Monday, January 6, 2014

Cinderella 1950

Personal Overview: for one reason or another this was one I’d never seen, despite it being one of the most talked about classics.

Like with Snow White, Cinderella is based on an older fairytale. In this case it was Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon. While I hadn’t seen the film or even read the original I had read enough fairytales to know the story and how Disney had altered it.

Like with many Disneyfied stories the original was far darker. I believe the stepsisters actually mutilated their feet on the orders of their hideous mother, so that they could try and make their feet fit the glass slipper. There was also a story that my mother told me that the slipper was originally not made of glass, but another more slipperlike material, but there was a mistake in translation from French to English and it became glass. Glass actually suits the magical nature of the story.

One thing I’ve always found odd about the whole story, and I don’t get an answer here is why Cinderella’s father married her evil stepmother in the first place. There’s never been any indication that she or her spoiled daughters changed nature after his death.

I was surprised by how little the prince is actually in it. His father gets more lines and screen time, The prince is hardly seen, and to be honest the mice have more personality and this would be the same even if they couldn’t sort of talk. Unlike Snow White where the prince wasn’t actually named, this one gets a name and it’s Charming.

Given the profile she’s received in fairtytales and popular media I was shocked by how little the fairy godmother actually appears in the story. She basically drops by when Cinderella is at a low ebb, magics up transportation and clothing, gives a warning and vanishes in a cloud of magic.

Hero/es: it’s Cinderella of course. Disney only ever call her Cinderella, but from memory I don’t think it’s her actual name. Jim Hines did a riff on the three best known fairytale princesses of which Cinderella was one and he called her Danielle, but I’m not sure where he got the name from. She’s a rather passive hero to be totally honest and allows her stepmother and stepsisters to walk all over her. She’s fairly smart and as such should realize that she has the rest of them over a barrel. They can’t put her out because then who would do the work? They’re not rolling in money and no one would work for them, so if she played it right Cinderella could have them dancing to her tune if she wanted. Of course this would never happen in the film, because Disney even had a scene cut where Cinderella appeared to be gloating over how her Lady Tremaine and her daughters had no idea who she was at the ball. Apparently it would have somehow spoiled her princessly perfection. I’m sure there’s some sort of moral about how hard work and doing it without complaint will eventually see you rewarded, and I guess that’s what Cinderella embodies as a heroine.

Villain/s: that honour has to go to Lady Tremaine. As I’ve been watching these films (I’m actually up to The Aristocats as I write this) I’ve noticed that a lot of the female villains (and the majority of the villains do tend to be female rather interestingly) share something in appearance. If you put Grimhilde (Snow White’s evil stepmother), Lady Tremaine, Malficent (Sleeping Beauty) and Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians) in a line up you’d be hard put to pick one out. Maleficent’s horns may give her away though. The stepsisters are more minor villains as is Lady Tremaine’s cat Lucifer (I swear Terry Pratchett modeled Nanny Ogg’s cat Greebo in his Discworld stories on Lucifer). While they’re all unpleasant and I’m sure the mice would agree that Lucifer is more of a villain than anyone else, they’re all scared of Lady Tremaine and with good reason.

Cuteness Factor: the mice have this hands down, especially Jacques and Gus. The birds do give them a fun for their money, but it’s hard to resist anthrompomorphic cartoon mice wearing clothes and who can talk after fashion, plus they’re brave and loyal and they can double as coach horses when you have a fairy godmother handy.

Animation: I liked the style and setting of the backgrounds. Given that this is based on Cendrillon, which was first put out by Perrault in 1697 they’ve gone for an 18th century Regency type setting and appearance. Possibly because of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty which are more medieval in setting people tend to think this one was too. The appearance of the pumpkin coach and the transformation of the mice to horses, the horse to a driver and the dog to a footman are probably the highlight of the animation as is Cinderella’s ball gown. They tend to portray her in a blue ball gown these days and she’s colour coded amongst the pantheon of Princesses as blue, but that original gown was white and it’s s triumph of the animator’s art. Despite being drawn in the late 40’s it stacks up well against even Elsa’s clothing from 2013’s Frozen.

Cinderella was a huge box office success in 1950 and that enabled Disney to keep going and proved that cartoons could be big business. It also may be why Cinderella seems to be considered the leader amongst the Disney Princesses. Of course she is the oldest (I think she’s about 18) of Snow White (14) and Beauty (16) and has had more life experience. Snow was brought up as a princess, although she did keep house for a bunch of dwarves for a while and Beauty was homeschooled by 3 fairly incompetent fairies until she fell asleep.

Final Words: Cinderella as a film wasn’t quite what I expected, then again I’m not a pre teen girl, and I kept having thoughts of the other stories and practical 21st century questions intruding on me. It is fun and it has the required happy ever after ending, though. The mice should have been given a sequel of their own.

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