The Cinderella 1997 Reunion Wasn't What I Expected

When I learned that 20/20 was having a reunion of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella from 1997 to celebrate World Princess Week, I was expecting a journalist like Barbara Walters to show up in a big room with the cast and lead a discussion about their memories of shooting together and what they've been up to since then. What I got instead was a mash-up of individual interviews from various people involved with the film from the past and present day talking for an hour about what a great movie it was. Don't get me wrong; it was great, but that isn't what comes to mind when I hear "reunion." Not only was there never more than one person on camera at a time, but there was also no host to introduce and close out the special. If someone tuned in without knowing anything about it, they would have no idea what they were watching. The biggest highlight for me wasn't even part of the special. It was a clip of Brandy giving a live performance of "Starting Now" in Disneyland during a commercial break as a promotion for World Princess Week. You can watch the full video below.


Maybe I'm being a little too harsh. There was some decent footage in the special, particularly for people who didn't own the DVD, such as clips of the making of the film and some early interviews with the late Whitney Houston. The motherly relationship between Whitney and Brandy was a big highlight of the behind-the-scenes footage both on the DVD and during the special. Brandy idolized Whitney, and being able to work with her was a dream come true. There was a touching moment near the beginning in which Brandy talked about how she never thought she was pretty and was amazed when she got cast as Cinderella. She also revealed that the shots of her feet in the glass slippers weren't really her feet because they looked too big on camera. It isn't easy being Cinderella! The only two people interviewed who weren't part of the film were Billy Piper, who acted as a stand-in for Whitney Houston since he played the Fairy Godmother in another recent Cinderella film, and Todrick Hall, who provided limited footage from the music video he created to honor the movie last year.


Another highlight was footage of what appeared to be some sort of exclusive Disney Princess party with a group of little girls playing dress up in various princess costumes and answering questions about their favorite Disney Princesses. If they had answered more in-depth questions, this section could have easily been a full special on its own to provide a deeper investigation of how princess culture affects society. As it was, it served as break between the monotony of all the one-on-one interviews for the "reunion." I would have loved to see Brandy inspire the little girls with a surprise visit, but this was a very socially distanced special. Even in the wake of Covid, there were numerous reunions of TV shows and movies that took place over Zoom, so I don't see any reason that the producers couldn't get at least some of the actors together for a discussion, virtual or otherwise. Instead, it acted as an hour-long commercial for Disney's Ultimate Princess Celebration, which was odd because I thought 20/20 was a news show.

Another thing I expected from this special was some sort of memorial for Whitney Houston. There was plenty of dialogue about how great she was, which is true, but no one mentioned how they were affected by her tragic death in 2012. I also learned through the Twitter hashtags that Natalie Deselle Reid, who played Cinderella's stepsister Minerva, had also passed away two years ago, something that was not mentioned in the special at all. Maybe they thought these things would be too depressing for a peppy reunion that would re-introduce the film to a new generation. Still, I thought reunions were supposed to be about celebrating everyone who worked on the project and paying tribute to those who couldn't be there.

In case you were wondering, I did stick around for the live presentation of the movie even though I already have it on both DVD and Disney+. I've been so spoiled by streaming that I forgot how many commercials live TV had! There was a lengthy commercial break after almost every song, which I sang along with loudly, pleased that I still remembered most of the lyrics. Seeing the movie with fresh eyes reminded me of how magical it was the first time I saw it and how solid the story, pacing, choreography, set, and costume designs were. It was clear that a lot of love went into it, and I'm glad everyone involved had an opportunity to reminisce about it 25 years later. Let me know in the comments if this reunion special lived up to your expectations or if you were hoping for something different.

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