Most of the movies that inspire the greatest nostalgia are classic Disney movies, especially the timeless ones like Cinderella or Robin Hood. I’m sure I’m not alone in my love for these stories, as there have been countless book and movie adaptations released about them and other classics over the years.
Because of the love and nostalgia that surround classic stories, retellings offer both great risk and great reward. Since people love the stories so much, retellings will likely draw interest from fans of the original story. However, if the retelling is terrible, it will face the wrath of disappointed fans.
This begs to question: what makes a retelling worthwhile? What makes it more than a cheap rip-off? Here are 5 things that make a retelling worth your time, using Christina June’s retelling of Cinderella, It Started with Goodbye, as an example.
- A New Place. The retelling must be different than the original in a couple important ways, or it obviously wouldn’t be a retelling. One of the most common ways to accomplish this is to change the setting and time-period. Retellings of Cinderella have many times over been set in modern day America, and this works well to help distance the new from the old—if it isn’t the lone way the story is different. Christina June makes this distinction, setting It Started with Goodbye in modern day Virginia.
- Fresh Faces. Although the reader should be able to draw parallels between the original story and the retelling, making the new characters markedly different from the old ones is a great way to set a retelling apart—especially since many characters in classic stories were either all good or all bad. In her retelling, June transforms the beautiful, graceful character of Cinderella into Tatum, the average looking sarcastic teenage artist. Prince Charming and the fairy godmother are still very similar in personality and purpose, but the stepmother and (in this case) lone stepsister end up being not so evil after all—which brings us to message.
- Message. Sometimes classic stories were written for the sole purpose of entertainment and don’t have a deep lesson for us to take from them (or the message was maybe a little dark or twisted). By adding a small message to the story, a retelling can further set itself apart from the original. By humanizing the stepmother and stepsister in her retelling, June allows Tatum to learn important lessons about navigating difficult relationships and understanding why people make the decisions they do, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Add a New Twist. New characters and new plot twists are a must. June gives Tatum a new friend, a run-in with the law that leads to a falling-out with her best friend, and several characters that don’t have a parallel in the original story to make sure the story gains depth. She also adds a few twists to make the reader guess a little bit, further distinguishing her story from the original.
- Back to the Basics. All this said, a good retelling still preserves everything that was great about the original story. Cinderella still needs to have a Prince Charming and a fairy godmother to help her get the ball, even if she is a teenager who just desperately wants to attend a concert.
Retellings can either be a welcome return to a treasured favorite or an upsetting trudge through a cheap rip-off, but any retelling that has the above attributes is worthwhile in my book. What are some of your favorite retellings? Let me know below!