It is no great secret that I have no love for the Disney Corporation. I stay as far away as possible from much of what Disney has to offer young kids. As a result, my girl has no experience with the Disney Princess franchise (yes, it is possible to raise a girl without Princess merchandise...really).
Recently, Scholastic Video sent me a copy of their new DVD collection titled "Cinderella and more beloved fairy tales" (officially released today, April 24 2007). It was the first time the poor-housecleaning-Princess-to-be had entered my home. In a move that surprised my wife and even myself, I decided to just pop the DVD in one night as we at down with our daughter, without previewing it. I was hopeful that this Scholastic adaptation (by James Marshall) would not be like Disney's Cinderella. I had a gut feeling that Scholastic was going to distribute something a little less, um, glamorous (the cover image helped my gut come to that determination). I was right. This story, using simple illustration and voice overs by Kathy Bates, shows us a much different Cinderella. She is not stunningly pretty and her self-image and vanity play no role in the story at all. I was delighted. She eventually won the affection of the prince, of course, but it is an affection she did not actively seek out (Cinderella just wanted to get dressed up and go to the ball, simple as that). There is absolutely no overtone of a girl needing to validate her self worth by winning the love or attention of a man.
If you have serious trepidation about indoctrinating your young girls into the cult of Disney Princesses, but would still like them to know of the Cinderella tale, this modestly priced video collection is perfect for you. Also included on the DVD is The Elves and the Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm. This is beautifully illustrated tale of kindness, selflessness and charity that we have loved in book form since Christmas and were super excited to watch for the first time. This version presents a delightful romp through the Shoemaker's workshop as we watch the two giddy Elves help the older craftsman and his wife re-establish their family business. The DVD features three more tales as well, The Fisherman and His Wife, Three Billy Goats Gruff and Hansel & Gretel. The first is a stark and slightly apocalyptic tale of greed with very antique, linear and gray scale drawings. We had never heard of, read or seen this story before yet all three of us sat silently as we watched, in a slightly mesmerized state, the Fisherman trek back and forth between his wanton bride and the sea where he repeatedly calls on an over-accommodating fish. The other two short films, Three Billy Goats Gruff and Hansel & Gretel, may be a little rough and/or violent for your very young and/or timid children. Our girl did not enjoy either very much, she watched the goats and the troll through her hands.
Overall, this is a very solid offering from Scholastic and again, worth the price if only to store a more pleasant adaptation of Cinderella in your home.