The first official presentation of the film occurred at Disney's three-day D23 Expo in August 2013. The film was previewed at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Nevada, in March 2014, with a teaser showing Cinderella hearing about her father's death, meeting the prince while riding through the forest, her mother's ball gown being torn apart by her step-family, and a comedic bit where the Fairy Godmother transforms a pumpkin into a carriage.
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The story of "Cinderella" follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella's father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother's dying words and to "have courage and be kind." She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella's hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden). Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham-Carter) steps forward and -- armed with a pumpkin and a few mice -- changes Cinderella's life forever.
The film became a critical success garnering the best reception for a Disney animated film since Dumbo. In a personal letter to Walt Disney, director Michael Curtiz hailed the film as the "masterpiece of all pictures you have done." Producer Hal Wallis declared, "If this is not your best, it is very close to the top." Mae Tinee, reviewing for The Chicago Tribune, remarked "The film not only is handsome, with imaginative art and glowing colors to bedeck the old fairy tale, but it also is told in a gentle fashion, without the lurid villains which sometimes give little lots nightmares. It is enhanced by the sudden, piquant touches of humor and the music which appeal to old and young." Time wrote that "Cinderella is beguiling proof that Walt Disney knows his way around fairyland. Harking back to the style of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), a small army of Disney craftsmen have given the centuries-old Cinderella story a dewy radiance of comic verve that should make children feel like elves and adults feel like children."
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