Alright. As many of you may recall, when I made my list of Disney Animated movies from most liked to least liked, Cinderella was way down on my list. In fact, I didn’t even own it. To me, I hadn’t seen Cinderella in years. I was just remembering that It was never my favorite. I’m a huge animal person. Stories about princesses just didn’t get me as a kid. They were too girly. I remembered the mice, Gus and Jack, and that was about it. And honestly? I was fine with leaving it at that.
Then something bizarre happened yesterday. I got home from work, and as I was pulling into my driveway, I glanced at the front door and happened to see an ever familiar box from Amazon. Confusion overwhelmed me. I didn’t order anything. My husband has been known to randomly order stuff, but he was in Baltimore at a conference. We have Amazon Prime, and I feel as if he would have told me if he ordered something while he was gone so I would be on the lookout for it. For a second I thought maybe Amazon had gotten confused and sent me another copy of Frozen (which I got the day before). It was addressed to me, so I carried it in and opened it up.
The first thing that greeted me was a cat toy. weird. Under the cat toy was a copy of Cinderella. I started laughing, wondering what in the world was going on, then I found the note. It read “No way should Cinderella be lower on your list than the Fox and the Hound. –Love your Aunt.” HAHA. This made my day. I promptly put it in the blu-ray player and watched it (because I needed to back track if I wanted to put this in the correct spot – I’ve already watched through Lady and the Tramp).
You know what? I completely misjudged this movie. That’s right, my loving Aunt, YOU WERE RIGHT! It’s definitely not my favorite movie by far, but it is much better than I gave it credit for as a kid. There’s a reason I remembered the mice: they are actually a very big part of the movie!
Everyone knows this story, so I feel I don’t have to explain it here. What I do find interesting though, is that this movie ushered in Disney’s first renaissance (I’m arguing we’re in the beginning/middle of #3). It had been nearly 10 years since he had made a feature length animated movie (My last review, Bambi, was his one prior to this) due to financial restraints and WWII. Knowing that, this movie becomes even more special. You can tell the difference in the movies before and after. We get the ever loving Disney tropes – the animal sidekick, the singing princess, the scary villain – that didn’t really exist before this. Not well defined at least.
Say what you will about Disney Princesses. I think, after watching this, that Cinderella gets a bad rap. People always argue that the early princesses weren’t capable of doing anything themselves. That they would wait for a prince to rescue them, whereas now we have stronger more outspoken princesses. I think a lot of that is a reflection of the times, but it’s not like Cinderella honestly just sits there. I mean, 1) she’s been abused her entire life so her confidence isn’t exactly at a healthy level. It’s understandable that when her stepsisters ruin her dress, she just cries. 2) She takes care of an entire freaking house and three people and a stupid cat ALL BY HERSELF. This is HARD work. Despite her situation, she still manages to be extremely positive. She still manages to find joy in her work, and friends in the animals of the house. Geez, that’s a lesson I think all of us need to learn: yeah, stuff can be monotonous, but sometimes it has to be done and the best way to deal with it is to be positive. As a character, Cinderella was much more enjoyable than I remember, and I think she gets a bad rap for a “do nothing” princess.
Also more enjoyable (and more evil) than I remember was Lady Tremaine. Voiced by the same lady who will later go on to voice Maleficent (Eleanor Audley), she is absolutely wicked. While she doesn’t have a huge part, the facial features and the way the character moves, as well as the voice acting portray a extremely smart, selfish, evil woman. She always seems to have a plan, even if her dumber than paper daughters don’t. It’s all the more wonderful in the end, then, when Cinderella pulls that second slipper out of her pocket and her face goes all crazy. Turns out someone was smarter than you. Hah!
The stepsisters Drizella and Anastasia are just kinda there, and while they do have some relatively interestingly funny scenes (I do remember the piano/flute/voice trio from when I was a kid… awful!), they’re not extremely important to the film. They act more like puppets to their mother. They were given this hatred of their stepsister when in another life they probably could have all gotten along. Ah well.
On the other side of the coin, we have the King and his Grand Duke. The King wants badly to be a grandfather and see his son married, and they’re the one’s who decide to have the ball. They work for a bit of comedy, and in the 50s, this works. I couldn’t help but wonder, honestly: “What if this movie were made today?” I don’t know that I really wouldn’t have wanted a “strong” Cinderella, like our more recent disney heroines. I think she’s strong enough, and what, would they have her go to the ball regardless? then we wouldn’t have a fairy Godmother. Her part, I think, should have remained the same. The royal side, however, is really where, if this had been made today, they could have really expanded. Instead of just the king and the Grand Duke, I feel like we would have gotten to know the prince, so he wasn’t just a drab face. He would be arguing for his rights about how he doesn’t want to just marry anyone. We would have gotten more with him and Cinderella at the ball. HE would be the one searching for her, not the grand Duke. And I’m sure he would have had some plucky animal sidekick (but only if it were made in the 90s when everyone had sidekicks…). That’s one of the ways I would have improved this movie. The whole royal side is kinda dull.
That being said, the movie IS called Cinderella. It focuses on her. But it also focuses on the animals in the house, which to me, signifies what Disney is all about. Talking animals (and songs – we’ll get to that). The mice, the cat Lucifer (Lucifi!), the Dog Bruno… they all have great personalities. You could argue they’re there for the kids, but at the same time, Jack and Gus are so charming that as an adult you can’t help but fall in love. They’re animals with good hearts that want nothing but to help Cinderella, even if it means putting their lives on the line. Really, some of the best scenes in the movie are Jack and Gus dealing with Lucifer. Hilarious.
Ok, now that songs. Disney is known for songs, and every time a Disney movie doesn’t have songs, I actually get upset (damn you Lassiter for saying no more musicals!!! At least we’ll have Moana – in 2018…?). As a 90s kids, Disney is synonymous with songs. Good songs. Songs that get stuck in your head and that everyone is singing at school. Cinderella has some classics that I still know the words to, and some that I honestly forgot existed. Always my favorite is the Mouse song, or as I call it, “Cinderelli.”* When I was growing up and we were complaining, my mom would always bust out with this song. There is also, of course, Bibbiti-bobbity-Boo. Classic. And of course, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes. Really, He set the bar high for his next movies. Good thing he followed through.
Rewatching this movie makes me realize I need to give the movies I thought were horrible as a kid a second chance. I am redoing my list, putting them in order as I watch them. There’s already two that I know will move up. This is one. It’s a great movie. Good for kids, enjoyable, good for adults. Cinderella is done very well. I just almost wish we would have gotten to know that prince a little bit. But I guess that’s fairy tales for you.
I give Cinderella (1950) a 4 out of 5. You were right, my lovely Aunt 🙂
Up Next: Alice in Wonderland (1951)
*now I’m going to have that song stuck in my head all day…..
** It was almost impossible for me to find a freaking picture for this that wasn’t just in the Disney Princess Line. Seriously. Stupid consumers and marketers with their money making schemes….