I rarely do comparison posts (apart from that North & South post a while back) but I thought this would be a fun thing to do seeing as I love both adaptations of the Cinderella story. I got the idea to look at two Cinderella adaptations from watching the Nostalgia Critic’s video where he compared the animated Cinderella film and the 2015 Cinderella adaptation (the latter of which I will use in my comparison).
For this comparison, I will look at these categories:
- The Prince
- The Stepmother/Villain.
- The Fairy Godmother
- Supporting characters
Both films have their strengths and weaknesses and I do not seek to rate them or rank them against each other.
As always, I hope you enjoy this blogpost – its a long ‘un!
The Slipper and the Rose (1976)
In this case, there is a prince with an actual personality. He is unhappy with the royal protocol of having to choose a wife to continue the succession. He is heartbroken when Cinderella runs off and when he finally relents upon marrying a suitable wife, he openly declares that he will marry for appearances sake and no further. Quite a subtle but telling element of a story which is usually so squeaky clean. He seems more real, personality wise than the traditional Prince Charming (he even has a name in this adaptation – Prince Edward) because he undertakes all of the traditional civilities as befits a Prince but he is frustrated at the protocols which mean he cannot marry the woman he loves. This realness is not detracted from his personality in the slightest when he complains that all the women chosen for him are too old, have no teeth or swoon to excess.
The stepmother in this instance could be seen as quite pantomime-esque. I suppose it depends how you look at it. This can be seen, for example, when she and her daughters go to purchase gowns for the ball She is more verbally abusive and Cinderella is not allowed to leave the cellar without her say-so. She is floored by Cinderella’s arrival at the house with the Prince, and this certainly makes her seem more comedic. It is, however, suggested that she tricked Cinderella’s stepfather. The line is done ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. But it’s there. That is why this film is so good at being subtle. However, its still strange why Cinderella would forgive her stepmother and stepsisters after all she’d been put through.
The Fairy Godmother
In this instance, the fairy godmother doesn’t only help Cinderella with a dress for the ball, She also helps her out with the menial tasks given to Cinderella by her horrible stepmother, such as making soup and restitching gowns for the ball. In the first instance, it was supposed to be a measure of Cinderella’s kindness towards an unexpected visitor and the fact that she was willing to let the fairy godmother share her fire despite the fact that she didn’t know her or was even expecting her. In the end, the fairy godmother helps Edward’s cousin fall in love with Edward’s royal bride and thus keep the alliance safe. I felt this fairy godmother was too sickly sweet, but was at times written for comedic value too.
In this variation of the story, there are plenty of side characters. Not only the typical evil stepsisters but also members of the court and members of the royal household, including Edward’s elderly grandmother whose comedic value often came from the fact that she was slightly hard of hearing and incredibly tactless. They all take part in the story as much as more central characters. The parallel stories of Edward and Cinderella vs. John (Edward’s valet) and the royal lady-in-waiting Lady Caroline was quite a sweet parallel and showed clearly how the two men struggled and / or succeeded in their romantic ideals.
Obviously, as stories go this doesn’t need much explaining. It follows the traditional narrative but the Prince doesn’t want to marry for duty, but for love. He is weary of his parents’ interference. He loses Cinderella twice before being reunited with her for good. I liked this particular rendition, story-wise because it stepped outside of the box and put across more than the typical fairytale. The characterization of Edward’s father, the King, was bitingly witty because he was clearly under his wife’s thumb and got more screen-time and character development than the typical portrayal of the King whose character often serves as little more than a placeholder in the story.
The portrayal of Cinderella in this instance isn’t so black and white as first expected. She doesn’t just spend her entire screen time gurning for the camera, endlessly content. She express unhappiness at her imprisonment in the cellar. She mourns her father, and escapes the house to lay flowers at his grave. She and Edward speak as equals before she runs away, and this is better than them just dancing together and deciding that they are destined to be together because they can talk as equals. Her humanness is expressed most of all when she is sent into exile by the Lord Chamberlain. She does feel love for the Prince and the fact that upon hearing the news from the Lord Chamberlain that she is to be exiled, she remains stoic and demands he send a message in her stead, it shows she has far more courage than the expected Cinderella characterization. Namely, she is clearly broken hearted when she has to lie about her true feelings for the Prince when speaking to the Lord Chamberlain. She has feelings! Even when she inquires about the Prince’s upcoming wedding to another woman, it is clear to see in her face that she does still love him and still fears losing him for good but doesn’t want her true feelings to be revealed to the fairy godmother. That’s certainly more realistic than a Cinderella who sings with her animal friends all day and does little else.
This rendition of the Prince has him called Prince Kit and he and Cinderella meet outside of the palace when Kit is hunting. In this way, he is being shown for who he is and she thinks him to be an apprentice from the palace. This enforces a message about loving someone for who they truly are. He also seems more human because he is charmed by Cinderella’s outlook on life and he doesn’t just fall in love with her for her beauty.
The Stepmother / Villain
In this adaptation, the stepmother is not so outlandishly theatrical but her cruelty is more subtle and her motivation concerning her treatment of Cinderella was because Cinderella’s father loved his biological daughter over his stepdaughters. Because the cruelty is so subtle, its all the more horrible.
The Fairy Godmother
This rendition of the FG is played for the comedic value. She first appears to Cinderella as an old woman looking for water so it forces Cinderella to put aside her own unhappiness to help someone else. Just like Cinderella in the other adaptation welcoming the Fairy Godmother in to share her fire showed she was kind enough to put aside her own personal worries to help someone else out, both times the Godmother puts Cinderella to the test.
This adaptation has Cinderella befriend the mice in the attic but doesn’t give them central roles or musical numbers. Still, other supporting characters include Kit’s father. Showing the relationship is similar to the previous adaptation as well because it proves that the Prince and his father have a strong bond. However, the supporting character of the Grand Duke seemed a bit pantomime-esque for my personal preference and thus that was what let the film down.
It was sweet with the story when they included narrative arcs for Cinderella’s parents. I don’t think they really tend to do that for the most part in adaptations (I could be wrong) at least, anything more than a few minutes of exposition before getting to the main area of the story. Also, the stepsisters entrance to the ball was massively entertaining and made me chuckle.
People have had varying opinions about this particular Cinderella. While she is free to roam about as supposed to being trapped in one place, this does not defer the magnitude of her ignominy. The fact that she meets Kit and thinks him to be an apprentice shows that she falls for him because of his kindness instead of due to his royal lineage. She is similar to the Cinderella in the previous adaptation because they both display human qualities. Cinderella finally breaks emotionally when she is not allowed to eat at the table with her stepmother and stepsisters, and then later again when she doubts her own courage. She is human. She has feelings. What I liked in this instance too was that she disowned her stepmother and stepsisters at the end so at least that’s realistic, given what they put her through in the story.
So, ultimately, I love both adaptations of an ever-popular story and I don’t think I could choose my favourite out of either of them because they both have their own strengths and weaknesses and plenty of good moments between them. Thank you for reading this very long post and I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you thought in the comments. Any other films I should compare? Let me know 🙂