Telling someone I wanted to see the new live-action Cinderella movie was a really confessional moment for me. I texted one of my friends, who I suspected might feel the same way, and told her I was interested in seeing it. I was right, she did, and on a Saturday afternoon two twenty-something ladies went to theater packed with kids and thoroughly enjoyed Cinderella. Admittedly, I didn't remember the Disney version at all and only sort of remembered how things went down in my beloved Brandy version, so I was surprised when Cinderella met the Prince before the ball in 2015's take. Is that how the story always went?
As I remembered it, Cinderella showed up at the ball all sparkly and glass slippered, and met the Prince under what were somewhat false pretenses. She wasn't really a fancy mysterious princess, but he wouldn't find that out until he went and saved her from her step-mother's house by putting a missed shoe back on her dainty foot. But in the 2015 Cinderella, we get a meet cute in a forest with Cinderella and the Prince as more or less equals — she doesn't know he's a Prince (he calls himself Kit) and he doesn't know she's a regular lady who is basically being tortured by her step-family and definitely should've alerted the authorities by now.
So, does this happen in the animated Disney version from 1950 that many people first associate with the story? It doesn't. In the animated version, Cinderella hears about the ball when she's at home and sneaks in after her Fairy Godmother gets her all dolled up for a night on the town. At the ball is the first time she meets the Prince. With this telling, it's not surprising that some criticize Cinderella for being an anti-feminist story where Cinderella needs saving from her life from a Prince who barely knows her. But in the latest Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh, you really get the sense that these two need each other.
There's a lot more backstory to Branagh's version on both the parts of Cinderella and the Prince. We watch Cinderella lose her mom, who teaches her the importance of remaining kind and courageous, and her dad, who instilled in her a connection to the home they once shared as a family. On the Prince's end, we see him rebel against tradition in conversation with his father. We're given reasons that Cinderella and the Prince would actually like each other aside from Cinderella needing saving and the Prince needing a pretty wife.
That said, there are A LOT of versions of the Cinderella story and the one considered the earliest dates all the way back to ancient Egypt. Then, of course, there's the Brothers Grim tale, and the numerous film, stage, and TV productions. My childhood favorite, the Brandy version based on Rodgers and Hammstein's play does have Cinderella meet the Prince before the ball when they run into each other in the town square. Still, the characters don't seem to have enough background to make you feel like, "Hey! These two are really going to make it!" when they get married at the end. (Granted, I haven't seen this thing since I was 9, so I might've just been less analytical then. But the 2015 film really gave off that feeling — and I'm 26 now, so I feel like being moved by what is really a children's film says something.)
So, when it comes down to it, if you go see Cinderella and are surprised at the depth of the story and the characters, there's a very good reason and a huge part of that is Cinderella and Prince being placed on a more even playing field by meeting pre-ball.
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Giphy (2)