Seeing the better side of Disney

By Mike Ashcraft

All too often in the business of columnizing, columnists tend to accentuate the negative of something or other, almost to the point of eliminating the positive things they see around them.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some displeasure I was having with the World of Disney's return to the television screen. Specifically, I saw the pilot for ``Sabrina, the Teenage Breast'' -- excuse me, I meant ``Teenage Witch'' -- as somewhat less than wonderful.

At the time, I backhandedly complimented Michael Eisner, et al., by stating my belief that Disney does indeed employ the best minds in the ``Magineering'' business. So why, I openly wondered, should they need so large a dose of prurient to interest an audience?

Mind you, said I, I'm not looking for nothing but ``Son of Flubber'' remakes as standard family fare. I'm simply seeking storylines that needn't be propped up with push-up bras nor tied together with string bikinis.

While I do not take back a word of what I said back then, I will say right now that the Disney offering of Nov. 2, Whitney Houston's ``Cinderella,'' was precisely the kind of stuff I had in mind.

This production not only presented Cinderella in a wonderfully entertaining, touching, warm, uplifting and humorous way, it even told of the story itself. We learned that ``Cinderella'' is one of the very oldest of fairy tales, told all but exactly the same around the world. In other words, deerskin or silk may sub for our glass version of the slipper, but the ``Cinderella'' storyline is universally understood.

Presumably with a nod to the multicultural nature of the fantasy, in this retelling, a multitude of cultures, skin colors and eye contours told the tale of the universally human emotions involved. And did so in such a way that race was simply not an issue.

For those who didn't see the show, or the cover of TV Guide that week, Cindy (Brandy) and her Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston), were black, as was one of the ``Step Sisty Uglers.'' The handsome Prince (Paolo Montalban) was Asian, royally born of a mix of white and African-American parents (Victor Garber and Whoopi Goldberg). Yet there was never any indication that the obvious biological contradictions were in any other way odd.

I say ``BRAVO!'' to that. As well as to the fact that not only was the tale told without showing regard to skin color, it was told without undo skin showing at all.

Even in the royal ballroom scene, where it would have been historically correct to push-up-bra the women clear to their chinny-chin-chins, there were no flouncy breasts at all. There was no overt or gratuitous violence. No rude language. And the show was jam-packed with adult situations that did not involve having sex.

In short, here was a grand tale, well-told, well-staged, well-danced, well-sung, well-spoken. Enough said. Except to say that Disney, and any others so inclined, should continue endeavoring to create something similarly wonderful to color the world of television.

Michael Ashcraft is a free-lance writer who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His email address is