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November 2, 2017 12:09 PM   Subscribe

"When shooting began for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella in July of 1997, the closest Disney had come to showcasing a black princess were the muses from Hercules. In fact, it would be another 12 years before an (animated) black girl got the lead in The Princess and the Frog. But megastar Whitney Houston didn’t want to wait. Remaking Cinderella had been on Houston’s mind for years; long before any footage was shot, before glass slippers were fitted, before anyone thought that Cinderella could have microbraids. Houston and her co-producers knew how important it was for each modern generation to have their own Cinderella — and for many young black girls growing up in the 90s, Brandy was ours." 20 years on, a conversation with the team behind Cinderella.
posted by ChuraChura (15 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I do love all of these fun retrospective/definitive history type of posts/articles that we're getting these days. Though it's also a stark reminder that I'm getting older. Still, lots of cool behind-the-scenes info about the stuff we all love when we were younger and growing up.
posted by Fizz at 12:13 PM on November 2, 2017

Cool article! I worked in a Disney Store in 1998 and we could not keep that VHS tape in stock.
posted by kimberussell at 12:38 PM on November 2, 2017

This is great.

I'm also glad that it wasn't secretly a terrifying shit show, like many oral histories of recent events turn out to be.
posted by French Fry at 12:46 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

on a related note: my coworker showed me the cast for the upcoming Lion King movie today. I love the new cast. Still kinda fucked up that the 'live action' Disney movie with any color AT ALL is going to be all CGI animals. I know there are a lot of pitfalls, but Disney is supposed to be magical. Find a way to do a big budget legacy movie with a diverse cast.

This TV-movie production is an amazing story. You've got to applaud Disney's success with in diversifying their tween cable shows. Good work with Star Wars, so far. The Marvel arm is starting to show tons of promise. Now let's see the smartest, richest entertainment force of the last century find a way to prominently include non-white folks in the myth making that IS their MO on the big screen. But, like, not only as jungle animals (cool as those roles are).

Great if the '19 Lion King is a step on the way there. But get it done. Disney has many, many means at their disposal to out-preform and nullify their competition. Ideas like 'this actor won't read as lead because of their race,' should not apply to their work.
posted by es_de_bah at 1:22 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ellen Mirojnick: We prepared the Queen’s costumes with this fabulous ornate, but handcrafted, jewelry. It wasn’t real. We presented it to Whoopi and she said, "No. No, my jewelry needs to be real. Go to Harry Winston." She literally said, "Here’s the person to talk to, go to Harry Winston, pick out everything that you want. I am not going to wear fake jewelry. Pick out the real stuff, and I’m sure it’ll be great."

Jason Alexander: We were constantly joking on set about how Whoopi, within any given shot, was wearing about $5 million of actual jewels from Harry Winston.

That's incredible.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:26 PM on November 2, 2017 [12 favorites]

In fall of 1996, I went to see Bernadette Peters at the Hollywood Bowl, and at a certain point she had to kill time onstage because of technical difficulties, so she started narrating what she could see in her video monitor, which was an episode of Moesha.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have an experience that combines musical theater, Brandy, and Bernadette Peters, that is somehow not relevant to this article in any way.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:48 PM on November 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

They are doing a live action Aladdin which appears to have a lot of non-white cast. Though I'd like to see, like, Sleeping Beauty but with POC.
posted by jeather at 1:58 PM on November 2, 2017

This is much favorite princess movie of all time, over any Disney movie ever. This will never change. The impact this cast had on all of my theater classmates who never saw themselves represented on screen in a musical was huge. I think it was the impetus behind many of them continuing to pursue acting TBH.

And omg Whoopi you are a delight
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:03 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

JEWEL? Jewel as Cinderella? That's not just "If Whitney is the Fairy Godmother then we need a white girl for the lead" that's "FIND ME THE WHITEST WHITE GIRL IN WHITEDOM".
posted by pjsky at 2:44 PM on November 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

There was an executive at Disney — who will remain nameless — and he was very nervous about a black Cinderella.

It's always some fucking executive that makes these terrible ass decisions. I'm glad that he was ignored, but fuck.
posted by Fizz at 3:14 PM on November 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Cinderella stories have appeared all over the world.
posted by brujita at 4:22 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've never seen the movie (way not their demo in '97) but I loved this article. Putting Cinderella at the top of my queue now.

"You’re a queen, Granny?" And I said, "Yes, I am. Yes, I am a queen, baby."
posted by travertina at 5:58 PM on November 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I saw this movie in middle school and it immediately and completely replaced all other experiences of the Cinderella story for me. Brandy is and always will be my Cinderella.
posted by congen at 6:12 PM on November 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have to see this! I was in college at the time this came out so not watching Disney movies but this part here I think characterizes why I've been voraciously consuming media made by women of color the last few years. It's like, for white women, we can do any bland trope and that's just the way it is and isn't that so special but that's not going to "work" for black women, we have to come up with something else:

"We were also worried about making sure that Cinderella that was defined by more than falling in love with a handsome prince. She needed to have a story of her own that superseded just being attracted to his good looks. That’s not the way that the culture was going at that time. Robert was able to give her a little bit more of a backbone and have her be an independent woman."

It's like, when we subvert the trope with race suddenly a lot of other bullshit falls away. It's shameful how long we've allowed our culture to elevate the most boring aspects of whiteness like it's some kind of prize. Aren't you special, you hollow-eyed mannequin in the window?

Blech. So unrelentingly boring and forgettable.
posted by amanda at 6:49 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've always loved the Rodgers & Hammerstein Cinderella -- the songs are so good! We often watched the Lesley Anne Warren version in my house (on VHS) and there's just something so charming about the simplicity and sweetness of it.

I also love this version and rewatched it a few years ago after a conversation about colorblind casting and it really holds up. Everyone in this is a delight and the production design is gorgeous. It's annoying it's not streaming anyway (even for "rent" or pay) because it would allow more people to see it (I know I found a bad YouTube copy, but that was a few years ago).

The DVD is relatively cheap, at least.

I enjoyed reading this and I hope people do revisit this production because of it. It's a delight.
posted by darksong at 1:15 PM on November 3, 2017

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