I was beyond excited when I first heard about this short, and my expectations soared to the sky. Thankfully, a few days before seeing it, I came across a video on the Disney blog to help everyone learn the lyrics to the new song. I showed it to A, since he’s obsessed with all things Frozen as well. He loved it, but J and I were both seriously disappointed. The musical composition is great, but the lyrics are seriously lacking. Honestly, it seems like a first draft. Which is terrible, and I hate to say it! I love all the songs in Frozen, and the writers are the same, but the short seems much more juvenile than the film. Since it’s playing before Cinderella, which is sure to draw all ages (or so I’d think, and the fact that it’s currently the number one movie in the WORLD would attest to that as well), I expected a song that would appeal to all ages as well. That little preview tempered my expectations, and I can happily say that I still love the short film, even if the song isn’t as perfect as the ones in Frozen.
The plot is great: it’s Anna’s birthday, and Elsa is trying to make up for all the birthdays Anna spent without her. There has been lots of planning, and so of course something has to go wrong. Elsa catches a cold (you’ve got to love Disney and their use of irony!) and naturally hijinks ensue. There’s cake and presents and a dash of Oaken, too. Olaf, Sven, and Kristoff are back as well, lending a helping hand.
Overall, I really enjoyed it. The original voice actors are back, and Disney has a good track record with shorts as mini-sequels (I also loved Tangled Ever After, when that came out a few years back. The Toy Story shorts and TV adaptations are great, too!). I think A will love it, when it finally comes out for him to be able to see it (despite my Twitter pleas, Disney has yet to make just the short available for the Frozen-crazed toddlers of the world who can’t sit through a whole movie.) I’m crossing my fingers it will be available for purchase by itself, and not just with Cinderella.
Here’s the trailer, in case you haven’t seen it yet:
My skepticism with this film was based on the trailer. In case you missed that, as well, here it is:
I knew from that it it would either be great or terrible, depending on which side of the cheesy pendulum it fell on. I can, gratefully, say that it is not overly cheesy at all. It’s quite wonderful, and I can see how it’s the number one movie in the world.
There are many things I love about this film, from the costumes to the sincerity to establishing the characters. The characters are well-developed and flawed, from the main characters to the supporting ones. Even the King, Grand Duke, Captain and household servants are well-developed, with clear motives for their actions.
If not for the sincerity, and very good acting, this film would have come across as cheesy. Lily James, who plays Cinderella, does a wonderful job of showing the innocence and genuine heart that Cinderella possesses. Cate Blanchett, as Lady Tremaine, does a wonderful job as well. She’s cold and calculating, but also honest with her motives. The film runs a bit long at an hour and 45 minutes, but that’s partly due to establishing the background these characters draw from. Lady Tremaine, especially, has an important build up. We get to see the growing resentment, as her new husband clearly favors his daughter and misses his deceased wife. We also find out more about how life has treated her, and brought her to this point, later in the film. It’s nice to see a villain portrayed in a way that they’re descent into evil is reasonable, and that we have to be careful to stay true to ourselves throughout the bad, not letting life’s hardships taint our spirit. Darkness is a slippery slope, and Lady Tremaine demonstrates that very well.
The film also showcases the relationship between father and son and King and Prince, and how difficult it can be to balance both of those relationships. The relationship between the Prince and Cinderella is also established prior to the ball, which is refreshing from a modern standpoint. He likes the way she sees the world, and she likes his willingness to change his perspective to see things multiple ways. It’s nice to see that they’re well-suited for one another before they fall in love, which many love stories don’t take the time to do.
I did get teary during this film, partly because there’s a lot of parent death. This can’t be too much of a spoiler, as we know from the original story and Disney’s animated film that both of Cinderella’s parents die, which is what causes her servanthood predicament. But this film takes the time to establish their family before tragedy strikes, allowing the viewer to get to know each character as an individual and cog in the clockwork of their family. It makes the inevitable death of the parents painful, because the viewer has already empathized with Ella and her family, and their innate goodness makes it hard to see them in pain.
One of my concerns was how the filmmakers would handle Ella’s loneliness. In many films with a solitary character, another character is added for them to speak to. In I Am Legend, they added a dog; in Coraline, they gave her a friend. In the traditional tales of Cinderella, her goodness extends to all creatures great and small; she speaks to the birds, the mice, the field animals. In the animated adaptation, they speak back. I was worried about breaking the magical realism with talking animals, but I needn’t have worried. The film does a great job of establishing both that the animals are listening and that she’s perceived as looney by her stepsisters for talking to herself.
Many trailers included most of the scene with the fairy godmother, played by Helena Bonham Carter. I was surprised at how little she was in the film, considering how much she was in the trailers. But they do a great job of keeping with the slightly zany character established in previous adaptations while also making her unique to this one. Helena Bonham Carter does a great job, as always, and really gives the character life.
When I taught mythology and fairy tales as a teacher, my students would often ask logistical questions. Why didn’t the slipper fit anyone else? Why didn’t Ella leave? The film does a great job of subtly answering those questions to establish the realism aspect of the magical realism genre. They also allow the view to see Ella’s breaking point, as well as stand up for herself once she has nothing left to lose.
I know, everything I’ve said has been good! But there were a few moments where I was perturbed. This is such a silly and shallow thing, but I can’t imagine why they didn’t have Lily James’ eyebrows match her hair. One of my initial concerns with the movie is that when they tried to do a live-action remake of Snow White with Mirror, Mirror, they had Julia Roberts and still somehow made a terrible movie. One of the things I remember most is the actress’ eyebrows that played Snow White: they were overgrown and nearly formed a unibrow. I’d read a review of that movie, saying it was bad, and complaining about those eyebrows. I thought the reviewer was being shallow and judgmental, but it really was terribly distracting.
Another negative to this Cinderella was the transformation of the animals into people for the coach. The lizards and goose still maintained a lot of their original characteristics, and it was just a bit much. They even have one of the lizard footmen eat a fly when he’s supposed to be a person. It was to relieve tension during a dramatic moment, but still. It was a bit much.
The dress is a character unto itself, but it got a bit distracting as well. It’s gorgeous, yes, but the poor girl could barely move in it. This dress was just a bit too puffy, and you could see it getting caught up in the Prince’s legs while they were dancing. The transformation of the dress was Walt Disney’s favorite piece of animation, and I can see why. This transformation is the cheesiest part of the film, as she slowly twirls and cranes her neck with her eyes closed. The original animated transformation is much more downplayed, with Cinderella being surprised at the result.
Here’s the Disney animated transformation, for comparison:
The hair, makeup and costumes for this film were astounding, and I hope they get nominated for Oscars because they truly deserve it.
The entire film was just delightful, and it’s one I can see myself watching again. The emphasis on goodness and kindness is such a wonderful message, with some modern notes dotted in on standing up for yourself and being brave.
Have you seen these new releases yet? What did you think? Sound off in the comments!