Cinderella (1950)

After slogging my way through a number of Disney’s lesser-known animated movies, I was more than a little excited to get back to familiar territory.   Having watched Cinderella numerous times as a child, I was looking forward to reliving this story and reminiscing on childhood memories.

It’s amazing how our minds distort or forget various details of films that were such an integral part of our lives.  While I certainly enjoyed watching Cinderella, I was surprised at how differently I viewed this movie as an adult.

The classic story focuses on Cinderella, an orphaned girl who is forced to serve as maid to her wicked stepmother and stepsisters.  Treated horribly, Cinderella dreams of one day escaping her dreary life in exchange for something wonderful.

A bulk of the movie is spent laying the groundwork of Cinderella’s life, detailing how unjustly she’s treated and how kind she has remained in spite of this treatment.  She has very little happiness in her life, save for the resident mice which she can inexplicably communicate with.

Speaking of these mice… it’s amazing just how much of the movie is dedicated to these characters, specifically Jack and Gus.

This duo has always been a personal favorite of mine, but I didn’t remember just how prominently they’re featured in the story.  Truthfully, it almost felt as though the emphasis could have been shifted from Cinderella to the mice, with their story taking center stage.  I always remembered the mice as background characters, but it’s amazing just how integral a role they play in Cinderella’s story.  They make her original dress for the ball, they serve as horses when the fairy godmother is working her magic, and they bring Cinderella the key so that she may escape her locked room. I never really registered just how significant these characters were, and while it’s a little surprising, it simply makes me like them more.

Shifting focus back to Cinderella herself: her story is enjoyable, even though she could have taken a more active role in her own destiny.  Without the mice and her fairy godmother, it’s doubtful anything in her life would have ever changed.

Still, she is a sweet character who didn’t deserve the life she led, and I was all too happy to see the beautiful transformation she undergoes at the hand of the fairy’s wand:

This is a truly magical image (also, random fact: Walt Disney’s favorite piece of animation).  I remember loving this transformation as a child, and enjoyed it even more as an adult.

The latter portion of the movie was always a bit odd to me, and my recent closer examination explained why.  The prince himself isn’t responsible for the epic search that ensues, after Cinderella flees the ball and leaves behind nothing but a glass slipper.  Instead, the king orders the duke to try the slipper on every maiden in the kingdom, and decrees that whomever it fits shall be the prince’s bride.

Wouldn’t it have made so much more sense for the prince himself to have gone from house to house, looking for the girl he claims to love?  He presumably spent a few hours with her, so certainly he’d be able to narrow down the pool of girls, no?  Then again, had this happened the story would have been drastically different, without the tension of Cinderella presenting the matching glass slipper after the first is accidentally shattered.

The story is rather simple, but still enjoyable.  This is the first “classic” film to be created by Disney is nearly a decade, with the prior films having been largely forgotten or overlooked.  It’s not difficult to see why.  Cinderella, unlike the preceeding films, presents a single storyline that is both sweet and funny.  While not overly complicated, it draws a clear line between good and evil, with everyone seeming to get what they deserve in the end.  It’s a clear cut story that undoubtedly appealed to viewers in the early 50’s who sought a simpler world.  While not my number one favorite Disney film of all time, it’s easy to see why such a movie has remained a classic over 60 years after its initial release.  Its beautiful animation and sweet story, coupled with easily defined, enjoyable characters, makes a film that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

-Jess

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