Create Beautiful Lasting Memories At Disney On Ice

What’s your earliest childhood memory? For me, it’s a wonderful one with my late dad, marvelling at a starfish at Hawaii, at age three. For my best friend of 20 years, it’s a much-treasured memory of seeing an early version of Disney On Ice, also at age three.

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To a child, few things are as exciting as the magic and wonderment of the ultimate princess experience, Disney On Ice presents Dare To Dream, touring the nation now.

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And so my two littlies, aged three and two, were beside themselves with joy when we headed to see the show in Brisbane. They’d dressed up in their finest – Frozen-themed dresses, jumpers and shoes – and indeed the scene before the show would have made the late Walt Disney well proud: hordes of Disney princesses as far as the eye could see, even some adult-sized ones also resplendent in costume.

Celebrating 75 years of Disney Princess stories, Dare to dream showcases two of Disney’s modern-day princess stories: Tangled and The Princess and the Frog together with two of its most-beloved fairytales; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella. It’s an action-packed skating spectacle bound to warm your heart, just as it did mine.

My daughters whooped, danced, laughed and smiled non-stop throughout the show – this will warm the cockles of the hearts of even the most tired, jaded parents, just as it did ours. And parents will enjoy the experience too – the beauty, sparkle and skill demonstrated in the ice-skating show are a true joy to behold. How on earth do you run and dance in ice skates? Even the show’s warm-up act displayed Olympian-like prowess on the ice!

This is a great school holidays experience for the whole family. I’m confident my little lasses will savour and remember this experience for many years to come. Check it!

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Book tickets for the upcoming Melbourne and Sydney shows now via Ticketek.

July 1, 2015

Does “Cinderella” Give Stepmums A Bad Name?

“Why is the stepmummy so mean, mummy?”

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This is the tricky question my Cinderella-obsessed three-year-old toddler often asks me of late, right during wind-down time before bed, when we’re reading her favourite fairytale.

And so I often then find myself explaining that of course not all stepmums are wicked and cruel as per the fabled Lady Tremaine character, also known as the Wicked Stepmother and as Cinderella’s stepmother, in both the book and the recent, new Cinderella movie, played with great relish (and an awesome wardrobe) by the exquisite Cate Blanchett (pictured).

In fact, blended families are increasingly common these days and many stepmums are amazing mothers in trying circumstances; unfairly compared to their step-children’s biological mother and forever battling the evil stepmother myth as perpetuated by Hollywood films such as Cinderella and Snow White. I have several close friends who are awesome stepmums, who’ve worked hard to become so.

There’s certainly not much written about evil stepfathers, is there? Motherhood taboos are at play here; that mothering should come naturally and easily to a stepmother, when in reality it’s often a lot of hard work and takes a lot of time to build family relationships. Besides which, parenthood certainly ain’t no picnic, let alone with recalcitrant stepkids who question your authority.

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In my mid 20s, I fell deeply in love with an older man and very nearly married him. He had two gorgeous kids aged six and eight. Given they lived interstate with their mother, it didn’t seem like a huge, scary burden at the start – until they came to stay with us every school holidays for weeks at a time.

Being so young myself, I remember feeling completely ill-prepared for motherhood, especially with a cheeky, little six-year-old girl who loudly compared me to her mother at every opportunity. I’ll never forget her once telling me on the beach, while she lay next to me on the sand, us both sporting bikinis: “You’re much skinnier than my mummy… But your boobs aren’t as big.” Oh, the vast and infinite horror and hilarity!

Unlike the much-softer eight-year-old boy, who accepted me straight away, the six-year-old girl took a lot of hard work to win over and build a relationship of genuine trust, affection and love. And, truth be told, when the kids’  father and I split over completely unrelated reasons, I had grown so attached to them, I mourned the loss of them more than the actual relationship.

Today, many years later, with two daughters of my own, I can see a lot more clearly how hard it must have been for those kids to have their parents split and re-partner when they were at such tender, young ages. And I still remember the bitter, hard-fought battle I waged at times to gain acceptance and respect – both within and outside our family – as their stepmother.

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So, given blended families are on the rise, how can women prepare for step-motherhood? Relationship experts’ key pointers include:

  • Treat the stepkids with love and respect from the get-go and demand the same from them.
  • Don’t compare yourself to your stepkids’ biological mother.
  • Be compassionate; try not to take stepkids’ initial negativity and resistance personally.
    Relationships take time to build.
  • Show deference to the children’s biological mother; don’t try to replace her.
  • Be yourself; act as a friend to the kids first.
  • Accept your husband/partner will always have a close tie with his children from a prior marriage.
  • And, while you may loathe it, his ex is in your life to stay, too. Try your best to be courteous and kind to the stepchildren’s mother. You don’t have to like her, but she’s still their mother and it’s helpful if you can work together for the children’s sake.

What do you think? Are you a stepmum battling for acceptance and respect?

April 22, 2015

Disney Magic Casts An Enchanting Spell With Cinderella

Do you believe in love at first sight? And are you an incurable romantic?

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If you answered yes to either of these questions you’ll adore Disney’s Cinderella, a live-action new film inspired by the classic animated fairytale, which opens in cinemas Thursday, March 26. I was fortunate enough to see the film at a media preview and I loved it.

I found it an utterly charming and enjoyable movie experience, not the least of which because of its sumptuous costuming and visually spectacular cinematography. There’s not much not to love about costume designer Sandy Powell’s amazing work here and Cinderella’s puff-ball, butterfly-motif dream dress and accompanying magical glass slippers are awe-inspiring – the stuff of a billion little girls’ (and big girls’) fantasies.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review

In addition, actor Lily James, who’s of period drama Downton Abbey fame, is the perfect modern embodiment of Cinderella; a new style muse to love who’s thrilled at every red carpet Cinderella premiere since it first opened in the US, smashing the box office with a $70 million opening weekend last week.

However, I must confess I wasn’t expecting to enjoy actor and director Kenneth Branagh’s re-imagining of Disney’s 1950 masterpiece quite so much – I’m no fan of the “princess myth” and abhor it when women describe themselves thus.

For, life ain’t no fairytale, as we all know, and all good love affairs require endless love, patience, forgiveness and understanding. In addition, let’s raise our daughters to be smart and skilful warriors in the driver’s seat of their lives, not merely pathetic, passive princesses expecting to be swept off their feet.

But if you can quieten your inner-cynic, lady, while watching the film, as I did – it’s a fairytale after all – you may well love it too. What’s more, actor Lily James’s spirited Cinderella possesses a quiet strength, and admirable feistiness, kindness and tenacity, which makes her a highly watchable heroine.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review
She’s all blonde bombshell – she ain’t no fragile, hapless princess in a tower – it’s surprisingly moving and sad to watch this Cinderella summon all her courage to pick up the pieces after her beloved mother and father both die.

This soulful, loving and brave Cinderella must find joy in great darkness – such as when her wickedly cruel stepmother, played with great panache by “Queen” Cate Blanchett (pictured), and wile, evil and vacuous step-sisters treat her like little more than a servant – as the classic tale goes. Yet, despite the brutality and spitefulness inflicted upon her, Cinderella is determined to honour her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind,” which brings us to the movie’s central theme.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review

And as the mother of two toddler daughters, I see the power and appeal in these words and think it’s a highly commendable message for all – it’s still poignant and important today and so the ancient fairytale never loses its lustre. I’m certainly striving to teach my girls this and set them a good example by behaving the same. And, speaking of kindness, it was heartening to see all the cute daddy and daughters enjoying themselves at the movie preview.

But back to the film – the best actor in it is by far, in my opinion, the incomparable, Bafta-winning Helena Bonham Carter (pictured) who lends her own special brand of magic and kookiness to the role of Fairy Godmother. Bonham Carter’s performance is worth the admission price alone – she even managed to outshine our queen Cate.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review
And, interestingly, the scene in which her Fairy Godmother transforms Cinderella’s torn dress into her stunning ball gown is said to have been the late Walt Disney’s favourite sequence of animation. In addition, Cinderella is also believed to have been his favourite Disney film of all time. Yay, Walt – I’m inclined to agree with you on both points.

This scene was, by far, my favourite of the film too; you can’t help but be swept away by the romance of it all, thanks to the fabulous and clever special effects. Actor Richard Madden, of Game of Thrones infamy, does his best to play a dashing Prince Kit, who’s immediately impressed by the spirited and smart Cinderella.

Incidentally, when he and Cinderella meet in the woods, she’s doing a fine job of riding a horse bareback (pictured above) – now, as an avid horse rider, I know this is no easy feat. Again, Lily James’ Cinderella is a strong, young woman to admire, not pity, despite her bleak situation. Of course, true love, kindness and courage triumphs over evil and cruelty, as the story goes, and Disney’s most iconic princess learns the ultimate power and reward of staying true to yourself.

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Ah, who can resist a little sprinkling of Disney magic? Enjoy.

March 24, 2015