Review
Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
© Disney
Noell Wolfgram Evans · February 3, 2007 | Cinderella III: A Twist in Time is the latest direct-to-DVD sequel from the Walt Disney studio. It follows 2002's Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and the original Disney film, 1950's Cinderella. While I have not been a fan of Disney's sequels to its classic film roster, I will admit that this particular film was a pleasant surprise.

That's because Cinderella III: A Twist in Time tells an interesting story. Rather than continuing the exploration of "Happily ever after..." started in Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, Cinderella III: A Twist in Time attempts to ignore those events (with good reason) and present a somewhat headier and more faithful (to the original) tale. It wonders what would happen if Cinderella and the Prince never got together. The twist happens when Cinderella's stepmother steals the Fairy Godmother's magic wand and uses it to ensure that the glass slipper only fits the foot of her daughter Anastasia (one of the fabled stepsisters). There is a (spoken and unspoken) consensus, though, that this isn't right and so our heroes (The Prince, Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother and the mice Gus and Jaq) set about to change things back. It's an interesting premise and one that plays out well. The film is short (just over 70 minutes), which helps the story immensely; it's not bogged down with wacky new characters or gratuitous set pieces, and it can just unfold in a tight, organic way.

Even if you have never seen the original Disney version of Cinderella (and if you haven't, why not?) this film still works because you're sure to be familiar with the conventions of the original story—girl; stepsisters; ball; Fairy Godmother; glass slipper; Prince; happily ever after. What's fun is the way that the film uses these conventions in reverse and, in a way, uses them to explore (on a very basic level) some of the key notions of love. For example, is love earned, is love destined or is love taught? Heady stuff, to be sure, and it's not as if the film really attempts to do anything more than ask the questions. But with so many mainstream American animated movies aiming strictly for laughs it's nice to see one that tries to slip in something more.

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
Directed by Frank Nissen
Animation production by Walt Disney Pictures
Distributed by Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2007
74 minutes

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Credit has to be given to the writing team, which included Steve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman, Eddie Guzelian, Margaret Heidenry, Robert Reece and Colleen Millea Ventimilia. It's a large group, but they worked well in taking a character that so many people know or feel like they know and making her feel fresh and still relevant while maintaining her classic stature. In this post-Shrek age it's hard to make a non-cynical, non–self-aware fairy tale but that is exactly what Cinderella III feels like—an exercise in old-time storytelling. And it works.

One of the fun things about the early Disney films is that nearly everyone has seen them or knows them to the point that they can act as a familiar point of reference. This can also be a downside because people come into a sequel with certain expectations. (The same can be true of live-action sequels, but there you have an actor's interpretation to allow for some changing dynamics; audiences—at least, American audiences—for animated films aren't yet ready to allow "their" characters to be altered based on an animator's interpretation.) The artists on Cinderella III have done a really solid job in hewing to the character and set designs of the original film without making them feel derivative. The characters look and feel as if they are a continuation of the original story and not separate entities. This continuation helps give them a backstory that makes the story work the way it does.

Cinderella III is not a "run out and get this DVD now!" type of film but it's also not one that you'll need to talk your kids (or yourself) out of wanting. When it's over you may not be whistling the songs, but you won't hate yourself for watching, either.

DVD Features: 16:9 aspect ratio; English, Spanish and French audio tracks; English subtitles; Region 1.

DVD Extras: DVD and DVD-ROM games; I Still Believe music video; backstage at Disney Cruise Line's Twice Charmed.
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