Role in the film
During a shopping trip in the market, Cinderella struggles under the weight of the purchases of her ill-tempered stepmother and quarrelsome stepsisters, Calliope and Minerva. Spying an unusual purple hat with long pink feathers, they start fighting over it. They ask Cinderella to decide who it looks best on, but she tells them that although she doesn't know much about hats, she doesn't think it suits either of them, much to their affront. As she waits for them to finish shopping, she is distracted by a children's puppet show involving a prince searching for his love. As they step out of a shop, her stepfamily snaps her out of her absorption by handing over their packages for her to carry. Meanwhile, Prince Christopher is also strolling through the market disguised as a peasant. They meet when he rushes over to help Cinderella after she is nearly crushed by a royal carriage. As they talk, they realize they are both dissatisfied with their confining lives. She is charmed by his sincere, direct nature while he is drawn to her honesty and integrity. Their conversation is cut off when her stepmother scolds her for talking to a stranger and for not keeping up with them. Prince Christopher reluctantly leaves but tells her that he hopes to see her again.
On another trip to the market, a day or so later, Cinderella and her stepfamily hear that Prince Christopher is giving a ball in order to find a bride, much to their excitement. Determined to see that Calliope or Minerva will be chosen, their mother begins planning their big night. Cinderella asks her if she, too, can go to the ball, but she finds the idea laughable. She reminds her of her poor status and warns her against dreaming of splendor. As if to underscore the point, Calliope and Minerva command her to bring them warm milk and hot water. As she enters the kitchen, she reflects on her meekness and obedience. She takes solace from her little chair in front of the kitchen fire and dreams about being whatever she wants, from a Peruvian queen to a Milanese prima donna.
As the stepmother coaches Calliope and Minerva on how to win Prince Christopher's heart by hiding their flaws until after the wedding, Cinderella questions this thinking. She believes that a man should love them for who they really are, flaws and all. The stepmother snaps that the ball has nothing to do with love, but with the business of finding a husband instead. Cinderella helps them prepare for it, and, despite how they refuse to let her go with them, she waves as they depart before mournfully going back inside. She tries to take comfort from her chair by pretending that she's the belle of the ball, but her heart just isn't in it. The reality that she has been left behind and his all alone is too strong to be dreamed away, and she tearfully wishes that she could go to the ball.
Suddenly Cinderella's Fairy Godmother appears at the window, startling her. She encourages her to start living her dreams, saying that the only one stopping her from doing so is herself. She explains that she had promised her late father that she and her stepfamily would stay together as one. Her Fairy Godmother not unkindly responds that her situation as the family servant can't have been what her father wanted. She encourages her to go to the ball but acknowledges that she can't make it there without a coach and that it's best for her not to show up in her rags, so her Fairy Godmother shapeshifts a pumpkin growing in the garden into a magnificent orange coach and transforms Cinderella into the belle of the ball she was dreaming of being. Unbelievably happy and grateful, she embraces her Fairy Godmother and eagerly rushes off into the coach, but not before her Fairy Godmother warns her that the magic will end at midnight. She happily muses on her good fortune as she makes her way to the castle with her Fairy Godmother along for the ride.
As the coach pulls up to the palace stairs, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother reassures her that she can handle this, but she'll have to do so alone if she wants her to wish to come true. Nervous yet excited, she arrives in the middle of a dance, catching Prince Christopher's eye. The whole ballroom stumbles to a standstill as he gazes at her, transfixed. He takes her hand and they begin to dance together, gradually filling the room with dancing once more. They whirl right out into the palace gardens where they can be alone to enjoy one another's company, strolling among the flowers and fountains. They eventually decide to go back inside where they are soon joined by an intrigued King Maximilian and Queen Constantina. They each speak to Cinderella and ask about her background, happy that Prince Christopher appears to enjoy spending time in her company and wishing to know more about this "mysterious princess" who will hopefully become their daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, the questions about her family make her uncomfortable, and when she spots her stepmother heading straight for them she flees outside where her Fairy Godmother is waiting. She wants to go home, but her Fairy Godmother accuses her of giving up. She provides moral support but vanishes when Prince Christopher emerges from the doorway.
Having followed Cinderella out into the garden, Prince Christopher wonder if their mutual attraction could be love. He tells her that he feels like he can truly be himself around her, not who people expect him to be, a feeling she understands. Just as they share their first kiss, however, the palace clock strikes midnight. She runs as fast as she can out of the palace, losing one of her glass slippers in her haste. Just as she dashes down the palace stairs the magic begins to drain away, leaving her once again in her rags running past the smashed pumpkin that was once her coach. Prince Christopher chases after her but is unable to catch her, and is left standing with only her glass slipper as a clue to her identity.
Cinderella manages to make it home before her stepfamily and listens to their exaggerated tales of being at the ball, although they concede that there was a "princess something-or-other" that also captured Prince Christopher's attention. She tells them what she "imagines" it would have been like, enchanting Calliope and Minerva and arousing their mother's suspicions that she may have actually been there. She coldly reminds her that she is common, born from a common mother, and that her father spoiled her with silly dreams that will never come true.
A devastated Cinderella wanders outside, unable to stand much more of this cruel treatment. She prays to her father to help her find the strength to seek out a happier life. Her Fairy Godmother reappears at her misery and advises her to share her feelings with Prince Christopher, encouraging her to trust him to love her as she really is.
Meanwhile, Prince Christopher is determined to find the girl who has charmed him so, even if it means having every single eligible one in the kingdom try on the glass slipper until he finds the one whom it fits. Eventually, his quest takes him to the Cinderella's house. Calliope, Minerva, and their mother try it on, but Prince Christopher is absolutely certain none of them is his runaway love. Unseen in the kitchen, Cinderella is packing her things as she gets ready to run away. Knowing that she's in there, her stepfamily hurriedly blocks its locked doors in a desperate attempt to keep Prince Christopher from finding her, but he forces them to open them, revealing nothing but ordinary kitchen fixtures. Disheartened, he prepares to leave.
Once he steps outside, however, he spots Cinderella almost getting trampled by the royal coach once again. Recognizing her from their first meeting in the market, he places the glass slipper on her foot and it fits perfectly. Elated that they have found each other again, they share a kiss.
Waving to everyone they see, Prince Christopher and Cinderella ride in a coach throughout the streets on their way to the palace, where they wed at the top of the ballroom stairs under the approving eye of King Maximilian, Queen Constantina, and their joyful subjects.