Glory be! We finally made it to Cinderella! It’s been an appropriately long time since I watched this one, and I’m glad we got through the odd and inconsistent 1940s package films to reach the golden, dreamy 1950s. Cinderella is in many ways the ‘number one’ Disney Princess, although Snow White is the first. If you check Google Images, Cindy is usually pictured at the center of the Disney Princess flying-v line-up. Observe:
While perhaps our modern sensibilities and craving for fierce, fearless ladies in leading roles may tell us that the earlier Disney Princesses are weak or wimpy, I’d like to encourage you all to remember that Snow White was fourteen years old and Cinderella was one of the most humble, dignified, good-hearted people on the planet. Let’s begin, shall we?
The Film: Cinderella (1950)
- At the time Cinderella was made, Disney was $4 million in debt. The film cost $3 million to make. The profits from the film, however, were enough to bankroll several later films, save the entire company from bankruptcy, and fund the initial work on building Disneyland. Also during the 2005 re-release, it made $64 million, selling 3.2 million copies in the first week.
- The story came from Charles Perrault’s fairy tale, which – for those of you playing along at home – is an Aarne-Thompson type 510A – “the persecuted heroine.” There are hundreds of variants of this type of story the world over, the oldest of which (dating back to 7 BC) is the story of Rhodopis, a Greek slave who marries the King of Egypt.
- This is rated one of the best animated films of all time by the American Film Institute.
- Live action reference was used to keep animation costs down – in fact, approximately 90% of it was filmed live.
- Cinderella marks the first time that Disney sought its musical composition from Tin Pan Alley – and you can tell. The music in this film is iconic, catchy, and unified in a way that previous Disney films are not. It was also the first film where Disney copyrighted and released the soundtrack under the newly minted Walt Disney Music Company.
- This film also features one of the pioneer examples of double track vocals long before it was used in pop music.
- Walt said later that the torn-up dress Cinderella wears was inspired by Salvador Dali, and the impeccable ballgown she wears is heavily influenced by Christian Dior, who was just becoming a worldwide presence in the fashion industry.
- Walt had two films in progress at once: Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Rather than schedule them himself, he challenged the production teams to race each other to finish and determine which film would release first.
- There really are some gorgeous watercolor backdrops in this film, truly. I forgot how sweet and dreamy this is!
- And here we have the continuation of princess-animal communications. While it involves mostly pigdin English, it’s definitely full conversations… although the mouse dialect is weird.
- The mice are actually like an intersection between the Lost Boys and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s very commedia!
- Cinderella first loses a shoe on her way up the stairs to deliver breakfast. (She loses her shoe three times during the movie!)
- So sinister! The stepmother has no music, dramatic lighting, and glowing eyes…shudder!
- The King’s desk has Aristotle, Homer, and Rabelais books on it.
- Me: “Wait, where is the Queen in all this? She isn’t even pictured in the prince’s baby picture. What gives?” The Fella: “Maybe he’s a legitimized bastard…?”
- Cinderella has the virtue of patience on lock. Seriously, why hasn’t she murdered them in their sleep yet?
- Lucifer is the absolute worst. Lucifer is that spoiled kid that pulls all kinds of tricks when the grown-ups aren’t looking and then pulls your hair when their backs are turned.
- But somehow the little creatures pull it together…even if the dress doesn’t match the original design, or the work-in-progress….
- …and it doesn’t matter anyway because they tear her to pieces!
- Good thing there’s a fairy godmother she totally didn’t know she had!
- I love Fairy Godmother’s weird logic, too – “You’re a horse! You can pull the– NO WAIT EVEN BETTER BE A PERSON INSTEAD!”
- Meanwhile, at the ball — Fella: “This is obviously a military state of some kind. All the girls being introduced are daughters of generals and colonels, all the men are in military dress uniforms…”
- What’s sweet is that the Prince and Cinderella don’t just spot one another, share a waltz, and become engaged. They dance, yes, but they also appear (through montage) to talk, walk the palace grounds, explore, and get to know one another. We don’t know what they’re saying because “So This Is Love” plays over the montage but it’s really cute that they spend hours together in various settings before midnight hits the fan.
- Wait, the Royal Guard are actually…. the Nazgûl?
- The King has massive anger issues. Maybe that’s related somehow to the total absence of a queen?
- The Stepmother is legit evil, guys. Look at this eye narrow in action.
- So the pumpkin vines curling during the carriage transformation and the key-in-the-giant-pocket bits are both Mickey and the Beanstalk references, they’ve just gotta be…
- Poor Jacques and Gus-Gus dragging the key up the stairs… wait where the hell are those birds and why aren’t they helping?!
- Is the shoe getting progressively tinier and tinier as the film goes on??? Her feet must be so small.
- Oh NO. I gasped out loud when the shoe shattered – I completely forgot that part ha–
- OH YES! THE OTHER SLIPPER!
- But that teeny-weeny shoe fits, and that means there’s a WEDDING. I wish, though, that the Prince had been the one to put it on her foot. If he isn’t going to propose with a ring, he may as well propose with her shoe, right?
- HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Patience and graciousness are rewarded with royal marriage and a sweet gilded carriage. Hooray!
Commedia Bonus: 18 – mostly the mice versus Lucifer – and Lucifer is totally a Pulchinella type. Also worth noting, there are several comic duos featured in this movie: Gus and Jaques, Drusilla and Anastasia, the Duke and the King.