Cinderella III: A Twist in Time

For many years, Disney set the bar with family animation. They were the iPod and everyone else was, well, one of those mp3 players that has two percent of the market. That began to change with the emergence of Pixar, Dreamworks, and a few other studios who consistently created inventive, clever, dazzling animated films. It also helped that Disney churned out some serious crap during the same time. But Disney has got to make money somewhere, and they have a large backlog of beloved characters. This is pretty much why things like the direct-to-DVD Cinderella III: A Twist in Time exist. The Disney direct-to-DVD sequel factory has a basic pattern. Take a familiar character and have their son, daughter, or other related relative or close friend, and put them through a situation which mirrors the original theatrical release. Thus, in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Ariel's daughter is stuck on land, but really wants to be a Mermaid. Similarly, Lady in the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, finds Tramp's son wanting to be a junkyard dog. Sequels to The Lion King and Peter Pan also followed this formula. So, you really have to hand it to the six writers of Cinderella III: A Twist in Time for employing a modicum of creativity into the plot of the latest Disney DVD.

The movie opens one year after the Prince (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes) has slipped the glass slipper on Cinderella (Jennifer Hale) and everyone is celebrating their perfect life and love in an opening musical number. This is a full blown musical animated feature and the songs are only mediocre. That sounds bad, but some of the sequel music has been downright awful, so this is a step-up. Cinderella's step-sister Anastasia spies on the celebration and ends up stealing the Fairy Godmother's wand and giving it to her mother. The evil step-mother uses the wand to turn back time to the famous slipper fitting scene in the first movie and causes the slipper to fit Anatasia, leaving Cinderella out in the cold for any Prince-love.

The rest of the movie and songs deal with Cinderella trying to meet up with the Prince to show that true love and not the slipper were what brought them together. Anastasia begins to doubt that a love brought about by deception is satisfying. The main mice from the first movie, Gus and Jaq, are back for comic relief and battles with their old enemy, Lucifer the Cat.

On the very low standards of direct-to-DVD sequels, this movie isn't as awful as some. The plot is somewhat inventive and there is a healthy dose of humor. Some characters, primarily the Prince, the King, and Anastasia, go through personality transformations in the year between the original movie and the events of this feature. Anastasia also goes through a vocal transformation, since her musical ineptness is a comic point in the original, but she has a nice vocal number in the sequel.

This movie wasn't created and released for middle-aged men (at least not straight men). If you have an animation loving daughter in the target age range of this product (three to nine years old) then you can probably add two stars to my rating. It's quick (a mere hour and 14 minutes) and while the animation is an obvious step-down from what you see in theaters, it's a step (or two) up from slap-dash TV animation. It will keep the kiddos entertained until The Little Mermaid 8: Ariel Does Dallas is released. As is typical with these direct-to-DVD sequels, the animation has a nice, rich look but there are only a few extras, just enough to be able to give parents a reason not to wait and record this off the Disney Channel next year. There is nothing along the lines of a making-of featurette, commentary, or historical information about the original movie. In fact, the extras make it clear that this movie isn't really a "family" film, it's a "kids" movie, of interest only to the tykes, and not their parents.

"Heroes" star Hayden Panettiere has a music video for "I Still Believe." The video is in heavy rotation on the Disney Channel and is the type of innocuous pop fluff that turned Hillary Duff into a hit machine for the pre-teen set. Despite the fact that it is only about 3 minutes long and isn't particularly interesting, it is the most substantial extra on the disc.

The only other major extras are two games. One game is played on your DVD player and involves identifying things in the castle that Jaq, Gus, and Lucifer used the magic wand to change. This would only appeal to very young children as it is extremely simplistic.

The other game is a DVD-Rom. "Cinderella's Ballroom" allows the user to create a princess jukebox and choreograph their own ballroom dances using clips from the film. There is also a function to put your own pictures into princess costumes. Again, the age appeal for this is pretty low.

Other than a couple of infomercials for Disney Cruise Line and another princess related animated short, that is it for this disc. It's nothing substantial, but again, the target audience is young children and it will keep them mildly entertained for a short period. Frankly, if you don't have the original Cinderella, or really any of the first ten Disney animated movies, go track those down before grabbing this disc.