The Great Disney Blogathon: Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)
|March 17, 2014||Posted by Jess under Cartoons, Disney, Movies, Musicals, The Great Disney Blogathon|
I’ve mentioned a few times at this point that Cinderella III is one of the better sequels.1 But since I hadn’t seen it in a few years, I was starting to worry that I was overstating its merits. Upon rewatching it for Blogathoning purposes, though, I can state with certainty that I didn’t have to worry: Cinderella III is a delight.
For starters, the animation is worlds better. Disney Australia, the studio that made it, was given extensive model sheets and live action reference footage, and it shows: the characters are much more on-model, and the underlying construction is stronger.2 No more ears sliding all over the place for our heroine! Though it doesn’t have the fairy tale delicacy of the original, it’s solid work and an excellent example of the Disney house style. The lack of fairy tale delicacy might actually be a plus, since this movie is very much about practicality and getting your hands dirty; if Cinderella took place in a dream, Cinderella III is all about the real world.
More importantly, where C2 was just a succession of didactic lessons for very little girls, with no real stakes or conflict and thus no excitement, someone actually put effort into making C3 a good story. It actually threatens to take away our heroine’s Happily Ever After, challenging her to take action and grow in a way the original film never did – and as a bonus, it actual deepens and complicates pretty much all of the characters and their relationships (well, except the mice, but who cares). Oh, and did I mention it’s a rad feminist adventure story that’s also really funny? You guys, it’s SO GOOD.
Okay Jess, you say, so what actually happens in it? Well, it’s Cinderella and Prince Charming’s first anniversary, and the Fairy Godmother is throwing them a party when she accidentally drops her wand.3 Anastasia, who happens to be spying on the magical shenanigans, seizes it and brings it back to her mother, who uses it to reverse time and make Anastasia’s foot fit the glass slipper, then smashes Cinderella’s spare. The Tremaines are whisked off to the palace while a shellshocked Cinderella watches.
BUT, and here’s where it gets good, Cinderella decides that this is her happy ending (well, she has no memory of her marriage to Charming, but you know what I mean) and marches off to the palace to get it back, mice in tow. She gets into the palace by claiming to be the new Royal Mousecatcher (with some help from Jaq and Gus, of course) and sets about searching for her man.
Meanwhile, Charming sees Anastasia and is like “Um, yeah, no, that’s the wrong girl.”4 But Lady Tremaine uses the wand to make him believe he’s in love with Anastasia, not Cinderella, and he gleefully introduces his new fiancee to his dad. They’re both super nice to Anastasia despite how clumsy and awkward she is, leaving her touched and guilt-ridden.
Cinderella finds out about the wand and attempts to steal it back, but Lady Tremaine catches her and has her banished. Jaq and Gus tell a very confused Charming what’s going on via an elaborate musical number (IT’S HILARIOUS), and he races off to rescue her. The minute their hands touch, Lady Tremaine’s enchantment fades, and he brings his real fiancee back to the palace while the Tremaines flee.
But the Tremaines return just before the wedding, and this time Lady Tremaine’s enchanted Anastasia to look like Cinderella. She uses the wand to trap Cinderella in a monstrous pumpkin carriage driven by a humanified Lucifer…whereupon Cinderella busts her way out of the pumpkin, climbs on top, knocks Lucifer off, grabs the reins, looks over her shoulder, and snarls, “Bad kitty.” IT’S THE BEST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED YOU GUYS.
Cinderella returns to the palace just in time to hear Anastasia come clean about her true identity and declare that she wants to be loved for herself. Furious, Lady Tremaine attacks them both, and Charming leaps in front of them, reflecting Lady Tremaine’s spell on her sword, and turning her and Drizella into frogs. Anastasia turns back into herself, and the Fairy Godmother (she was a statue this whole time…don’t worry about it) offers to restore Cinderella and Charming’s original timeline, but they’re pretty happy with the way things worked out. And, just to make absolutely sure everyone gets a happy ending (except Lady Tremaine and Drizella), there’s a shot in the credits of the adorable baker from C2 wooing Anastasia. Awww.
Obviously this story possesses a lot more genuine excitement than C2 – and even C1, in terms of action sequences – but moreover, it puts Cinderella at the center of the action. She makes a very conscious decision right at the beginning to stop dreaming and actually claim those dreams for herself. She’s witty and resourceful (Royal Mousecatcher! Brilliant!) and extremely determined, but what I love is that she never turns into, say, Mulan or Jasmine in the process. She doesn’t become a sassmaster or a physical buttkicker; she stays very much her sweet, gentle self, just with a much more profound sense of her own self-worth. In fact, as the movie goes on, the magical trappings of her original happily ever after are stripped away: the glass slipper is shattered, her beautiful gown is shredded, and her pumpkin carriage is smashed. In the end, she’s left barefoot in rags with a couple of mice in her pocket: just Cinderella, no magic. And it turns out that that’s all she needs.
Cinderella’s not the only character who gets developed in this movie. Anastasia gets a chance to shine, even more than she did in C2. And let’s be honest: this is a pretty big retcon. While the Anastasia in C2 was still vain and mean, this one is more uncouth and clumsy than anything; she doesn’t really display any bad qualities except failing to do the right thing until the eleventh hour. In a perfect Disney world, I’d have loved to have seen more of a transition from Spoiled and Cruel Anastasia to Good Person Anastasia, but in a perfect Disney world I’d also live in the Cinderella Suite in the Magic Kingdom and spend my days writing Season 17 of Darkwing Duck, so let’s work with what we have. It’s enough for me that we see a girl who’s not pretty or graceful being welcomed into the royal family and told that she’s worthy of love, and eventually believing it herself. And it gives further credence to my point from my review of C2 that Cinderella’s not the only one of these girls who grew up in an abusive household. Anastasia’s heartbreakingly surprised delivery of “He was nice to me” after meeting with the King makes you wonder if that’s the first time that’s ever happened to her. And when Anastasia comes clean about her identity at the end and Lady Tremaine angrily says she’s given Anastasia everything, Anastasia’s response – “But I want someone to love me for me” – is telling not just of how much she envies Cinderella’s happy ending, but how little love there was in that house.
Even Prince Charming gets significant character development! In C1 and C2 he’s a cypher, a man-shaped figure that embodies Cinderella’s happy ending, and the things we can extrapolate about his personality from his offscreen actions aren’t flattering: too irresponsible to settle down and start making heirs, too stupid to realize that more than one girl might fit the same shoe, and too lazy to look for her himself. In C3 he’s…well, he’s basically Prince Eric, seeing as how he’s voiced by Eric’s original voice (C. D. Barnes) and spends most of the movie enchanted into believing he’s in love with the wrong girl, then leaping into dashing action at the last possible moment. And like Eric, he’s, well, none too bright.
But he’s also genial and polite: to Anastasia when he believes (correctly) that she’s the wrong girl, and to Cinderella when he has no memory of her and thinks she’s just a random servant blushing coyly at him. He’s charmingly (ha!) baffled when the mice start talking to him; seriously, watch this scene, it’s delightful. And he’s able to leap into action when it counts, saving Cinderella from banishment and en-frog-ment, without ever taking away her place at the center of the narrative.
But what I find really fascinating about Charming – and the King, for that matter – is that he operates entirely in the domestic sphere for the whole movie, leaping about on ships and sword-wielding notwithstanding. Like many princesses before (and after) him, all he wants is to marry for true love. He spends the movie talking to his father about how he (the King) knew it was love when he met the Queen, sighing over his various fiancees, and hoping he’ll know when he finds The One. Similarly, the King basically talks about nothing but how much he wants a daughter-in-law and grandkids, and how much he loved his wife. While Cinderella, Anastasia, and Lady Tremaine make things happen and experience complex emotions about things other than romance, Prince Charming waits, and sighs, and daydreams. Someday his princess will come! And I don’t mean that in a mocking way: I find him genuinely charming in this movie, as he should be, and I love that he’s taken on the traditionally female role in this fairy tale, while Cinderella takes on the male one.
ANYWAY, that’s Cinderella III. It’s completely adorable and deliberately feminist, and you should go watch it right now. Let me know what you think!
- Perhaps the best? I plan to post a definitive list once I’ve seen them all. Try to contain your anticipation! ↩
- Cinderella II was made in Japan. I have no idea what kind of reference materials the animators were given, but I suspect it wasn’t nearly as much as Australia. Sadly, C3 was Disney Australia’s last film. ↩
- This is a reference no one will get, but everyone’s singing a song about how “perfectly perfect” everything is that is eerily similar to the parody song about how perfect everything is in the old Tiny Toons Christmas special, and it cracks me up. To be fair, C3 does verge into parody on purpose a lot of the time, so maybe this was intentional. ↩
- BTW, we get Cinderella’s actual shoe size in this movie: 4 ½. Them’s some tiny feet! ↩