Cinderella’s mice friends are bored and decide to write a story for their friend based on their adventures since moving to the castle.
Disney has released many straight to DVD sequels to their classic animation library over the years that have not lived up to the originals. In Return to Neverland, we watched as Wendy’s daughter met her mother’s old friend Peter Pan and had to learn to believe. It was a rehash of the original feature without the charm the original possessed. Worse yet were the follow-ups for Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Fox and the Hound and The Lion King. When they start tinkering with the true classics such as Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella I began to get worried. These movies are geared for our kids and I wonder if it is not just better to let them enjoy the characters through the original tales and not cart out vanilla rehashes that never live up to what made the originals special to begin with.
You might remember that Cinderella ended on a somewhat happy note as the heroine overcame her wicked stepmother and married the prince of her dreams. Instead of trotting out Cinderella for another feature length adventure, this DVD chose to go in another direction and proves that you can go back to the well if you know what makes a children’s movie successful. Ignoring the pop culture references of today’s Disney features and relying on the “dreams can come true” attitude of the original, Cinderella II presents a feature that I would have no problem sitting my kids down to watch.
The feature starts out with Jaq and Gus, the mice from the original feature, racing to the Fairy Godmother to hear the story of Cinderella. Unfortunately, when they reach her she has already finished telling the story to the other gathered mice. After some pondering, they decide they should write their own story to give to Cinderella to read. Their story would be about what happened after they all moved in to the castle. At this point we get three short vignettes, each one bookended by the mice thinking up the next.
The first story tells what happened when Cinderella returned to the castle for the first time following her honeymoon. Prudence, an assistant to the king, is assigned by the king to teach Cinderella everything she needs to know to plan her first banquet. Every step of the way it seems that Prudence is telling Cinderella she has to change everything about herself to be a proper princess. She dresses wrong. She should never cook. No peasants should ever be allowed in the castle. The curtains should never be opened. Prunes are the only acceptable form of desert. The closer the banquet becomes, the farther it seems Cinderella is from becoming what she is expected to be. It is not until Cinderella stands up and decides to do things her way that she is finally happy and, as you would expect, everything works out in the end.
The second story is a Jaq-centric story. Jaq wants desperately to help Cinderella with her chores around the castle, but realizes that as a mouse he is not able to do what is needed. He wishes he was big so he could help Cinderella. Well, with a Fairy Godmother on hand, wishes do come true. The question Jaq must ask himself at the end is if it is better to be a man or a mouse.
The third and final story brings the focus back to the step-sisters Anastasia and Drizella. It is a nice little story where you see not everything about these “evil” step-sisters is bad and Cinderella decides to help Anastasia catch the eye of the man she fancies. Meanwhile, the mice decide to help the “evil” cat Lucifer win the heart of the king’s uppity cat Pom Pom in exchange for not chasing them anymore. It’s a sweet little story that shows that underneath every ugly duckling is a princess waiting to come out.
My biggest problem with Disney sequels is the feeling they are just trying to milk consumers for another buck, regardless of the quality of stories they push out. With Cinderella II, they took a step to present the life of Cinderella as a series of shorter vignettes, more like cartoons, and in that format, it works wonderfully. If you don’t have kids and have fond memories of Cinderella, this is probably not for you. The stories are a little one dimensional and not geared towards an adult audience. However, it is a charming little DVD and is definitely one you should look for if you want to bring a little magic into your child’s life.
The aspect ratio was 1.66:1 formatted for 16X9 televisions. The colors are crisp and defined and the animation is nicely done. This is no surprise for a Disney release. There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a DTS 5.1 track and both sound fine.
There is a featurette called Musical Magic which is an elementary level introduction to scoring the movie. The purpose is to explain to kids what a score is and what job the composer does in the process. For most of us, it is worthless fluff, but for kids it should be pretty informative. Continuing with the music portion of the extras, we get a music video for the song Put it Together. It is full of clips from the movie and the song kind of sucks.
Next up we get a feature called Cinderella DVD Storybook: A Little Misunderstanding. This is like an animated picture book. You can either read the story yourself or have the Fairy Godmother read it for you as you read along and watch the pictures above the words. Cinderella’s Enchanted Castle includes three mini-games for the kids. There is one last game called Race to the Royal Banquet. All the extras on the DVD are geared towards the kids.