YMMV / A Little Princess

  • Adaptation Displacement: Most people are aware that there's a book, but certain elements of the films are so ingrained in the audience's awareness of the story that it's quite a shock to go back and discover how different the original text is. Mostly striking is that Sara's father doesn't go off to war (The Second Boer War in the 1939 version, World War I in the 1995 version), he really does die (of Brain Fever, after losing his fortune in a bad investment), Sara was at Miss Michin's for at least ten years, and Becky isn't black.
  • Broken Base: The adaptations giving Sara's father a Disney Death. He actually does die in the book. There is a small justification in the fact that he died of Brain Fever after the shock of apparently going bankrupt - which is now known to not be an actual disease in real life.
  • Crowning Moment of Funny: In the 1995 film, the entire scene of the girls stealing Sara's locket from Minchin's office. Lottie pretends to be crying so loudly that it distracts Amelia. After trying to quieten Lottie, Amelia runs down to the kitchen to get Sara (because she can calm Lottie down). By the time they get back upstairs, the girls have the locket and Lottie cheerfully walks past Amelia and Sara. Additionally Minchin comes back early and opens the door to her office, so Becky screams to distract her. Becky stutters for a few seconds while the rest of the girls clear out of the door before saying "I thought I saw a mouse". Minchin rolls her eyes and turns to walk into her office, bumping into the door (which had been closed by Ermengarde).
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Miss Amelia, especially her Big Fun portrayal in the 1995 film.
  • Freudian Excuse: The 1995 film and 1986 miniseries show brief scenes of Miss Minchin crying or almost losing control after abusing Sara. Notably, this happens in the 1995 film after Sara brings up the fact that her father told her she was a princess, and asks whether Minchin's own father ever did, too. Viewers are apparently meant to speculate that Minchin had a difficult childhood and perhaps a Disappeared Dad.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Lavinia becoming paranoid about her hair falling out in the 1995 film. She's used to the other girls brushing it for her so she likely has no idea that stray hairs are going to come off. But at the time Sara 'curses' her, all her Girl Posse has grown sick of her and she must brush her hair by herself.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The film adaptation adds a great big grizzly Hydra thing made out of thorns.
    • From the original book, Sara's fate at the hands of Miss Minchin. There's no clear explanation as to why Miss Minchin has always resented the little girl so much, and Sara had no clue she hated her until her father dies and Miss Minchin no longer has to treat her like a parlor boarder anymore. (She had sensed earlier, however, that Miss Minchin fawned on her mainly because she was rich). Miss Minchin is definitely one of the cruelest Sadist Teachers in fiction.
      • Actually, there are three explanations for Miss Minchin's hate. One is the below mentioned scene when Sara unwittingly embarrasses her, in which is explicitly stated that this was the moment resentment started. The second is stated towards the very end, when her sister says that she couldn't stand the fact that Sara saw through her from the very beginning, suggesting that Miss Minchin felt inferior to her, even when she lost everything. The third is more substantial: Miss Minchin thought that Sara would be the key to a lot of money. Instead she ended up with a lot of debts.
    • Miss Minchin seems to resent Sara's precocious self possession, intelligence and ability to read people, even adults. She never forgives Sara for unintentionally embarrassing when she insists Sara study French and it turns out Sara is already fluent in the language.
    • One of the adaptations turns the question of resentment into a bit of a Tear Jerker by implying that her father wasn't nearly as kind to her as Sara's was. Still, the scene in that same adaptation, in which we see Sara's father in the war zone, with all of the dead around him, is plenty scary.
  • Playing Against Type: Liam Cunningham as a loving and doting father is definitely a change.
  • Science Marches On: Brain Fever is now known to mostly be Victorian nonsense and not an actual disease - which could be one of the reasons adaptations have Sara's father turn up alive.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The book was meant to be a critique of Britain's "welfare system", with the goal of making sure everyone has gainful employment. Boys get sent to the Navy and girls to domestic service. They are Made a Slave instead of becoming productive members of society.
  • Stoic Woobie: When she falls on hard times, Sara does her best to maintain her dignity and inner strength, not letting on that she is suffering to any of her friends. The anime adaptation takes this trope Up to Eleven, showing how she bravely accepts her fate, but many adaptations, particularly those made in the States, make her a Spirited Young Lady, so that she doesn't seem passive.
  • Tear Jerker: It's amazing how heart-wrenching four simple little words can be. "I shall die presently."
    • The 1995 movie's climax counts as a tearjerker as well.
    • To say nothing of Sara's first night in the attic. the book tells us it cannot possibly relate what Sara goes through. The movie shows us a broken little girl, crying for her papa in a chalk-drawn circle of protection all alone *sniffsniff*
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: almost all the adaptations have this with regards to Sara's redecorated room. In the book, Mr Carrisford and Ram Dass secretly decorate Sara's quarters and leave her things like hot food, warm blankets, and a fire in the grate. Most films (the 1917, the 1939 and the 1995 amongst others) have Miss Minchin discover this, assume that Sara and Becky have stolen the finery, and this event prompts the climax of the story. In the book, Miss Minchin never sees the room. And when Carrisford sends over a lot of packages with beautiful clothes, delivered at the front door, he includes a note. Minchin correctly concludes Sara has a rich relative or friend, and resumes acting obsequious toward her.
  • Values Dissonance: several minor details that seem odd, like the greenishness of Sara's eyes being some kind of huge obstacle to her ever being considered a traditional beauty.
    • Sara "sees herself as ugly" because — with her slender build, short dark hair, green eyes, and olive skin — she does not in any way match the Victorian-Edwardian image of child beauty; she compares herself to another child in her father's regiment, who has "dimples and rose-colored cheeks, and long hair the color of gold." Black hair was also not a good hair color to have in 19th-Century British India — as it suggested Sara (or her mother) might be mixed-race. Also at various points we get mentions of Sara's "brown" hand and "small dark face".
    • The situation involving Becky coming along as Sara's maid may be due to the fact that, as a lower-class member, Becky doesn't have the education to gain other employment or respectability in her era. This trope is likely the reason the 1995 film implies that Sara's father has adopted Becky at the end.
      • Plus the fact that social class was largely cast in concrete at that time. Becky could not rise above her station even if she wanted to. In this rigidly stratified environment, the best Becky could hope for would be to secure a place in a nice house with a kind-hearted mistress who would make sure she was well-fed, clothed, and sheltered...which is exactly what she gets (and the ending strongly implies that Becky's place in the household is more a companion to Sara than a servant, anyway).
  • The Woobie: Becky, especially in the book.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/ALittlePrincess