Why 1997’s Cinderella Live-Action Still Holds Up 25 Years Later

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella. Even after being retold over and over again, this particular version from 1997 remains a fan favorite. Having a higher quality than other adaptations failed to capture, it’s safe to say that Cinderella 1997 stands the test of time.

So why this version of Cinderella hold on? There are a lot of reasons that go beyond just the construction of the film itself. While some might say it’s down to the production value, being the most expensive TV movie of its time, there are much more fundamental reasons.

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From Whitney Houston to Brandy, the Cinderella cast brought their A-Game

The cast portrays their characters well and is diverse, presenting a front against prejudice. Cinderella adaptations have often featured the classic white male and female lead. This version diversifies, bringing together not only white actors but also Asian, black, and many others.

Whitney Houston’s Fairy Godmother really helps open and close the movie with captivating. Bernadette Peters captures her role as a mother-in-law so well that some might think she wasn’t acting. Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber perfectly embody their roles as queen and king, majestically alternating between parents and rulers. Plus, Goldberg’s signature squeal is always hilarious. Brandy even brings a new feel to the role of Cinderella, adding a different perspective to a character often portrayed as helpless and abused.

Cinderella is a visual feast

Visuals also play a part in how Cinderella is reunited. Attention is brought directly to the screen by Houston in a sparkling golden stream. She ended several scenes this way, so viewers didn’t feel like there was a downfall. In a design sense for both the costumes and the details of items like the horse-drawn carriage, the visuals also helped create a fairy tale feel. The end credits were also done well, allowing viewers to enjoy the ending instead of the constant clutter that usually comes with it.

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Cinderella’s screenplay and music modernized the classic tale

The script exhibits refreshing characteristics, offering humor in tense scenes to lighten the mood. Some examples would be when Cinderella inadvertently insults her stepsisters, saying it doesn’t suit any of them after they both try on the same hat. Another scene features the butler (Jason Alexander) when the prince returns to the castle, saying it was good to be among real people. He tells the prince that real people aren’t what they’re all supposed to be: “Look at me, I’m a real person. Does that mean anything to you?” Another sick burn shows how the butler is repulsed by the stepmother when she tries to flirt with him, and the butler replies that he wishes there was something between them: “a continent”.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s music is classic but updated for a new era, not coming off as repetitive and old fashioned. In fact, the orchestra beautifully highlights certain segments of the film that trigger feelings that the audience perceives in the character himself, such as excitement or uncertainty. Switching between musical scenes is effortless in a way where it doesn’t sound too overplayed. The dance sequences are fantastically choreographed, providing intricate and well-balanced scenes. This is especially the case on the market and ball scene. The market scene has so much going on that one would wonder how they managed not to stumble. Similarly, the ballroom dancing sequence is so immaculate that the dancers almost look mechanical.

One of the most amazing aspects of 1997 Cinderella are the life lessons and knowledge added to the story itself. At first it focuses on the fact that two people from two different worlds may be close to each other and may or may not meet, introducing the belief in fate. The Butler portrays the madness of his job, showing how chaotic and demanding his position is, highlighting the burden in work environments. Even Cinderella’s reactions to her stepmother and sisters reflect how unacceptable it is to unnecessarily shift blame onto others. Although the theme of “dreaming big” is still relevant, the thought is reinforced by the words of Cinderella and her fairy godmother: it’s good to be comfortable, but something has to be done about dreams instead of just wishing they would come true. Other adaptations haven’t offered such detail or extremely well crafted scenes in a big package like this one. Cinderella fact, explaining why this film can still reach its audience 25 years later.

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