The new Disney+ film Godmothered focuses on Eleanor (Jillian Bell), a Fairy Godmother (well, in training) who is excited to bring joy and magic to the life of a girl named Mackenzie – only to show up several decades late, by which point Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) is a 40-year-old single mom raising two daughters.
Fandom spoke to Bell and Fisher about getting to do a Disney fantasy film with a modern twist.
FAIRY GODMOTHERS, 2020 STYLE
Eleanor begins the movie as a traditionalist when it comes to the idea of fairy tales and their messages of finding a Prince Charming and how happiness is achieved, only to need to reevaluate her entire belief system.
Regarding how Godmothered affectionately evokes those old stories while subverting them, Fisher, who has three children with her husband, Sacha Baron Cohen, remarked, “You know, it’s hard, whether or not you’re watching a Disney movie or when you’re reading the Grimm Brothers fairy tales, how often you have to tweak the language within the story, or you know, change the trope of the princess needing a knight in shining armor, or that the step-mother’s always evil, or that the woman’s always been abandoned by her mother. There are so many story types and things [where] you do not want your kids to be raised with that. I’ve always been kind of restructuring them when I’ve told those stories and this is what’s great about this one, is that happy ever after is so personal. You can choose your own ending. We don’t have to necessarily have a palace and a dress and a prince, and happiness and happy ever after looks the way you want it to depending on what you want out of your life.”
As far as playing the character that embodies those old stories – and how they can evolve – Bell said, “That’s what I loved about her arc so much, is that she goes from sort of what we consider the traditional fairytale take on the prince and the gown and the castle, like Isla said, to really opening it up to [realizing that] humans are complex and they’re beautiful and they love different things and love and happily ever after doesn’t have to mean the same thing every time for every person. That’s what makes this movie so special and it really just connects to modern times. It was just a little antiquated, that old way, so it’s nice to be a part of something that’s for kids and adults that can show, hey, you can still have a bit of magic, a bit of fun, and make people laugh, but also have a real decent message in the heart of the film.”
NOT GOING BLUE
Godmothered is meant for the whole family, and I asked Fisher and Bell, who have worked in more adult comedies, if they had to curb any temptations to perhaps go a bit more R-rated while making the film.
Said Fisher, “You know what I love about Jillian’s sense of humor? Jillian is very Rated R hilarious but she can also do family comedy and I realized really early on, thank goodness, I wasn’t having to improv comedy in this genre, because I actually realized that every joke that comes to my mind is quite puerile, whilst Jillian would say things like… I would say, ‘Who eats this much seafood?’ And she’d go, ‘Sharks!!’ And she’d just riff that, and she had so many of those really funny moments like when she’s in the basement and she’s singing about “This is the song you sing when you’re in a dungeon!” That’s all from her imagination in character and that’s what I loved most about working with Jillian. It reminded me of working with Zach Galifianakis, who also has a fantastic way of sort of keeping it PG and also being one of the funniest people you’ll meet.”
Bell explained that while on set, it was great to get some of those “There’s no way this is making the final cut” moments out of her system. “It’s really fun to go, ‘Hey, guess what my brain just thought of in that moment?!’ and we have a couple of takes of those which I actually think is good. It sort of releases the pressure that’s in our body of, ‘Please let me say this weird joke!’ But truly, it was fun to kind of shift gears and think, ‘Well, what would an adult who has a kid watching this is funny and also what would the kid think is funny? It’s gotta be a little bit of both. It’s gotta be a dash of this and a dash of that and I think that, hopefully, Isla and I did that in this movie.”
Godmothered was filmed in Boston at the start of 2020, just before the pandemic caused so much to change, and Fisher explained, “I feel very fortunate that we were able to make this and we just kind of squeaked in. We were three days away from wrapping the film when COVID shut it down and they were able to animate the [missing] parts and pick up what was missing, and you really can’t tell. It’s just so fabulous.”
The abrupt end of production meant Fisher was grateful even for the time spent with Bell doing interviews – via Zoom, naturally – to promote the film, as she remarked, “It’s just a shame we didn’t have a wrap party where we got to hug each other and who knows when we’ll hug each other again but at least we get to do something like this and celebrate what we worked on and get everyone’s reactions.”
Godmothered will be released on Disney+ on Friday, December 4.