Chris (90scartoonman) wrote,


In preparation of the new Cinderella live action movie, which I'll be watching tonight, I decided to watch a bunch of different versions of the story. I also read the Charles Perrault version and the Brothers Grimm one. So I figured I'd write down my thoughts on various additions/subtractions and what I liked and didn't like.

I marathoned the entire Disney Cinderella trilogy...which is weird because I still haven't done that for the Aladdin or Little Mermaid movies.

Obvious spoilers for the classic Cinderella story, but more specific spoilers to be ware of include the Disney sequels, Happily N'Ever After, Into the Woods (the 2015 version) and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.

I'll preface this by saying many cultures (some that date back thousands of years, like the Egyptian and Chinese ones) have their own Cinderella stories. But here are the two that are most commonly adapted and known today:

Charles Perrault's Cinderella's dated at 1697. This is the version with the fairy godmother who turns mice, lizards, a rat, and a pumpkin into Cinderella's transport and gives her a dress and glass slippers. While the stepsisters are mean, the younger one is nicer and calls her "Cinderella" rather than "Cinderwench", and Cinderella forgives them, marrying them off to dukes after she gets her happy ending.

The Brothers Grimm version I found is given the date to be 1812 (over a hundred years after Perrault!) and Cinderella's biological father is alive and more active, but it's her recently deceased mother who is important. Cinderella plants a tree at her grave and makes wishes to a bird. This is how she gets her dress and golden slippers. In this version, she can't go to the ball because her stepmother gives her all these chores, and she runs not because magic runs out at midnight but because she is too embarrassed to tell the prince who she really is. The prince catches her by laying down pitch on the steps when she runs (but only holds on to one of her slippers). The ending is meaner to the stepsisters, as they cut off parts of their feet to fit the shoe (and the prince finds out, then he fits Cinderella) and has birds peck out their eyes.

So going in order...

Walt Disney's Cinderella (1950), Dreams Come True (2002), A Twist in Time (2007) - Ilene Woods/Jennifer Hale
-This one elevates the mice to supporting characters. Jaq and Gus Gus are fun, but there's a little too much cat and mouse in this and not enough Prince characterization. I like Cinderella herself, helping to define what it means to be a Disney princess with her optimism, kindness, and singing/talking to animals. Here, the Fairy Godmother appears to Cinderella at her lowest moment (they meet for the first time). The ball is shortened, and one dance is all it takes to get them to fall in love (she doesn't realize he's the prince). A simple story, but with a classic feel. Dreams Come True is stupid, but I like Cinderella having a rough transition from a maid to a princess, and it does redeem Anastasia and matches her up with a baker (!). Twist In Time actually undoes that but still makes Anastasia sympathetic and gives the prince more of a personality. I like how Anastasia is based on Perrault's younger stepsister, it makes me appreciate her as the Red Queen in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland even more. As far as cheapquels go, A Twist in Time ain't bad.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1957) - Julie Andrews
-Kind of short, but that's what happens when you put a play on TV in the 50's. Julie Andrews is great, and what's interesting about this one is that Cinderella knows her godmother but doesn't know she has fairy powers, and she is summoned because of Cinderella's wishing. Also, the King and Queen have different ideas of what they want for Prince Superlongname. I like how the Prince questions if he loves Cinderella or is just infatuated with her and she is so afraid that it's a dream she isn't sure she can tell him who she is or where she came from or it'll all come crashing down on her. The only other musical Cinderella on this list, I like the songs better than the ones in the Disney version. The ending is a little abrupt, she's just kind of there when the Prince needs to fit the shoe.

Shelley DuVall's Faerie Tale Theatre (1985) - Jennifer Beals
-More of an episode than a movie since it's under an hour long, but it's very faithful to the beats of the Charles Perrault story. Cinderella is very sympathetic here, even considerate about her stepsisters. She never met her fairy godmother before, and the fairy godmother wasn't aware of the stepfamily's treatment of Cinderella. She wanted to turn them into animals (and does at the end, although they will return to human at midnight). Fairy godmother is more of a jokester here. Jennifer Beals is Cinderella and Matthew Broderick is Prince Henry, and they are really sweet together. The ball is more of a celebration of autumn than anything, the prince isn't looking for someone nor do his parents force that on him, but his connection to Cinderella is so great. He throws the ball on the second evening is just so he can see Cinderella again.

Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (1987) - ?
-Animated and Japanese, but I watched the dub (with English actors who don't take breaths). It's actually about the same length as the Shelley DuVall one. This version is based on the Grimm Brothers Cinderella (which is a given considering the name of the series). Nothing about the deceased mother, but there is a magic tree that provides for her and birds that give her advice. In this version, the prince doesn't know how to dance and Cinderella teaches him, not knowing who he is but falling in love with him in the process. When she finds out, she is nervous about revealing who she is, but once he has her slipper and calls women to the castle, she wants to tell him who she is. However, she is locked up by her stepmother, who has a Woodsman cut down the magic tree (!). The birds help her escape and, when the prince sees her being carried to him by birds and with a dress, he knows who she is. Naturally, the slipper fits. The fate of the stepfamily remains a mystery.

Happily N'Ever After (2006) - Sarah Michelle Gellar
-Feature length animated movie. More of a Shrek-style deconstructional parody, as there are magic beings watching classic fairy tales and Cinderella's stepmother hijacks the tales and magically warps everything. The initial story before all the warping is kind of barebones Perrault with fairy godmother and all. The Prince is stupid, though. REALLY stupid. Least likeable prince ever! Probably so Cinderella ends up with Rick, the prince's servant. I wasn't a huge fan of the movie, and it doesn't add too much to what I've already seen of the story.

Once Upon A Time (2011) - Jessy Schram
-During the first season of the show, there is a Cinderella episode. We don't see the actual Cinderella story play out, just Rumpelstiltskin vaporizing the fairy godmother and giving Cinderella what she needs for the ball in exchange for a deal. You can kind of assume it plays out the way the Disney version does (and, as mentioned, Anastasia finds herself in Wonderland). Fastforward and you learn Rumpel wants Cinderella's baby! First time I've seen a child involved in the story (a girl who is named Alexandra), and I like how they contrast how adult Cinderella and the prince are in fairy tale land whereas in Storybrooke, 19 may be too young to start a family.

Into the Woods (1986, 2015) - Anna Kendrick
-I've listened to the soundtrack from the 80's, so I'm counting that, but I'm mostly talking about the 2015 movie. Another Grimm version, this one had the tree blessed by the spirit of her deceased mother, gold slippers, and birds that like pecking out eyes. Into the Woods is mostly about a Baker and his Wife and only intersect with Cinderella's story here and there. There is a three night ball and Cinderella gets trapped in pitch and ends up with the Prince...but then the story continues. The Prince reveals his wishy-washy and kind of lecherous nature (the 2015 movie cuts out his Agony reprise, but him kissing the Baker's Wife is still in it), and Cinderella realizes she got married too fast. She ends up living a more common life, which I kind of like because it is being played as being true to who she has always been, working rather than wishing. Probably best deconstruction of the story I've seen.

Other Versions - Didn't have time to re-watch Ever After with Drew Barrymore or the Rodgers and Hammerstein remake with Brandy, but I enjoyed both of those. Cinderella appears in the 10th Kingdom miniseries (hundreds of years after her story has ended) played by Ann-Margaret, the comic book Fables where she is the Mundy world's greatest spy, and Shrek 3: Forever After played by Amy Sedaris along with other fairy tale princesses. They are all fun in their own way but hardly the most important character of each work (although, admittedly, I still haven't read the Fables Cinderella minis).

Conclusion - There are so many differences and variations from story to story, and that's what I like about the story. The fairy godmother's personality and situation can change, the stepfamily can be mean and repent or they can be evil the whole way through. There's always a case of mistaken identity. Sometimes Cinderella doesn't know the prince is the prince, sometimes her stepfamily doesn't recognize her at the ball (other times they just don't see her), and her identity and backstory is revealed at different times. As for her name, it's interesting because "Cinderella" is supposed to be a way to mock her for spending all her time in the ashes and cinders of the fire. But what is her real name? Some versions use "Ella", but the original stories aren't any help. The Grimm version even has her own father call her Cinderella! It's crazy, but those are fairy tales for you.

There are a lot of common themes in the stories, even the deconstructions, but there is plenty of magic, true love, and things working out in the end. Once Upon A Time suggests that Cinderella is an inspiration because she proves that anyone can make a change for the better in life. I like that optimism and being a good person pays off for her. Here's hoping I enjoy the new version too!
Tags: cinderella, disney, literature, once upon a time

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