Behind The Scenes With The Writers Of The New Walt Disney Animated Feature Helen Keller

By: John Frank

WRITER #1: When the Disney execs came to us with the Helen Keller idea, we thought it was amazing. But we had to give her story a universal appeal. You know, in a broader way.

WRITER #2: Right. The deaf and blind thing was good, but we needed something else; something everyone could identify with, so we took the liberty of making her father a firefighter who dies while battling a blaze at an orphanage.

WRITER #1: The ‘ol Disney formula: dead parent = instant drama.

WRITER #2: Yep. And it’s used especially well here because it’s the first news Helen gets from her teacher when they are finally able to communicate: “Your dad died.”

WRITER #1: The look on young Helen’s face is beyond tragic. “What? I learned tactile sign language so you could tell me THIS?”

WRITER #2: The audience has no choice but to be on Helen’s side.

WRITER #1: Right. But, only through hardship comes heroism, honor, glory.

WRITER #2: With the right amounts of levity and comedy along the way, of course. The scene with Helen rolling in the grass with the seven kittens is a wonderful tension-reliever.

WRITER #1: Yeah. The brooding kitten is a little reluctant to romp until he sees how sad Helen is. Then, even he’s won over by her amazing courage!

WRITER #2: Right. And, (spoiler alert!) Helen Keller regains her ability to see at the end of the movie!

WRITER #1: Of course. The happy ending; nothing like it. But remember: she only regains her sight because she discovered love: TRUE love.

WRITER #2: Exactly. Her teacher wants her to change. Her mother wants her to change. But Zachariah, the barn boy, likes her just the way she is.

WRITER #1: Which is why I find the soundtrack especially effective.

WRITER #2: No doubt. The song, “I Can Feel You (Because I Can’t See You or Hear You)” is an instant classic.

WRITER #1: And the addition of the fairy who talks into Helen’s ear and can hear her thoughts was a stroke of genius. I believe that was your idea.

WRITER #2: Thanks. Without the fairy, Helen Keller would be just groaning for half an hour in the beginning of the film and no one would know why. Well, beyond the obvious, of course.

WRITER #1: The fairy tells us EXACTLY why she’s doing it.

WRITER #2: “What’s that, Helen? It’s your shoes? Your shoes are too tight because your feet have grown, but no one knows because you can’t talk?”

WRITER #1: “And your teacher smacks you when no one’s looking?”

WRITER #2: We had to take that part out.

WRITER #1: The abusive teacher? Oh, right.

WRITER #2: Too dark.

WRITER #1: Yep. So that’s pretty much it: Helen Keller! In Theatres This Summer! And if Helen herself was alive today — and could see and hear — I think she’d just love what we’ve done with her story!

WRITER #2: Wait, you mean Helen Keller was REAL?


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