Known for being a wicked stepsister, is there more to Anastasia Tremaine?
Cinderella’s step-family are some of the original Disney villains, but a character that I find interesting is Anastasia. In the original film, she is essentially interchangeable with her sister Drizella. Both are whiny, childish and allround irritating characters. They don’t care how their stepsister is treated, and seem to quite enjoy having her as their servant. While their mother is clearly the brains behind the operation, in terms of how Cinderella is treated and their schemes to try and marry the Prince, they never object to or see anything wrong with their behaviour. Their mother is very controlling and, at least in the first film, they obey her almost mindlessly.
The Cinderella sequels are where things get interesting for Anastasia. While, oddly Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time have very similar storylines for her, they give her the opportunity to grow outside of the restrictions of her mother and sister. Cinderella II is broken into three stories that the mice write for Cinderella, with the help of her Fairy Godmother. The third of these stories shows Anastasia meeting and falling in love with the local baker, which her mother and sister strictly disapprove of, as he is not aristocracy. I think in this film Drizella and Lady Tremaine use Anastasia as a replacement for Cinderella- someone to laugh at and show disdain for.
Cinderella tries her best to help Anastasia, by giving her a makeover and encouraging her to be nicer to people. While it doesn’t quite work 100%, it’s a huge improvement on what she was like in the first film, and she’s a kind of fun middle ground between Cinderella and Drizella. Ultimately, despite her mother’s best attempts, she ends up attending the ball with the baker and having a great time. What I really like about this story is that even though Anastasia is a brat throughout the first movie, and isn’t perfect in the second one, she still has a chance at love and happiness. She’s not as classically pretty as Cinderella, but they work together to make her feel comfortable in what she looks like, and I think that’s a great lesson for kids (and adults!) to take from the movie. Also her post-makeover hair looks very similar to Ariel from The Little Mermaid which I love. She’s so genuinely excited about seeing the Baker, and it’s nice to see that little bit of redemption for a villain who wasn’t given much choice about how she behaved.
Now Cinderella II ends with Anastasia dancing the night away with the baker, however Cinderella III sees her looking for love again (did she break up with the baker? We don’t really get an answer). The storyline for this film is a little more complex than both the first and second, as Lady Tremaine takes possession of the Fairy Godmother’s wand and turns time back to when the Prince is trying to find the girl he danced with at the ball. With the help of some more magic, she makes the shoe fit Anastasia, who is taken to the palace and presented to the Prince. Despite putting him under a spell to make him think that Anastasia was the one he fell in love with, not Cinderella, true love ultimately wins out. In a last ditch attempt, Lady Tremaine even goes so far as to put a spell on Anastasia to make her look like Cinderella. In the end, Anastasia admits who she is and gives up the Prince to his love.
This film really gives Anastasia (and other characters, like Cinderella and the Prince) a bit more personality and oomph. I actually think in some ways Cinderella III is actually better than the original film. Anastasia has her own song, and shows a softer, romantic side. She just wants to find love and be loved for who she is. Her relationship with the King is sweet, she’s amazed by how he treats her as his own daughter. Even after her mother’s trickery is revealed, he still lets her keep his most precious possession, the shell from when he first met his wife. I think she really needed that positive parental influence and if you’ve read my previous post on the original Cinderella film, you’ll know that I think the King is a great contrast to Lady Tremaine.
That desire to find true love, not for a better position in society, or because it’s what her mother wants, is what drives her to become an unlikely heroine by thwarting Lady Tremaine’s evil plan. Again, she’s not perfect, the scene where she is first introduced to the King, in the middle of an argument-turned-food-fight with her sister, is hilarious. She’s a little more realistic than the overly sweet and charming Cinderella, and her failures make her easier to relate to. While at the end of the film, she is left without a Prince Charming herself, in the end credits we see her (meeting? re-meeting?) the baker from Cinderella II so we can only hope that they are together again!
If you meet Anastasia in the parks, she is just as nasty as her sister, but I love the clumsy, sassy, romantic, more evolved version in the sequels. In my opinion she doesn’t get the credit she deserves for changing her ways and especially defeating her own mother!