Steve’s Wonderful Reviews of Disney: Cinderella

Cinderella

Release Date: February 15th, 1950 (released March 4th nationwide)

Inspiration: “Cinderella” by Charles Perrault

Budget: $2.9 million

Domestic Gross: $95.5 million

Worldwide Gross: $263.6 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

IMDB Score: 7.3/10

Storyline (per IMDB): Cinderella, the beautiful and kind-hearted daughter, sees her world turn upside down when her beloved mother dies, and her pained father remarries another woman, the wicked Lady Tremaine, who has two equally cruel daughters, the jealous Anastasia and Drizella. But, once more, things will go from bad to worse, When Cinderella’s father, too, dies, leaving her all alone in the Lady’s clutches to serve as her maid-of-all-work. Under those circumstances, a shabby and neglected Cinderella doesn’t stand much of a chance of attending the King’s royal ball–let alone, captivate the handsome Prince–unless she turns to her loving Fairy Godmother who has quite a few tricks up her sleeve. Nevertheless, will the wronged damsel ever find peace–and with it–her own Prince Charming?

Pre-Watching Thoughts: So we are now into a brand new decade with the 1950s and to me, this is where the Disney film canon begins its ascent into the stratosphere with a string of classic films. It’s weird because the first few films are pretty memorable and still rank as some of the best, but it feels like between World War II and having to release the package films that Disney had something to prove. Cinderella is a film that was never really a personal favorite of mine though I never hated it, and it has been a long time since I have seen it in its entirety and I am hoping that it turns things around after the disappointment of the package films.

Voice Cast: After bringing in some pretty big names for the time to serve as either narrators or singers for the package films, we go back to normal here as we have traditional actors involved with a few familiar voices sprinkled in as well. For the voice of Cinderella, we have Ilene Woods portray the character in what would be her only film credit though you could argue that there would’ve been no other role she would’ve been more remembered for than this one. We then have radio star Eleanor Audrey as the voice of Lady Tremaine and it would not be the last time she would voice a memorable Disney villain, and she does a fine job in voicing Lady Tremaine and making her very unlikeable. For the voice of the Fairy Godmother, we have legendary TV star Verna Felton and she does a fine job in bringing the character to life while also doing a fine job singing as well. We then have what I believe is a first though it certainly won’t be the last as Western star William Phillips provides the voice of the Prince, but legendary singer Mike Douglas provides his singing voice and this would become more common in the coming years. Next, we have legendary voice actress Lucille Bliss and radio star Rhoda Williams as the voices of Anastasia and Drizella respectively, and they were very solid in those roles particularly Williams who is good at doing bad singing though she is a talented singer. We then have a return in Jimmy MacDonald as he voices both Jaq and Gus and he does a good job in given both mice some personality, and then we have veteran actor Luis van Rooten as he voices both the King and the Duke as he also does a good job making both feel very different. We then have veteran voice actress June Foray providing the sounds for Lucifer which she does a good job at, and then we have the returning Pinto Corvig who does the sounds for Bruno which is fitting since he is the voice of Goofy and Pluto. In total, these actors and actresses do a fine job in voicing their characters well and they provide some memorable moments in this film.

Hero/Prince: After going quite a while without a prince in a Disney film since the Prince in Snow White, we have our next prince here in Prince Charming though it is never actually mentioned in the film what his last name is. We also know very little about this prince as we don’t see him until the ball when he is clearly disinterested in courting the available maidens until he sees Cinderella, and after she leaves at midnight and leaves her slipper behind he vows to find her though we don’t see him again until the end when he and Cinderella marry. Now while this was pretty common for fairy tales that the focus is more on the princess than the prince, you figured he would have a bigger role though in this case it does make sense since the focus was on Cinderella. How he will compare to the other princes and heroes in the Disney film canon will be interesting since he is barely seen in this film.

Princess: I had mentioned in the Snow White review that Snow White was about as typical of a princess as you could get, but that is a theory that might be put to the test here as we have our next big Disney Princess in Cinderella. Unlike Snow White who was already a princess, Cinderella was not born into royalty and was the daughter of a chateau owner only to be forced into being a servant for Lady Tremaine after her father dies. Despite this, she remains true to herself as she is still kind to her stepmother and stepsisters as well as the various animals she befriends, and she is given a chance by her Fairy Godmother to meet the prince though she has to leave at midnight when the spell ends. Eventually, she is discovered by the Duke when the glass slipper she left behind fits her and she is married to the prince, officially becoming a princess. She is about everything you can think when it comes to a princess as she is kind, gentle, and beautiful despite being put down by her stepmother and stepsisters, and in the end she achieves the dream she always wanted by finding her prince and being able to live a better life.

Villains: After having a couple of minor villains over the last few films, we finally have a villain that may not be on the same level as the evil Queen from Snow White, but she does come close and that is the evil stepmother of Cinderella known as Lady Tremaine though again we never hear her name mentioned during the whole film. She is introduced as a kindly woman when she married Cinderella’s father though her true nature is revealed after his death as she forces Cinderella to be a maid to her and her daughters who she spoils to their hearts’ content. She is also shown to be manipulative and cunning when she tries to keep Cinderella hidden when the Duke comes with the slipper, but in the end she is foiled though her ultimate fate is not known when Cinderella marries the prince. We also have to make mention of her daughters Anastasia and Drizella who constantly ridicule and demean Cinderella while fantasizing about their own desires, but it is unsure what happens to them as well when Cinderella marries the prince. One final mention is to the cat Lucifer who continuously tries to kill Cinderella’s mice and tries to keep them from helping Cinderella escape her room, but he is thwarted by Bruno who scares him out of the window and Lucifer falls from the tower to his implied death though we never see if he dies. While these villains are not quite as diabolical and evil as the Queen from Snow White, they are still pretty memorable as villains and it will be interesting to see how they and in particular Lady Tremaine rank amongst the other villains.

Other Characters: Even though the film is mainly centered around Cinderella and her trials, I think a lot of people would say that the real stars of the film are the mice that she befriends and they help her when they can. Heading up the group of mice is Jaq who in a way serves as the leader and the voice of reason, and they are soon joined by a new mouse that Cinderella names Octavius or “Gus” for short, and they almost serve as an Abbott and Costello with Jaq being the straight mouse and Gus being the goof. We also have the birds that help Cinderella get ready and we also have Bruno the dog who becomes one of Cinderella’s coachman, and then he helps Cinderella escape her room by scaring Lucifer out of the tower. We have the King of the kingdom who longs for his son to marry and have children so he can be a grandfather, and the Duke who has to put up with the King’s wanting of grandchildren and carrying out his plans to have the prince meet a woman at the ball, and then he is forced by the King to visit every maiden and find out who the glass slipper belongs to. Finally, we have the Fairy Godmother who appears and provides Cinderella with a new dress while turning the mice into horses, Bruno and the horse into coachmen, and a pumpkin into a coach to help her get to the ball though she tells her the spell only lasts until midnight. These are some pretty fun and memorable characters to help fill out the film and help keep a good balance of humor amongst the romance and the drama of the main storyline.

Songs: So after having the package films basically have songs that were there to fill out each segment, we go back to normal as the songs in the film serve as a backdrop to the film and what is going on. We have a couple of memorable songs featured here as we start with the title track “Cinderella” though it does feel tacked on just to have a title song, but then we get to business as we have “Sing Sweet Nightingale” sung first poorly by Drizella and then beautifully by Cinderella to showcase how completely opposite the two are. We then have the mice sing “The Cinderella Work Song” as they make her dress and they definitely sound cute singing it, and then we have “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” which is sung by the Fairy Godmother though there is a lot more spoken dialogue as opposed to singing though she is fine in that. We then have the duet “So This is Love” sung by Cinderella and the prince as they sing about their love, and finally we have the centerpiece of the film which is “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” which Cinderella sings beautifully at the beginning and then we hear others sing portions of it throughout the film. As we get further into the canon, a lot of these films’ songs will be made or broken by their centerpiece song and how solid the other songs around it are, and this film is one of the stronger films in terms of its songs.

Plot: Obviously like most fairy tales, the plot of the film is fairly standard as Cinderella is a kind girl who is forced to being a slave for her stepmother and her two stepsisters, and she dreams of a better life while the stepmother spoils her own daughters. They learn that the King is holding a ball so his son can find a bride and Cinderella is excluded after her stepsisters rip her dress up, but Cinderella gets a silver lining in her fairy godmother who gives her everything she’s dreamed of though warns everything returns to normal at midnight. Cinderella meets and immediately falls in love with the Prince, but is forced to leave at midnight leaving only behind a glass slipper which the Prince uses to find her despite the stepmother’s plans and Cinderella gets her “happily ever after”. Like I mentioned, the plot is fairly simple when it comes to fairy tales like this, but when done correctly it can be very effective and I feel that it was done well with this film especially if it is being considered Disney’s greatest film since Snow White. Plus while the basic theme of this is similar in a way to Snow White, it is more than different enough to stand out amongst the crowd and it does have plenty to make everyone happy.

Random Watching Thoughts: Even a film like this has to have its own title song?; The return of the storybook in the beginning which I believe we haven’t seen since Pinocchio; So the kingdom is tiny yet the castle is massive; Even in just seeing them watching Cinderella and her father in the window, you could tell that Lady Tremaine and her daughters were bad news; If the fortunes were squandered; how are they able to still afford the chateau?; So even having to do all the chores, Cinderella was somehow able to make little clothes for the birds and the mice; It is a shame that Ilene Woods didn’t star in other films after this because she has a beautiful voice, and reading up on her she apparently wanted to be a schoolteacher and her mother instead led her down this path; Funny that the female mice shoo the male mice out of the room while Cinderella is bathing and changing; So Jaq tells Cinderella about a new mouse in the house and she immediately assumes it’s a girl; How tall is that tower that she has to go down that many stairs just to get to the rat trap?; How did Cinderella get “Gus” from the name Octavius?; I find it very weird that the mice are sentient and can talk to the point that they understand Cinderella and she understands them, but then you have Lucifer and Bruno along with the other animals who behave like real animals; The day will come when cats and dogs are able to get along, but that day is not now especially with Lucifer toying with Bruno and tricking Cinderella into forcing him outside; That’s an interesting way to choose who has to get Lucifer to chase them, I guess it’s like the mice equivalent of whoever pulls the shortest straw; That’s a lot of chickens that they’ve been able to keep; Cinderella really spoiled Gus with all that corn; How was Lucifer able to just ignore the fact that Jaq pulled a whisker right out of his face?; I am surprised that Cinderella hasn’t ripped those bells out of the wall after hearing them ring for so long; God bless Cinderella for still trying to be nice to Lady Tremaine and her stepsisters despite how poorly they treat her; She goes in each room with a tray and tea while leaving each room with a set of laundry; Even knowing she’s going to be yelled at, Cinderella makes sure to save Gus from Lucifer; I always wondered what it is about fairy tales that a stepparent is considered mean and evil, in particular stepmothers since you rarely see a stepfather in this role; Lady Tremaine is dealing out some major things to do just because Gus ended up in Anastasia’s cup by mistake; Lucifer was all in on Lady Tremaine’s punishments until he heard the word “bath”; That’s not too smart of the king to throw his crown out the window; What does this prince do that he doesn’t live in the castle of his own kingdom?; You know that Drizella sounds so bad that she drives Lucifer out of the room because he can’t take it; Cinderella was deep in her song that she never noticed Lucifer walking around the floor with all those trackings; What’s weird is that Anastasia and Drizella aren’t even that ugly, it’s just that they are so vain and conceited that it makes it even more noticeable; Lady Tremaine gives her word that Cinderella can go if she finishes her chores and can have a suitable dress, so of course she and her daughters overload Cinderella so she can’t achieve her goal; Jaq and Gus were so keen to help with the dress only for the female mice to send them away and fetch some accessories; Jaq just walked right past Lucifer like he was nothing; Lucifer is a lot smarter than we think as he drags the beads with him so Gus can’t get them; That hat must be a magic hat if it can somehow fit all those beads, and meanwhile Jaq is able to slide the beads down Gus’ tail even though they don’t have holes; That would’ve been bad if Jaq and Gus used the scissors to cut that one mouse’s tail off; Those mice and birds must have great retention powers if they can make a dress that fancy without Cinderella’s help; Again, the chateau is supposedly in financial ruin yet Lady Tremaine can still afford a horse and carriage for herself and her daughters; Only Gus would say “Happy Birthday” when they revealed the dress; The scariest thing about Lady Tremaine is her savvy as she knew immediately that Cinderella had stuff stolen by the mice, and Anastasia and Drizella were quick to rip her dress apart and take the stuff back despite having complained about it earlier almost like Cinderella and the mice were set up; It’s only when Cinderella is finally on the verge of giving up that the Fairy Godmother appears to help her; It is a bit funny that of all the things to use to create a carriage, you would pick a pumpkin; In a little bit of a production snafu, the Fairy Godmother is singing while turning the pumpkin into a carriage yet her lips don’t move at all; She has a horse right at her disposal and yet turns the mice into horses while turning the horse into the driver; Cinderella still shows some sympathy for Lucifer even after what he did to her and the mice; I don’t think I would call Cinderella’s dress simple, but it is certainly daring; The prince looks like he would rather be anywhere else but the ball; What a coincidence that the Duke is accurately explaining everything as the prince goes to greet Cinderella; Isn’t it kind of inappropriate for the King to leave the ball so early while his son is courting a potential wife?; I get that he wants his son to get married, but I think threatening the Duke with death is pretty harsh; Again putting over how savvy Lady Tremaine is, I wonder if she knew then that Cinderella was the girl dancing with the prince; The idea of love at first sight has always been a strange one at least to me because there are some that believe in it and some that don’t; She was really enthralled with what was going on that she neglected to keep watch on the time; You would’ve thought they were chasing a criminal with all those guards chasing Cinderella; Of all the things to still be there after the spell ends, it would be the glass slippers; Boy, the King must really want to have grandchildren if he is dreaming about playing with them; The King went from calm to ultra-rage in a matter of seconds when the Duke told him Cinderella escaped; I love how they break out Goofy’s yell whenever someone falls from a high point; The mice have certainly come up with a lot of places to get through the whole house; The moment that Lady Tremaine realizes that Cinderella is the girl the prince is looking for is when the tension reaches it’s boiling point; The Duke in the carriage looks like me coming home from an overnight shift at the casino; Normally in a movie like this, you wouldn’t hear the proclamation in full as the villain would want to get right to business; So Jaq and Gus were able to get that key all the way up the tower before both Anastasia and Drizella tried on the slipper; If the door to the tower was closed, how was Lucifer able to get in there unless he was there the whole time without anyone knowing?; What would’ve happen if the slipper shattered there, and what if the Duke would’ve left before Cinderella got out of her room?; I know that cats can land on their feet when dropped, but was there any way Lucifer would’ve survived that fall from the top of the tower?; The way the Duke looked at Cinderella, you wonder if he knew that she was the one all along; The one time Lady Tremaine was outsmarted as she thought the only slipper was destroyed not thinking that Cinderella would have the other one; I do like how they have the storybook at the end to bookend the beginning of the film.

Overall Thoughts: Overall, this ended up being a very good film and was a much better film than I ever remembered it being. Again, that’s not to say that I’ve never like the film which I did though it just was never a personal favorite of mine, but I had forgotten just how good it actually was. This was the perfect bounce back film for Disney coming in the aftermath of World War II and the package films, and I think this was exactly the film that Disney needed to show everyone that they were back in prime form and that they were in fact here to stay. The 1950s are going to be a very interesting time for Disney as not only were they looking towards their future films, but Disney had a lot of grand ideas that he would look to see come to fruition during this decade. As for this film, it is a great film and while it is too early to tell if it is the greatest of all time, it certainly ranks up there and still deserves its status as a Disney classic.

Final Grade: 8/10

Author: Steve Riddle

I have been a wrestling fan since 1993 and that is probably my biggest love, with movies being a close second due in part to being employed at a movie theater for over 9 years.