Cinderella relishes in regality, but not even “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” could magically improve her personality. Perrault’s eponymous fairy tale, which in itself is a folk adaptation of Ancient Greek’s ‘Rhodopis’, received over ten film adaptations before Disney aesthetically changed the story to be the child-friendly tale we all know and, supposedly, adore. Illusionist Méliès himself conceived the first iteration back in the nineteenth century! But when Walt Disney and his animated productions were severely losing money, causing insurmountable amounts of debt thanks to a certain global war, he unknowingly turned his creative eye to the last huge success he garnered. ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.
Adapting fairy tales became a speciality for Disney, and Cinderella was the catalyst for such a realisation. The female servant whose envious wicked stepmother and hideously vile stepsisters cruelly banishes her from attending a royal ball where the kingdom’s charming prince is searching for a maiden to marry. We all know the story. The glass slipper. The Fairy Godmother. The painfully irritating vermin that consume half of the animation’s already minuscule runtime. The fundamental question is: should Cinderella go to the ball or not? Both original and contemporary reviews suggest yes. Personally, the opposing side seems more viable.
Cinderella, by all accounts, is aimed towards children with its family-friendly distractions one could find in a slapstick cartoon featuring animals. The elongated shenanigans featuring Cinderella’s mouse pals, most notably Jaq and Gus, and aptly named sinister feline Lucifer resembled a Hanna-Barbera short such as ‘Tom and Jerry’. Mice attempting to scurry back into their hole with considerable chunks of cheese whilst distracting said cat from eating them whole. Whilst it’s incredibly cute and a simple method to appease younger viewers, ultimately it distracts from the central character. This isn’t called “Gus”, after all. Yes, shockingly the titular princess-to-be has less screen presence than her animal counterparts. A significant flaw.
Audiences knew Disney and his successful animators could bring whimsical beasts to life and produce a moderately entertaining story alongside. But the remarkable weakness, and Cinderella proves this, is with human depictions. For each frame the animators attempt to make humans seem, well, human, they consequently diminish the personality conveyed. Cinderella, for all intents and purposes, has zero personality other than she is suffering and we’re supposed to feel sympathetic towards her. Yet, when a glass slipper has more attributable characteristics than the soul wearing it, that’s a problem. She somewhat expresses emotional complexities when the Fairy Godmother turns a giant pumpkin into a magical carriage, with Cinderella now embracing the life she once dreamt of, but it was too late. She was as dull as dishwater. The third act however does amalgamate the animal antics with the human characters to create a thrilling race against the clock.
Regardless, the vital element that consistently surpasses all expectations is Disney’s animated quality. Stunning backdrops fill the kingdom with picturesque locations, and a touch of magic in the air to illuminate the imagination. It’s regality remains intact throughout. The songs were hit and miss, and is a weak soundtrack all-round. “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” representing the best, and that blasphemous “Work Song” indicating the lowest of the low.
Understandably, Cinderella is a significant cultural pillar in animation history. Does that necessarily mean the feature itself is good? No. It is the most Disney of the princess fairy tales. Cutesy animals plague the human story that should’ve been at the forefront. Consequently turning Cinderella into a Bibbidi-Bobbodi-Mess...