaub and Adam Shankman were in talks to helm the project before Kevin Lima came aboard. Lima had a long history with the company as an animator, having worked on character designs for The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and as a storyboard artist for Aladdin before going on to direct A Goofy Movie and 102 Dalmatians. He tells THR that his pitch for Enchanted touted the film as a “love letter to Disney,” rather than the more cynical version that had been in the works.
Lima recalls that the studio was looking to cast an established star as the lead. But he pushed for Amy Adams, even before the release of the 2005 dramedy Junebug, which would provide her breakout and first Oscar nomination. “Amy is the lifeblood of Enchanted, and without that performance, the movie wouldn’t be half of what it is,” the director says.
He also remembers that the studio was “quite nervous” about the film, and he recalled some individuals at Disney expressing that the movie would only appeal to girls. “The marketing department didn’t have faith that the movie was worth making,” Lima says. “They didn’t think boys would go to see this movie, and the marketing department did their best to shut down the movie a couple of times while we were in pre-production. But I was really lucky that [Disney execs] Nina Jacobson and Dick Cook really believed in the film and kept pushing us forward.”
Lima says he felt strengthened when test scores were threw the roof, and he observed that boys loved it, too. Enchanted arrived in theaters on Nov. 21, 2007, and co-starred Patrick Dempsey, Idina Menzel and James Marsden; THR‘s review called the film “sometimes clever, other times grating.” Viewers were clearly spellbound, as it grossed $340 million worldwide ($471 million today) and earned three original song Oscar noms for the tunes from Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz.
A decade and a half later, the film has spawned the sequel Disenchanted, premiering this month on Disney+ with all the leads reprising their roles — but Shankman replacing Lima in the director’s chair. Lima tells THR that he was “shocked” to not get asked to be involved in the new film, which currently holds a 39 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to Enchanted’s 93 percent rating.
“A perfect storm of a change of executives and Hollywood politics made it so that I was uninvited to the party, unfortunately,” he says of Disenchanted. “It was a very, very sad turn. I haven’t seen the movie; I haven’t read the script. So I’m going to experience the characters that I helped create, grow and live on as the audience does.”
Regardless, Lima remains proud that Enchanted has joined the list of fan-favorite Disney-princess films: “Because we paid homage to those movies in a loving way, Enchanted has become timeless.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 21 issue of magazine. Click here to subscribe.