Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske & Wilfred Jackson
Written by: Ken Anderson, Perce Pearce, Homer Brightman, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Harry Reeves, Joe Rinaldi & Ted Sears
Starring: Ilene Woods, Eleanor Audley, Luis van Rooten, Jimmy MacDonald, William Phipps, Lucille Bliss, Rhoda Williams & Verna Felton
Seeing as Disney’s live-action CINDERELLA hit a couple of weeks ago, I felt it was time for me to revisit the original 1950 classic. I’m not necessarily a fan of all the animated output from Disney’s golden era. Particularly because SLEEPING BEAUTY, SNOW WHITE and CINDERELLA all suffer from the same basic problems. The characters are pretty one-note and hollow, while other films around the same time are far more fleshed-out in terms of protagonists and antagonists (PETER PAN, DUMBO, etc.). However, of all the original Disney Princesses, Cinderella is probably the best. This film holds up fairly well over 60 years later. It’s far from perfect, but can wholly be appreciated as a work of art.
Cinderella has been subjected to tragic circumstances throughout her life. With both of her parents dead, Cinderella has become a servant to her ugly (on the inside and out) stepsisters and her wicked stepmother. Though her situation is miserable, Cinderella keeps her kind spirit afloat by taking care of mice in her home and keeping hopes high for a bright future. These hopes might be fulfilled when the King invites all eligible maidens in town to a grand ball. Cinderella tries to make it to the ball, against the wishes of her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, with the help of her mice friends and a magical fairy godmother. You know how the rest of it plays out, so there’s little use in summarizing the whole film.
The story of CINDERELLA is about as simple and straight-forward as fairy tales get. Seeing as this is a 1950’s Disneyfied version of folk tale, the whole violent subplot involving the gruesome fate of the stepsisters (seen in Disney’s recent INTO THE WOODS) has been left out entirely. This is a basic story that’s beautifully animated and relatively well told. There are a few catchy songs (Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo sung by the fairy godmother and Cinderelli sung by the mice), but the main theme “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” is forgettable. Besides a couple of good musical numbers, CINDERELLA is fantastically well animated. The scope of the story is big and each of the characters appear lively. Cinderella is probably the most fleshed-out of the early Disney princesses and the Stepmother is a wholly hateable villainess in spite of not doing anything radically evil.
Though the title of the film is CINDERELLA, there’s a significant amount of screen time devoted to the title character’s pet mice. These scenes play out like a TOM & JERRY cartoon done by Disney and are actually pretty funny to a degree. It’s almost as if the mice were included to make little kids laugh, while the actual princess/prince angle was aimed more at adults appreciating the beautiful artwork on display. However, the big problem in CINDERELLA comes from the prince being completely and totally bland. I think he gets about 3 to 5 lines of dialogue in the whole film, while his father and the Grand Duke have their own little storyline going on. I understand that this was an early Disney effort and they actually fixed up this misstep in the 2015 live-action version. However, you can’t help but wonder if Cinderella will be happy with Prince Charming. He seems like a smug playboy from the impression we’re given. Sure, Cinderella is moving on to greener pastures, but if more time were spent on making Prince Charming into an actual character, then the Happily Ever After might be a bit more magical.
There’s no denying that CINDERELLA was a landmark film for Disney’s animation studio. It remains a classic for those who love fairy tales and princesses as well as those who simply love Disney in general. The animation is pretty amazing for its time and you can only imagine the amount of work that was put in to making these characters fluid and their environments large. While Cinderella is the best early Disney princess, there are still flaws with the film. Prince Charming is bland with the King/Grand Duke getting their own subplot over him. The cartoon mice almost seem like they’re from a TOM & JERRY cartoon as opposed to a fairy tale. Narrative problems pushed aside, this 1950 Disney animated classic still holds up as a piece of art that can be fully enjoyed in spite of its shortcomings.