'Enchanted' casts a familiar spell

Times Staff Writer

Did you notice anything familiar about "Enchanted?"

Disney's new live-action/animated comedy is earning rave reviews for its unconventional tale about an animated princess named Giselle, who is cast out of her kingdom by an evil queen only to find herself in real-world New York City. But the offbeat romance starring Amy Adams, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden as Giselle's animated beau, Prince Edward, and Patrick Dempsey as her real-life Prince Charming, doesn't completely break with tradition.

The film is chock-full of winking nods to classic Disney films. Among them: the casting of Jodi Benson -- who was the voice of Ariel in "The Little Mermaid" -- as Sam, the secretary to attorney Robert Philip (Dempsey), as well as the appearance of a little eatery where Giselle and Robert dine named Belle Notte, after the romantic song from "Lady and the Tramp."

"Enchanted" director Kevin Lima describes the animated opening as a "can of condensed Disney. If you added water to the eight-minute opening you would have a full 88-minute movie. We just collected everything we would think of that would homage Disney movies."

The in-jokes and homages all came from Lima, 45, who has been obsessed with Disney films since his mother took him to see "The Jungle Book" when he was 5. "I turned to her after the movie and said 'I want to be a Disney animator when I grow up.' " Lima's wish came true. He not only became an animator at Disney, but he also directed the studio's 1999 "Tarzan" before moving into live-action films as a director ("102 Dalmatians," "The Haunted Mansion").

When he read the script for "Enchanted," he says, "Immediately, I had an idea -- Wouldn't it be fun if we did 'Whistle While You Work' in the real world. . . . 'It just spread throughout the body of the film and took over. The homages go pretty deep if you are a Disney geek like I am."

And it starts with the opening frame of the movie -- with a nod to the castle in "Sleeping Beauty." "If you look around Giselle's room, the prince that she builds looks very much like the statue of Prince Eric from 'The Little Mermaid,' " Lima says. "If you do some frame-by-frame, you also find she has the bell jar with the rose like in 'Beauty and the Beast.' There are all sorts of collective nods . . . ."

Other moments and likenesses that will catch the eye of Disney lovers:

* Giselle is based on a compilation of Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" and Aurora from "Sleeping Beauty."

* Queen Narissa's transformation into a dragon harks back to the evil Maleficent's makeover in "Sleeping Beauty."

* All the clips seen on the TV in Prince Edward's room -- he comes to the Big Apple to save Giselle -- have Disney connections. (Prince Edward, never having seen a television before, refers to it as the "magic mirror.") Those clips include a scene with Edgar Bergen and Mortimer Snerd from the Disney live-action animated film "Fun and Fancy Free" and Paige O'Hara, who was the voice of Belle, as the star of a soap opera.

* Judy Kuhn, who was the singing voice of "Pocahontas," plays a pregnant woman with several crying kids who is Robert's neighbor.

* Giselle's carriage is fashioned after Cinderella's coach and, just as in "Cinderella," she loses her slipper at the ball at the stroke of midnight.

* A divorcing couple in the movie, the Banks, are named after the parents in "Mary Poppins."

* Sam is named after Prince Philip's horse Samson in "Sleeping Beauty."

* The law firm of Churchill, Harline & Smith refers to the composers of "Snow White": Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith.

* The decrepit Grand Duke Hotel is named after a "Cinderella" character.

* The character of a TV reporter, Mary Ilene Caselotti, is named for Mary Costa, Ilene Woods and Adriana Caselotti, who were the voices for Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White, respectively.


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