Andrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper, was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year. She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.
A month ago, I dragged my husband to Disney’s live-action Cinderella. (Yeah, I know. I’m a bit late getting this post out.) After Frozen, Disney set the bar pretty high for itself. The art direction, morals, and wit of Frozen made it a movie for the entire family.
This wasn’t the case for Cinderella.
It is truly a movie for young girls. For me, the story felt overly-sentimental and tasted as cheesy and artificial as the concession nachos my husband bought.
Disney crafted whimsical settings reminiscent of Europe’s Georgian and Victorian eras. The landscapes blended snow-capped Austrian mountains, rocky Scottish coastlines, and lush English countryside. The palace–which I assumed would look like Cinderella’s castle at Disney World–resembled the Palace at Versailles in every way, from its structured layout, stone facades, hidden gardens, and over-the-top interiors.
Fashions too spanned these time periods. Cinderella’s evil stepmother and sisters donned Victorian fashions–tight corsets, ample bustling, and rich fabrics. Though, bright colors gave the gaudy dresses a fairytale flare. Cinderella’s simple, pastel dresses–which her stepmother called outdated–reflected the simplicity of Georgian fashion.
Staying true to Perrault’s tale and the original animated version hindered Disney’s effort to develop characters and relationships. I have a low tolerance for corny—and that’s exactly what it was. The dialog was cheesy and the relationships felt forced. That being said, I don’t think Grimm’s or Perrault’s fairytales translate easily to modern movies. Most of these tales have Medieval or Early Renaissance origins. In the Middle Ages, stories were told not written. Storytellers gave their listeners a stereotype for each character so they could focus on plot rather than character development. Morals and themes, such as girls should be pious and good, lent themselves well to Medieval society, but don’t quite fit in a modern framework. For characters and themes to feel relevant to the modern viewer, alterations must be made. Disney succeeded at this with Frozen, but failed with Cinderella.
A Rap Battle
To end, I had to share this epic rap battle between Cinderella and Belle. As many of you know, Disney plans to do a live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. Cinderella may have won this epic rap battle, but I have a hunch that when compared to Cinderella, Disney’s like-action Beauty and the Beast will come out on top.
Still want to see the movie? Don’t let me stop you. If you have a little girl who thinks herself a princess, she’ll probably be thrilled to tag along. I’m sure she’ll be asking Santa Claus for her very own blue gown and glass slippers this Christmas.