Cinderella: A Twist on the Classic Fairytale

“It’s been done before.”

When something has been ‘done to death,’ it often means it has a good foundation.  At the risk of angering some folks, I will admit that I pretty much hate the ‘original’ Disney version of “Cinderella.”  I find it flat and dull.  With very little character development – I heard someone say once that Cinderella ended up feeling like a supporting character in her own movie – I didn’t even much like it as a kid.  There is potential, though, so the idea of a new take on an old classic sounded exciting to me!

Twisting an Old Stand-by

“Cinderella” is one of those stories that many people grew up on.  It’s also one of those stories that has been twisted all over the place: Ella Enchanted (one of my favorites!), “Once Upon A Time,” “Ever After,” gender bending, and so much more.  Disney has been known to reinterpret old stories and continue stories that are finished, but the result isn’t always worthwhile.

This time, however, I think they hit the nail on the head with “Cinderella.”

Some may feel the story is played out, but I like seeing what can be done with existing content.  The format of this movie allowed them to take a cast of overly exaggerated characters and give them life.  Yes, the mice are still there, but they don’t actually talk to Cinderella.  Her wicked stepmother has a real backstory (we can finally relate to her!), and her stepsisters, though shallow, aren’t evil – just human.  The fairy godmother is even given an element of humanity, allowing the viewer an easier time suspending their disbelief.  And at last, the prince gets a name besides “Charming!”

Delving Deeper into Cinderella’s World

In the original Disney adaptation, so much of the movie’s ‘plot’ was taken over by ridiculous songs and just as ridiculous caricatures, which left very little room for character development.  This is the sort of thing you will want to look for when you consider adapting existing material.  Where a story is lacking, there is room for improvement and expansion. 

The creative minds behind 2015’s “Cinderella” gave the title character more than just the standard Cinderella backstory; they gave her a belief system.  They expanded her mother’s role from a 2-second prologue character to someone who shaped Ella as a child and instilled a belief in magic in her.  This little twist makes it that much more believable for us as an audience when she only briefly questions her fairy godmother and her magical transformations.  The writers even took the initiative to explain why the slipper didn’t fit anyone else: it’s not a bizarre lack of toes (see below!) – it’s magic.  Oh, duh!  It makes so much more sense now, and fits better with the suspension of disbelief they already set up for us.

Toeless Cinderella

Find Your Spin

Cinderella’s story relies on a character that submits to oppression, but neither the fairy tale nor the 1950 animated feature explained why.  In Ella Enchanted, we find that Ella has been spelled to be obedient, which is (mostly) why she obeys.  In 2015’s “Cinderella,” we find that she obeys because she is loyal to a fault, essentially, and because her parents instilled remarkable kindness in her.  If you’re looking for a new take on an old story, find the empty space in the narrative or character that resonates with you, then explain and expand your solution to the gap.

You don’t have to stick with the existing universe, either.  The new Cinderella uses essentially the same universe as the original, but Ella Enchanted created a new universe unique even from the original folk tale.  Don’t be afraid to get creative with your spin!

Don’t Be Afraid!

It may seem intimidating to adapt existing content, especially if it’s popular or well-loved.  But think about it: Ella Enchanted is a best-seller, won the Newberry Medal, and ended up as a major motion picture.  How’s that for a ‘little’ spin-off of Cinderella?

Just give it a go, and you may be surprised with the results.  You might just end up creating the next Ella Enchanted!

Co-Founder and Strategic Manager at The Spare Room Project

Having grown up near Seattle, Jenn is Washingtonian to the core, and believes that trees that lose their leaves are unnatural and snow is evil. Right now, though, she calls the-middle-of-nowhere Ohio home, having stayed after college. With a vastly varied background in creativity – from hosting a radio show to jewelry design to filmmaking – becoming the Strategic Manager and Wearer-of-Many-Hats for TSRP was meant to be!

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