The Cinderella Trilogy
Cinderella (October 4/05)
It's not difficult to see why Cinderella remains, to this day, a classic Disney cartoon, with its superb animation, memorable songs, and thoroughly uplifting storyline. And though the movie occasionally feels as though it might've worked better as a short, there's no denying the overall effectiveness of this familiar tale. Cinderella (voiced by Ilene Woods) lives in an enormous castle with her evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine, (Eleanor Audley) and equally evil stepsisters Drizella (Rhoda Williams) and Anastasia (Lucille Bliss), and is forced to do their bidding night and day. When it is announced that the King is going to be holding a ball to find a wife for his unmarried son, Prince Charming (William Phipps), Cinderella begs Lady Tremaine to allow her to attend (and though she says yes, Cinderella's plans to go are foiled at the last minute). All seems lost until Cinderella's Fairy Godmother produces a gorgeous gown and a classy ride, albeit with a warning that it'll all go away at the twelfth stroke of midnight. It's interesting to note that the entire first half of Cinderella is essentially disposable, as it focuses on the exploits of a group of mischievous mice that live within Lady Tremaine's castle. Most scenes involving these tiny creatures don't come off as all terribly interesting, and it seems obvious that they've been included primarily for the benefit of younger viewers. And while there's no doubt that the mice and their hijinks have pushed Cinderella to an appropriate length for a feature (just barely, though, at 75-minutes), it's clear that the film would've been far more effective without their presence. Having said that, the movie picks up dramatically with the appearance of Cinderella's Fairy Godmother. It's at this point that Cinderella finally earns its reputation as a classic fairy tale, and the enchanting, captivating vibe lasts right up until the expectedly happy conclusion.
Cinderella II: Dreams Come True
Cinderella II: Dreams Come True consists of three individual stories detailing the adventures of the title character and her various friends (Cinderella struggles to fit into her new royal surroundings, sassy mouse Jaq discovers what it's like being human, and evil stepsister Anastasia falls for a local baker), and it's generally not difficult to see why the film is considered one of Disney's least effective straight-to-video sequels. The inherently slapdash vibe ensures that only very small children will likely find much worth embracing here, as the episodic nature of the movie's structure leaves one with the impression that the whole thing was cobbled together out of leftovers from a would-be Cinderella TV series. The trio of tales are generally entertaining enough, admittedly, but it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook the second-rate, downright atrocious animation. The lack of compelling visuals only exacerbates the film's various problems, and there's ultimately not much here to hold the interest of viewers above a certain age.
Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (November 4/08)
While Cinderella III: A Twist in Time does improve upon its underwhelming predecessor in terms of its animation - ie this looks like a classic Disney effort - the film ultimately comes off as an inherently needless effort that boasts few attributes designed to draw in viewers over a certain age. The storyline details the chaos that ensues after Cinderella's evil stepmother makes a series of changes to the past after pilfering Fairy Godmother's magic wand, with Prince Charming essentially tricked into believing that the famed glass slipper actually belongs to Anastasia (which, of course, results in Cinderella being passed over for marriage). It's a premise that's clearly been designed to needlessly wring another film out of the Cinderella saga, and it's consequently not surprising to note that Cinderella III: A Twist in Time rarely possesses the feel of an organic follow up. The proliferation of action sequences and comedic interludes essentially guarantees that small children will find themselves enthralled from start to finish, yet the overpowering atmosphere of superfluousness places the film firmly alongside such less-than-enthralling straight-to-video Disney efforts as Tarzan II, Leroy & Stitch, and Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure.
|About the DVDs: Disney has gone all out with the original film, which actually marks the first appearance of Cinderella on DVD. Aside from a transfer that's simply breathtaking, the two-disc set comes with a wealth of supplemental features (including documentaries, deleted scenes, and much, much more). The second and third installments aren't quite as jam-packed with bonus features, with the scant supplemental materials geared primarily towards small children.