Disney’s Live-Action Battle: Brandy’s 1997 ‘Cinderella’ vs. Lily James’ 2015 ‘Cinderella’

Editors Note: Please welcome new guest author Sabrina Jones:


The newest Disney movie coming to the big screen is ‘Cinderella’ as a live-action remake of the famous Disney animated film of the same name. The new ‘Cinderella’ stars Lily James (Wrath of the Titans, Downtown Abbey) as the title character, Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) as Prince Charming, Cate Blanchett (Lord of the Rings, Benjamin Button) as the deliciously evil stepmother Lady Tremain, and finally Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter, almost any Tim Burton film) as the newly re-designed Fairy Godmother.

This newest re-telling of the Cinderella story brings a new live-action, modern re-telling. Now lets take a trip down memory lane and realize that this is not the first time Disney has done a modern re-telling of a live-action Cinderella. In 1997, there was the updated Rodgers and Hammerstein ‘Cinderella’ made as a direct to TV movie for the ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ series. This version starred Brandy Norwood (Moesha) as Cinderella, Paolo Montalban (Mortal Kombat) as the Prince, Bernadette Peters (Broadway Goddess!) as the evil Stepmother, and Whitney Houston (no explanation needed) as the Fairy Godmother. Each of these films is quite different.


The 1997 ‘Cinderella’ felt more like a Broadway production than a film. It was bold with color and style, had some original music, and quite a bit of humor. Also major points go to this version because it depicts not only 1 but 2 racially mixed couples, Cinderella and her prince and the King and Queen/Mother and Father to the Prince. This version added some much needed color to this classic tale. The 2015 ‘Cinderella’ is taking the story much more seriously without any songs or humor. This new Cinderella is a serious and dramatic interpretation, but does that mean it’s better? Let us take a look at our favorite characters and see who played it better!

Cinderella: Already we are off to good start. Each leading lady is very different. Lily James looks more like the classically animated Cinderella that many of us know, but lets not count out Brandy yet. She brought some much-needed color to our favorite leading lady. Brandy also brought song to her version, while I really doubt we will see any musical prowess from Lily James. Now both play the character somewhat similarly, as a character defined by her kindness and obedience. It will be interesting to see how the 2015 version of Cinderella as more defiant and active in her own plot.

Winner: Lily James! She has yet to prove her true acting chops as a main driving force but I am hopeful. After seeing the second trailer I feel a bit better about my Disney Princess. It seems Lily James will have a bit more control over her future and will have the gall to stand up for what she wants.

Prince Charming: Now again both actors are radically different. Many may not have known Paolo Montalban, but most everyone knows Richard Madden from his appearance on the very famous Game of Thrones. It seems that he along with Cate Blanchett, and Helena Bonham Carter are using their star power to help bring in audiences (plus Frozen). While the 1997 Prince was more whimsical, this 2015 Prince seems more manly and serious. Also see his Disney Store doll, I have never seen a more stern looking doll. He is supposed to be dancing but that furrowed brow just won’t allow for any happy faces- but sorry for the tangent.

Winner: Richard Madden! Even if he plays a more serious Prince than the Disney fans have come to known it will be a better version than the forgettable Prince in 1997 or the practically silent one in the classic animated film.

Evil Stepmother: Each of these strong leading ladies isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to feed her own ambition of power. While her daughters may be imbeciles she is not afraid to manipulate them to accomplish her goal of wealth and nobility. Cate Blanchett has proven time and time again that she has got some serious acting chops. I have no doubt that we will get a well-dressed vile woman dominating the screen and even overshadowing the rest of the cast. Bernadette Peters plays a dramatically different version of the classic stepmother. She carried the film and had the best moments throughout. She gave humor and an amazing song to boot. She played the polar opposite to the audience expectations. While the classically animated Lady Tremain was scary even when silent, Peters was rarely silent and again hilarious. Each of these actresses played the character very differently, which makes this the toughest decision.

Winner: TIE! Now before you call this a cop-out please give me a chance to explain. I can’t choose between these amazing women because they played the character so differently and each is commendable. Blanchett will be terrifying and that will be great to see because the animated character was so evil as well. Peters played her as a more bumbling villain who was more relatable. So both win in my book.

Fairy Godmother: Now this is tough. Both women are strong characters that help inspire Cinderella to cut loose for a night. Each have amazing costumes that are much more extravagant than the baby blue robe the animated Fairy Godmother wore in the classic film. Both have a pair of pipes on them, but c’mon it’s Whitney Houston! Each of these women plays this character with whimsy and sass.

Winner: Whitney Houston! While I love Helena Bonham Carter I have to give it to Whitney Houston because of her producer credit for the 1997 ‘Cinderella’. She helped bring a great, diversified cast to the screen which to be honest Disney really needs.

Now those are my choices, but if you disagree please feel free to say in the comments below or share your frustration or kudos with the world on Facebook, Twitter, or any social media outlet. If you had no idea what I was talking about please check out the 1997 Cinderella on Amazon, mine is currently on VHS. Yeah…I’m old. The 2015 ‘Cinderella’ will appear in theaters on March 13th and I am sure will inspire magic and kindness to all of its audiences just as the original Disney classic did so many years ago.

Finally for those who read all the way to the bottom, TRIVIA TIME!! Marc Davis, one of the nine old men, and has said that the transformation of Cinderella in the animated movie was Walt Disney’s favorite scene of all. Awwwww Walt!

Wingapo everyone! My name is Sabrina Jones and I am the Disney Alchemist. Disney is about magic, making dreams come true, embracing who you are, and bringing joy into people’s lives. Now I am here to help you navigate through the enormous, yet enchanting world of Disney pop culture. Now once upon a time, Disney was well known for their amazing animated films that now bring a sense of nostalgia to all. Disney has since grown to be a powerhouse in pop culture with new additions such as Marvel and Star Wars. I have been a Disney fan my whole life and a self-titled geek as well. I have always had a fascination about pop culture and how it influences everyone in their daily lives.