Tales From The Box Office: 15 Years Ago, Enchanted Cast A Classic Disney Spell On Audiences

(Welcome to Tales from the Box Office, our column that examines box office miracles, disasters, and everything in between, as well as what we can learn from them.)

The word "Disney" brings so much to mind and has for going on 100 years now. While the sheer scope of what that word means in popular culture has evolved greatly, particularly in recent years with the likes of Lucasfilm, Marvel, The Muppets, and other big IPs being acquired by the House of Mouse, there's still that feeling when something is Disney. We all know it and recognize it instantly. Disney has used that to its advantage in recent years, remaking some of its biggest classics such as "Cinderella" and "The Jungle Book" in live-action to great profit.

But in 2007, the studio wisely took many of the elements that make a Disney movie feel like a Disney movie, threw them in a blender, and made something classic that also somehow felt fresh and new. That movie was "Enchanted" and it became a big, original hit for the studio at a time when Hollywood was becoming more franchise obsessed than ever. The bait-and-switch of giving audiences a familiar feel while actually giving them something new worked like gangbusters and helped turn Amy Adams into an absolute star.

In honor of the movie's 15th anniversary, as well as its sequel "Disenchanted" arriving on Disney+, we're looking back at the film, its unusual journey from page to screen, how it won the holiday season that year, and what lessons we can learn from it all these years later. Let's dig in, shall we?

The movie: Enchanted

For those who may need a light refresher, "Enchanted" as we know it takes place in the fairytale land of Andalasia, where the beautiful Giselle (Amy Adams, coming fresh off of her Oscar nomination for "Junebug") enjoys life with her woodland pals. Naturally, she falls in love with a handsome prince and all seems well. But when she arrives at the castle to marry him, his evil stepmother sends her to our world — New York City to be specific. From her animated, Disney-fied world to our reality, she meets a divorce lawyer named Robert (Patrick Dempsey), who comes to her rescue. They teach one another lessons, sparks fly, and musical numbers happen — the film is Disney all the way. The original script, as it turns out, was remarkably distant from this Disney love letter.

Ultimately, it was Kevin Lima, the director of "Tarzan" and "102 Dalmatians," that made the movie what it is, but it passed through the hands of a great many filmmakers on its way to Lima's hands. Billy Kelly's script was originally picked up by Disney in 1999, though the director revealed in 2007, oddly enough, that it was originally a "racier R-rated movie." He added, "It took the studio time to rediscover the heart of the story." Lima was the one who all but forced them to rediscover it.

What Lima describes is genuinely hard to imagine given the movie we ultimately ended up with. That original draft had Giselle apparently being mistaken for a stripper upon her arrival in New York City. So yeah, a radically different approach. Rob Marshall was actually on board to direct back when the film was going to be released in 2002, but he backed out over creative differences. Amazingly enough, that would have been Marshall's feature directorial debut. He instead made 2002's Best Picture winner "Chicago."

Kevin Lima cracks the Enchanted code

Kevin Lima, for his part, has been trying to shoehorn his way into the gig for some time. Disney, initially at least, wasn't having it as they were content to try and make the racier version work with other filmmakers. But, speaking just after the movie's original release, Lima revealed that his persistence paid off when he showed the brass at Disney his concept, which ultimately got the film the green light:

"I did what I would do typically on an animated film. I developed it visually, which meant I basically took the script and explored the script visually and came up with a lot of new ideas and filled the whole floor of the production building with artwork. All of the executives came through ... Dick Cook finally came through and gave me a green light within a half hour of seeing it."

It was Lima who laid it all out, quite literally, on the floor. The idea was to use the film as an excuse to write a love letter to Disney movies, while not actually taking any specific intellectual property from those other movies. The animation would look like Disney, but it would be new. The characters would feel Disney, but they would be new too. It was a pretty genius way to use nostalgia as a way to almost trick people into seeing a pretty inventive, original fairytale. And it worked like a charm.

The financial journey

With a production that seemingly went smoothly from that point on, the $85 million budgeted musical made its way to theaters over the Thanksgiving frame in 2007. Truth be told, it was an absolutely stacked time for new releases, with "This Christmas," "Hitman," "August Rush," and "The Mist" all opening that weekend as well. This was not necessarily a recipe for success as that was a lot of competition, even by 15 years ago standards.

Be that as it may, "Enchanted" opened atop the charts on Thanksgiving weekend, with its weekend total standing at $34.4 million. Across the full five-day holiday window, it scored a very impressive $49 million. It stayed on top for the following week as well, only dropping to number two once "The Golden Compass" opened on December 7. And the film even held its own as other big hits such as "I Am Legend" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" arrived. It was an impressive run against a great deal of competition.

In the end, "Enchanted” wound up with $127.8 million domestically and $212.6 million internationally for a robust $340.4 million global total, or four times its budget. Plus, it pulled in a pretty damn big $93 million in domestic DVD/Blu-ray sales. What a difference a home video market makes, right? Needless to say, Disney scored with this one and they found a hit that was as true to the brand as anything while birthing a brand new franchise in the process. A big win all around.

The lessons contained within

What sticks out like a sore thumb to me in all of this is the fact that Disney sat on this for eight years and didn't just go with the first script, nor did they go with the eventual Oscar-winning filmmaker who was with it for a time. They, rather wisely, waited until the right take on the material came along. Some self-awareness never hurt anyone and the bigwigs in charge of the studio at that time recognized that. In the end, they were rewarded for their patience and for going with the best version of the story.

While I'm not going to get into the perceived quality of "Disenchanted" (read our review here), I will say that the streaming era seems to be having Disney wanting it both ways. It's surprising that it took 15 years to get a sequel to this movie. What's perhaps more surprising is that, even with the central cast returning, it was relegated to Disney+ to bolster the streaming business. This similarly happened with "Hocus Pocus 2" recently, a movie that seems like it probably could have done damn decent business at the box office. And yet, it was only used to try and attract subscribers.

I'm no Hollywood figurehead but, if it were me, I'd see little harm in giving these big sequels a shot in theaters, seeing what they can do at the box office, then letting people find them on streaming if they want. To me, looking back at the success of "Enchanted," it just seems downright disappointing and sad that the sequel is relegated to what equates to a glorified direct-to-video release. Streaming should not come at the sacrifice of potential ticket sales. That I think is a lesson we've learned this far into the Netflix era of the movie business. But hey, what do I know?