Things are changing in the kingdom of Once Upon a Time.
The wolf has gone vegan, the princesses are all influencers, the wicked stepmothers are in family therapy and Cinderella, as well as being a typical high school student, is also a masked heroine.

Masked Cinderella
Director, author: Myriam Ballesteros
Producers: Maria Bonaria Fois (Mondo TV Iberoamérica, Spain) and Myriam Ballesteros (MB Producciones, Spain)
Format: 26 x 22′
Target audience: Children 6-12
Technique: 2D digital

Masked Cinderella is an interesting new animation series project that we came across at Cartoon Forum 2020. It is a fascinating reboot of the classic tale transformed into a catchy and entertaining animation series by putting an attractive setting, that children nowadays can sympathize with, into the story and characters. The modernized story and many other classic fairytales will be told with characters that pop out in a colorful fantasy world.

Here is our interview with Myriam Ballesteros, the author and director of the series, which includes more details of the series and the story behind the project.

Interview with Myriam Ballesteros

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): What is the thing about this animation project that you think will be appealing to the target audience?

Myriam Ballesteros: There are three main elements that we think will make Masked Cinderella attractive to audiences.

First of all, there is what I would call ‘identification’. Our Cinderella is a teenager who thinks and feels like a 21st-century girl. For her, as for much of the audience, everything is difficult and everything needs to be sorted out soon. This Cinderella can’t hang around waiting for a fairy godmother to solve her problems!

Then there is the fascination we all have for the classic stories of our childhood. Much of this series is inspired by the world of fairy tales – that strange and yet familiar world that we all still remember. And if you add the fact that the show also presents this weird and wonderful world as a comic take on our own reality, there are all sorts of opportunities for humor.

In fact, things are changing in the Kingdom of Once Upon a Time! The wolf has gone vegan, the princesses are all influencers, the wicked stepmothers are in family therapy and Cinderella, as well as being a typical high school student, is also a masked heroine.

Last but not least, there’s the appeal of being a superhero – especially when we feel powerless or undervalued. Who wouldn’t want to be a superhero? It certainly made sense for our Cinderella. At first, we weren’t sure how to present her, but we realized that what a girl treated as badly as Cinderella needed wasn’t just to marry a prince – she needed to become a heroine!

HN: How did the project start? And where did the initial idea of the story come from?

Myriam Ballesteros: This project came together gradually: Different ideas appeared, evolved, changed and, over time, found their place.

However, even when we weren’t sure where to start, we knew for certain that the main character would be a girl. She had to be someone vulnerable, but also someone who had the ability to become strong and forge her own path. In fact, most of our projects have had strong and determined girls as their main characters – and so it is with Masked Cinderella.

HN: What kind of message or experience do you want to deliver to the audience through the story? And what are the main areas of focus when developing the story?

Myriam Ballesteros: We felt that we had to create an empathic female character, and that the stories would develop naturally from her needs and concerns. What we would love is for everyone in our audience to feel that, like Cinderella, they can take control of their own destiny.

When developing a story, the background needs to be credible and so do the people. Getting the characters right, their personalities and behaviour, is vital. One of our main goals with our Cinderella has been making her a believable character, someone that the audience can identify with.

HN: Tell us about the visual design. How did Juan Rubi, the character designer, and Pepo Salazar, the background designer and color-grading artist, join the project?

Myriam Ballesteros: Usually, when I start creating a story, I look for visual artists that can ‘respond’ to the content.

With Masked Cinderella, we wanted to avoid the familiar styles associated with classic fairy tales. I wanted an artist who could respond to my input, someone with a forceful and strong approach to design. Juan Rubi doesn’t come from the world of illustrations for classic tales – or indeed anything similar – and his approach seemed perfectly suited to our aim of breaking away from anything too predictable and adding the stylistic twist I was looking for in Masked Cinderella. He’s someone with a fresh, new style.

For the color, which is a fundamental element in all my projects, I turned to my artistic reference, Pepo Salazar. He’s a very highly-regarded designer and creator, with an ultra-modern outlook, with whom I have collaborated for many years. His backgrounds are truly special and his use and mastery of color is unique. I find his approach exciting and I hope and believe our audience will feel the same way.

HN: What is the most important feature of the visual design of both the characters and the world of the story, and why?

Myriam Ballesteros: It’s something I touched on earlier: When we started thinking about this story, we wanted to give a new twist to the world of classic fairy tales. Similarly, for the visual design, we were looking for a style that would break away with classic design stereotypes. All of this contributes to the overall aim: to get away from the familiar world of the classic stories, to take a character – in this case Cinderella – and transform her into something completely new.

HN: What can you tell us about the music for the animation?

Myriam Ballesteros: The music is a major element in Masked Cinderella, as it is in all my projects. Music needs to help the story – to support and enhance the tale you’re telling.

The composer we are working with for Masked Cinderella is John Smith. He’s an excellent musical composer and director, and we have been working together for many years. I believe his music is a perfect fit for what we’d like to achieve and the things we’re trying to say to the audience through this story.

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