Disney Is Celebrating World Princess Week with a Reunion of 1997's Cinderella!

The prince is giving a ball... again! When Disney announced their Ultimate Princess Celebration last year, I was under the impression that it would be a year-long event culminating in World Princess Week, when they aired the mediocre Disney Princess Remix special on Disney Channel. Instead, it looks like the event will be ongoing until they can find a new way to keep their Disney Princess brand relevant. That means World Princess Week is back for another round! It will take place next week from August 21st through August 27th. Instead of a teenybopper remix of princess classics, however, Disney is doing something a little different this year. Their primary television network, ABC, will air a 25th anniversary reunion special of the 1997 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on their news show, 20/20, followed by a presentation of the film, airing live for the first time since it debuted on The Wonderful World of Disney.

Cinderella reunion special

This is a particularly appropriate time to revive this movie, not only because November will mark the film's 25th anniversary, but also because Brandy has become a lot more active in the Disney Princess community over the past year. She is the lead singer and performer in the music video for "Starting Now," the newest Disney Princess anthem, which serves as the opening number for Disney Princess: The Concert. She also donned an updated version of her Cinderella gown for a fan video created by Disney aficionado Todrick Hall, who will be featured in the special as well. This is taking place less than a year before the second black live-action Disney Princess movie will hit theaters. On May 26th, 2023, Halle Bailey will star as Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, following in Brandy's footsteps. This special serves as an opportunity for Disney to remind fans that they had already portrayed a classic fairy tale princess as a person of color long before Halle was cast.

The reunion will feature Brandy Norwood, Whoopi Goldberg, Paolo Montalban, Victor Garber, Bernadette Peters, Jason Alexander, and Veanne Cox from the original film as well as interviews with other stars who share a connection to the project such as Billy Porter, who played the gender neutral Fairy Godmother in Amazon Prime's adaptation of the story. Since it was recently announced that Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella is being turned into a new limited series by Jennifer Lopez, I can't help but wonder if there will be some surprise announcements or previews about that during the special as well. As eager as I am to hear from well-known stars like Brandy, Bernadette Peters, and Jason Alexander, I'm particularly curious to hear about what the prince, Paolo Montalban, has been up to since the movie aired. His online profile shows that he had a number of guest-starring one-off roles on various TV shows, but nothing as big as the male lead in Cinderella. I've always found him to be one of the most attractive live-action fairy tale princes, and it's rare for an Asian actor to have such a major role in a classic fairy tale story.

I still remember eagerly awaiting this production of The Wonderful World of Disney back in 1997. At the time, I was not aware that there was another musical version of "Cinderella" aside from the animated Disney one from 1950. I was in awe of how much more I enjoyed the songs in this version as well as how much effort was put into creating the beautiful sets and costumes to translate the story into a live-action environment. I was already familiar with Brandy from the sitcom Moesha, so it was a treat to see her doing something so different. Let's not forget Whitney Houston's enchanting performance as the Fairy Godmother either. In an interview on the DVD, Brandy expresses how Whitney, who was a producer on the film, hand-picked her to star as Cinderella, and Brandy responded that she would only take the role if Whitney was her fairy godmother, so if it hadn't been for Brandy, we may not have gotten such an iconic Fairy Godmother performance. I think Whitney Houston would be pleased that people still have such fond memories of this special if she were still with us today. She will certainly be missed during the reunion.

It was only recently that Disney brought this film back from the vault by releasing it on Disney+ and giving Brandy a more active role in the Disney Princess community. Before last year, it was only remembered by a number of hardcore fans like me who went out of their way to order a copy of the DVD and watched it over and over until we knew every lyric to every song. This special will give a new generation of children an opportunity to experience the same magic that I did when it aired and to be aware that Halle Bailey will not be the first black live-action Disney Princess. Do you remember when this special came out on ABC 25 years ago? Share some of your favorite memories with me in the comments, and remember to tune in next Tuesday, August 23rd, when it makes a comeback on 20/20!


Sugar said…
I need to see this movie I never saw it before it looks adorable. On the other hand, whenever I find princess things I recommend them to you hehehe. Have you read Lost in Averell by Tara Grayce? the protagonist has a double life as a normal girl and a princess of a magical country!
There is also "The Sleeping Beauty" by Mercedes Lackey, it is part of adult romance and not juvenile so it has some sexual innuendos but nothing else since you don't seem to be too interested in that type of content. I'm reading another one from collection is a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood mixed with Beauty and the Beast and the "Beast" is a werewolf.
Lisa Dawn said…
Thank you for the recommendations! I have not read any of those books yet. :)

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