It’s midnight, the glass slipper has been lost on the castle steps, the stagecoach goes back to a pumpkin and a besotted Prince searches the enchanted kingdom to find its owner. Sound familiar? Well the ever reliable mouse house has another global blockbuster shining through to the top of the box office largely thanks to dipping into their infamous animation vault of classics bringing them to the big screen as sweeping live action epics. It seems this may be a trend that will be filling their upcoming slate of releases for years to come. Walt Disney films did this in 1996 with their puppy adventure 101 Dalmatians, a huge hit which spawned the questionable sequel 102 Dalmatians four years later. Both had legendary Glenn Close as the iconic character Cruella De Vil which I believe to be the key. Surprisingly, it didn’t really happen again on a huge scale until 2010 with Alice in Wonderland.
Casting is important obviously, enormous success last year for Maleficent, a larger than life, darker take on the Sleeping Beauty tale starring the irrepressible Angelina Jolie gained critical praise and audience applause. Messing with traditional favourites is a risk, especially with such adored, timeless films that have gained obsessive fans over time.
The 1950 hand-drawn animated Cinderella is still the definitive version. Standing the test of time, it has been re-released multiple times at cinemas and in various forms of home entertainment dating back to VHS tape. As with many of their films, made for home video or as it’s now known direct to DVD, low budget sequels followed to cash in on the original popularity. To date there have been two Cinderella animated sequels.
Jolie star power really got Maleficent made, Disney needed a hit after the $200 million plus flop John Carter sent alarm bells ringing for the executive suits who green light productions. From when first images became public leading to the first trailer, Maleficent struck a chord with purists and beyond, the rest is history, it was a massive hit.
Next up is the Shakespearean-like Cinderella, bigger in scope but with probably more to live up to considering the status of this character. Loyal to the original, this adds layers, the characters have more to say or do and while it is not a musical, there are a few delightful songs performed by the cast as you would expect from an elaborate Disney production like this is.
Beautifully made, one scene moves into another like clockwork, beyond that, perfect selection of the players is spot on. Lily James, best known for Downton Abby and soon to be seen in genre mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, she is unbelievable, pure magic in every respect as the soon to be princess. She plays Cinderella as a forgiving, kind, decent and brave girl who even when treated like dirt she sweeps. Her heart goes out to others before herself.
In comparison, Richard Madden as Prince Charming is a drag, but sure to swoon many viewers with his voice alone. Standout however is Australia’s own member of Hollywood royalty Cate Blanchett, as the evil stepmother. The Oscar winner embodies the role, symmetrical sharp edges of her jaw and flickering cat-like eyes may scare young children.
Speaking with her on a rainy night at the heritage State Theatre in Sydney walking the Blue Carpet during the Australian premiere accompanied by her husband and children, I asked her if she had ever had her own Cinderella moment by losing a shoe.
Smiling and saying, ‘Hi Shane nice to see you’, she told me ‘only recently at a rather large event she went to walk up to the podium and her shoe fell right off’. How did you recover, I asked, ‘hopefully gracefully but probably not’.
During the entire film the costumes on show are remarkable and I asked her what it was like to dress up so beautifully on a daily basis. ‘I still can’t quite believe I get to dress up for a living and when you’re entering a traditional storybook universe it becomes real when dealing with designer Sandy Powell, it’s fantastic wearing long gloves, covered in lime green draped in jewelry, she is like the Edith Head of our generation.’
On a final note before walking on, Ms Blanchett said, ‘the filmmakers are so bold visually it helps you push out your character to extremes. Wearing a colour blocked violet and coral dress from Roksanda Ilincic’s pre-fall collection, I can confirm her glow is as apparent in person as in films.’
With an emphasis on romance, Cinderella is lavish and lush, it’s practically Director Kenneth Branagh bringing back the Golden Years of Hollywood, Bill Collins would no doubt be thrilled. From the oddball but caring fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) to the morphing pumpkin and friendly creatures, it’s all here to enjoy in a different take on proceedings.
Looking carefully in the Grand Ballroom scene which is an absolute masterclass in glorious cinematography and production detail, true Disney may notice many of the dresses look familiar from various past princesses such as Ariel, Belle and Snow White.
In further good news for mouse house aficionados, other live action transformations have been moved into development including Jungle Book, Dumbo, Pete’s Dragon and Beauty and the Beast starring former Harry Potter child star Emma Watson as Belle, all on the way.
In the meantime, this glass slipper tale of superior true love will delight audiences of all ages. It’s only a matter of time before the live action Frozen graces the silver screen but I just hope that Disney does not lose sight of creating original tales into the mix as well, the brilliant annual Pixar films don’t officially count.
Shane A. Bassett