In the updating of Disney’s classic animated Cinderella some things have turned out a little differently. Spoilers for the Cinderella remake and the 65-year-old animated classic.
It has been 65 years since the animated Cinderella was released in 1950. Now, director Kenneth Branagh has put his own twist on things, in the live action remake starring Lily James as (Cinder)Ella, Richard Madden as her prince, Cate Blanchett as her evil stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as her fairy godmother. But what differences can audiences expect?
In the animated Cinderella we skip straight to her father’s new marriage, but in the live action film we are treated to a lengthy prologue. This showcases Ella’s happy family life with her father (played by Ben Chaplin) and her mother (the lovely Hayley Atwell). The new Cinderella also bumps up the ages; when her father remarries, both Ella and her new stepsisters are young adults, rather than the children shown in the animated film.
In the live action remake, the animals don’t wear clothes, they don’t sing and talk, and they don’t do chores. Perhaps in an attempt to cut down the levels of whimsy (and the percentage of high pitch mouse voiced), the live action Cinderella makes less use of Cinderella’s animal friends than the animated film. Don’t worry though, the mice are still around, but we luckily lose the entire subplot of Lucifer the cat vs the other animals.
Rather than being her given name, “Cinderella” is a cruel name given to Ella by her stepsisters and stepmother after she falls asleep by the fire one night and ends up covered in ash from the cinders. This naming is a key moment in the film, as it proves to be the last straw that sends Ella riding off away from her family home, and into the path of the Prince.
In a brand new sequence inserted into the remake, Ella encounters the Prince long before she visits the palace. He hides his true identity, instead introducing himself as an apprentice by the name of Kit, and the pair very quickly fall for each other. It is then Kit’s idea to invite all of the maidens in the kingdom to the ball, in the hopes that he will encounter Ella again. When Ella disappears after the ball, Kit tells the King that he loves her and couldn’t marry for duty now that he has met her. He orders the Grand Duke to conduct a thorough search for Ella, but not trusting his motives, he hides away in the ranks of cavalry accompanying the Duke. When the Grand Duke tries to stop Ella from trying on the shoe, Kit reveals himself and tries the slipper on her himself.
In the animated Cinderella, the King is motivated by a weirdly obsessive need for for grandchildren. In the remake, the King (Derek Jacobi) is sick and deteriorating quickly. Kit and his father are shown to have a very close relationship, and he tells his father about the girl from the woods. However, the King wishes to see his kingdom safe and secure, through an advantageous marriage with a neighboring kingdom, before his death. Rather than encouraging the Prince, as he does in the original, he instead commands his son to choose one of the Princesses he has invited to the ball. However, before dying, he finally comes around and tells Kit to marry for love.
Most of the key changes in the live action Cinderella involve making the characters more well rounded. One of the main beneficiaries is Cinderella’s stepmother, who becomes a true foil to Ella, with more depth than she was allowed in the original. “Madame” is shown to have married Ella’s father out of a desire to provide for her children. She is also more active than in the original; she finds and takes the slipper, and blackmails Ella into making her the head of her household. When Ella refuses, she breaks the shoe, and instead blackmails the Grand Duke until he promises her a higher position and advantageous marriages for her daughters. In exchange, she must hide Ella until the hunt for the mysterious girl is over. It doesn’t go according to plan.
The Side Characters
The live action Cinderella remake features several new characters. The Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgård) is an entirely different character from the animated classic; rather than helping the King and Prince, he attempts to orchestrate a marriage behind the Princes’ back and works with Cinderella’s stepmother to keep Ella hidden. To balance his nefarious actions, there is a brand new addition of the Captain (Nonso Anozie), who is essentially Kit’s best friend, and highly suspicious of the Grand Duke.
You’ll hear the phrase, “Have courage and be kind” uttered approximately one hundred times in the live action Cinderella, by various characters. This was a new and important addition to the story, as it acts as a connection between Ella and her deceased mother, and provides the inspiration for all of Ella’s — and later, Kit’s — actions.
As you likely know by now, the live Cinderella is not a musical. There is only a small hint of Cinderella‘s musical roots in the climax of the film, when it is Ella’s singing that leads to her being discovered, locked in the attic. However, for the most part the songs, such as “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes,” are all lost in the translation from animation to live action.