Cinderella finally brought Disney animation back to its former glory. Returning to what worked in the first place. Feature length animation based on fairy tales. By 1950, Disney was near bankrupt after releasing their sixth package film with The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Needless to say, Walt Disney needed a surefire hit to bring back joy after the war. “Cinderella” couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. The idea was in Walt Disney’s head since the 20’s, but it took over three decades before it finally became Disney’s twelfth animated film. Which also made it the first of the Silver Age.
“Cinderella” is a timeless fairy tale that’s been told and retold a countless number of times over the years. The story is so old that it can even be traced back to ancient times, but the European versions from Brothers Grimm and other writers in the 1600’s are the closest to the ones we recognize. Some versions her name is Ella before receiving the “Cinder” part of it, sometimes Cinderella dances with the Prince multiple times, and occasionally the evil stepmother & stepsisters have their eyes pecked out. Rest assured Cinderella (1950) was as Disneyfied as possible without losing the heart of the rags to riches story…
Cinderella may be considered one of the girliest movies Disney has made, but it was still one that I loved watching on VHS growing up. Even after seeing numerous versions of the story, this version will always hold a special place in my heart. Even though pretty much everyone is familiar with the story, this is what Disney does differently. After the opening of the book of course. Once Upon a time a beautiful young girl lived a happy life before the loss of her mother. Her father remarried, but it wasn’t long after his passing that Cinderella’s stepmother & stepsisters showed their true colors.
Despite the unfair label that she’s received in recent years, I actually consider Cinderella to be a very worthy Disney Princess. At least in the context of the fairy tale. This was still the 50’s afterall. Cinderella is best recognized by her strawberry blonde hair and classic beauty. Not even a cleaning outfit can hide it. I don’t consider Cinderella to be a doormat. She’s a dreamer. A victim of circumstance who holds onto her hope and remains kind in the face of hardship. Her only friends are a group of adorable birds and mice that affectionately refer to her as “Cinderelli.” She also has a horse and a dog named Bruno that keep her company. They serve as her animal sidekicks and were one of Disney’s earliest additions to the fairly light fairy tale.
Jaq and Gus are a fun mouse duo that spend most of the screen time escaping the devilishly evil cat Lucifer. Which amounts to multiple Tom & Jerry style games of cat and mouse mixed in with the hour & 16 minute story. Cinderella works hard as a servant for her evil stepmother & ugly stepsisters, yet she’s actually less of a pushover than most people remember. Lady Tremaine is easily one of the Disney villains that I despise the most. Physical threats are one thing, but sometimes nothing’s worse than an antagonist that mentally abuses someone. The same goes for Anastasia and Drizella. Especially when they destroy the dress that the birds and mice lovingly made for her. That moment will always be hard to watch. Fortunately it’s followed by one of the greatest in Disney history.
Cinderella is greeted by her Fairy Godmother who resembles a sweet caring grandmother. In a magical sequence, the Fairy Godmother grants Cinderella her wish to go to the ball. With the flick of her wand and the magic words Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, a pumpkin becomes a couch, the mice become horses, and Cinderella is given a beautiful dress. Her most iconic outfit complete with classic updo, choker, and frilly white design (that’s often recolored blue). The animation used to transform the dress was actually Walt Disney’s personal favorite.
The castle became the basis for the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. It’s where the King has his own subplot of desperately wanting grandchildren. He has many humorous moments with the Grand Duke before and after the ball. Prince Charming is an apt description, but he’s another prince without a personality. Serving as the dream guy for Cinderella when they share a romantic dance at the ball. Of course the clock strikes 12 and Cinderella leaves behind her famously impractical glass slipper. Being cruelly locked away isn’t enough to keep Cinderella from fitting the slipper and living happily ever after with her Prince Charming.
Cinderella was achieved with all the high quality animation that was underutilized for several years. This was the first feature to bring together Disney’s Nine Old Men. An animation team responsible for many classics. Cinderella is realistically drawn, but in a way that’s different than Snow White. It’s mostly the animals that are more stylized. Straightforward musicals were also sorely missed from the studio. Luckily the songs were worth the wait. Cinderella’s signature “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is a perfect dreamer song, “Sing Sweet Nightingale” only sounds good from her, the “Work Song” is very catchy, but nothing beats the Oscar nominated gibberish song “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.” Cinderella is just the magical masterpiece that Disney needed.