The Great Disney Blogathon: Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002)
|February 17, 2014||Posted by Jess under Cartoons, Disney, Movies, Musicals, The Great Disney Blogathon|
You may recall that I was pleasantly surprised by Bambi II when I covered it. Unfortunately, we have no such treats in store for us today. Cinderella II never rises above mediocre bargain-bin fare, and in places is downright offensive (and often nonsensical). Luckily, the franchise would redeem itself with Cinderella III in 2007.1
Of course, Cinderella II had an uphill battle to fight right from the very start, thanks to the sheer length of time between the original and the sequel. The cast is of course all different, and though it’s made up of beloved voice acting perennials like Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeille, Russi Taylor, Corey Burton, and C. D. Barnes,2 they simply don’t sound right. (Especially since I’m that weirdo who’s really into voice actors, so those familiar voices are more distracting to me than they otherwise might be.) They’re not helped by the script; most of Jaq’s lines are way too grammatical, rather than hitting the proper mouse cadence, and poor Corey Burton is stuck making the same unfunny “stewed prunes” joke as Gus like six times.3
Plus, the animation is not up to snuff. I don’t expect a sequel to be as high-quality as the original, but this one is downright slapdash in places, with Cinderella and Prince Charming in particular veering wildly off-model. In general, Cinderella simply doesn’t translate well to the modern house style. When you really look at her, she has a very strange – though lovely – original design, with half-hidden quarter-circles for ears and the merest suggestion of a nose. The Cinderella in Cinderella II has the feel of someone aping the original animation without understanding the underlying construction of it, and too often that leads to weird gill-like flaps sliding up and down the sides of her head and little reptilian slits for nostrils.
But mostly the movie suffers from being written for children, by people who obviously don’t have tremendously high opinions of their audience. It’s not a full-length story, but three shorts about Cinderella’s life at the palace jammed together in a frame tale about the Fairy Godmother and the mice putting together a book for Cinderella. None of them have genuine emotional stakes or any sense of excitement, just a lot of characters falling into punch bowls. They’re all really didactic, and though I don’t have any problems with the morals – all of which basically boil down to “be yourself because yourself is great” – I feel like there’s a way to get that across without the sense that the writers are squatting down real low and saying it slowly so that even the youngest kids understand. Kids aren’t as dumb as this movie thinks they are.
Okay, so those shorts:
Aim to Please: Cinderella and Prince Charming have just returned from their honeymoon, and while the King and Prince take off to do unexplained king-and-prince stuff, Cinderella is left to plan an important party. Under the guidance of the stern, social-planning Prudence, she’s shown exactly what a clumsy, classless rube she is, all “wanting to open curtains to let sunlight in” and “talking to commoners.” Eventually she decides that the only way to throw a successful party is to do it as herself, and stops trying to be the perfect princess. Naturally, everything works out great.
This mostly left me with a lot of questions. Why is she being forced to do the kind of domestic work she just escaped from? What kind of happy ending is that? What kind of useless jerk of a husband has she landed if he can’t help her out or defend her from being yelled at by his father?4 Why is she so insistent that her raggedy scullery maid clothes are the “real” her and so horrified by fancy things? Isn’t getting fancy stuff supposed to be her reward for all the drudgery? How does she have all these commoner friends if she spent all her time in her house cleaning it before? Why did they start the dance before the king got back? Why couldn’t the animators come up with new dresses instead of just coloring her old silver one pink and then seafoam green? How long does Prudence think she can keep being such a jerk to royalty before she gets banished or beheaded? And most importantly, why is the aristocracy of Vague Olden Days Europe dancing to bluegrass?
Tall Tail: Frustrated by his inability to be helpful to Cinderella in their new home, Jaq wishes he was a man. (There’s a vague implication that he has feelings for her and something of a love triangle between the two of them and Lead Girl Mouse, named Mary for this movie. It’s weird.) The Fairy Godmother grants him his wish, chaos ensues, and Jaq eventually learns that being a mouse can have its own benefits. There’s not much to say about this short, which is almost entirely slapstick with a sprinkling of fat jokes. Let’s move on.
An Uncommon Romance: Cinderella’s stepsister Anastasia falls in love with an adorable, kindly baker, but her own lack of confidence and her mother’s insistence that he’s beneath her stand in her way. Cinderella gives her a makeover while insisting that true beauty comes from within (…okay, C), but a case of mistaken identity nearly ruins everything. Luckily, it’s quickly cleared up, Anastasia stands up to her mother, and she and the baker attend the ball together.
Now, this short is by far the most successful of the three, not because it’s particularly good, but because it’s got the most interesting subject matter. The moral about beauty being skin deep is undermined even as it’s being said, Anastasia is still a remarkably unpleasant person, the baker never even gets a name, and it’s not like their relationship is developed – they just gawk at each other a lot. But it offers redemption for a villain, it shows that even bad guys have softer sides, and it suggests that they’re capable of love. It even makes the point, probably inadvertently, that Cinderella wasn’t the only one who grew up in an abusive household. That’s remarkable by Disney standards.
I would love to see more, of course. Even Cinderella III, which builds on the redemption of Anastasia that’s started here, doesn’t really delve into the relationship between any of the sisters; Cinderella and Anastasia’s arcs are entirely separate. I would love to see some kind of conversation between them about their childhoods, and a peace made that doesn’t ignore and whitewash the history of abuse. I would love to get more of why Cinderella is so willing – eager, even – to forgive Anastasia, who might be the only family she can salvage, and to know whether Anastasia sees Cinderella as a sister – maybe, someday, more than she does Drizella.
We’ll never get that, of course. But this short at least gives both characters more depth and opens up the possibility that somewhere, in the fictional ether, that complex dynamic exists, and I suppose that’s a good enough reason for this movie to be a thing in the world.
But hey, this movie made 120 million dollars in a year, so what do I know? I guess the whole thing is a masterpiece.
- I have a working theory that the success of The Lion King 1 ½ in 2004 was the turning point for higher standards at Disney Home Entertainment, but there are a lot of sequels I haven’t seen yet, so let’s see if that pans out. ↩
- The original voice of Eric – weirdly, in The Little Mermaid II, Eric is voiced by Rob Paulsen. ↩
- Also Jaq is weirdly an asshole in this? It’s a strange creative decision, to be sure. ↩
- Hat tip to my buddy Jennifer for originally making these first few points. ↩