Oh good. I get to use my Pretty, Pretty Princess tag again!
So Cinderella. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve seen this film, but every time I sit down to watch one of these, I try to see how much of the plot I remember. With this one, I did quite well. I’m not certain that’s speaking to my memory so much as Disney finally hitting full stride in the quality of their production with this one. It may also be due to discussing fairy tales in other contexts with another friend who reminded me that earlier versions of the story were not so child friendly.
The earliest versions did not include fairy Godmothers. In the Disney telling, Cinderella’s father dies, leaving her in the care of her step-mother. But in early versions (well, versions where glass slippers first appeared; servants and slaves leaving behind slippers are over 2000 years old in ancient Egypt and China), her father simply stopped caring about his daughter. When the two step-sisters were to try on the slipper and realized their feet were too big, one cut off her heel and the other her toes. Apparently no one noticed (which seems odd given the slipper was glass) and they were off in the carriage before little birds from Heaven stopped in to tip them off. During the wedding, the step-sisters try to snivel into her good graces, but the birds peck their eyes out. Lovely.
Aside from cutting the more grim details, Disney also shortened the period in which she met the prince. Originally, Cinderella attended the ball each of three nights which it was held. While the shortening makes financial sense (less to animate), it frustrates me because it makes the romance seem so much cheaper. Indeed, the two hardly exchange more than a few sentences as they don’t waltz to a waltz. I guess the step-mother also cheated her out of dance lessons. Apparently in earlier drafts, the two had significantly more screen time together albeit at the end of the film. In it, the prince was informed of Cinderella’s status as a scullery maid, but decides he loves her anyway. Although this scene was cut, it’s been recreated for one of the games in my favorite series: Kingdom Hearts (Birth by Sleep in this case, which I haven’t played yet).
The mice and other animals also appear to be a Disney addition. Unlike many other smaller characters, like dwarfs, the mice don’t bother me nearly so much. Their voices are slightly annoying, as they are difficult to understand sometimes, but at the very least, the mice help further the plot. Yet they’re not simply plot devices. They’re well developed characters in their own right, complete with their own antagonists, primarily the step-mother’s cat, Lucifer.
Oddly, this makes them more well rounded characters than even the step-family in my opinion. The mice have motivations for what they do: Cinderella helps them by providing food, clothes, and protection for which they wish to repay her. Meanwhile, the step-family simply does things because it’s in their petty and mean nature.
I never know if such things are intentional on the writer’s part or if I’m just over-analyzing, but if it is intentional, it’s an interesting move as it weakens the threat of the antagonist by taking out their depth. In turn, the focus must be picked up elsewhere lest the plot unravel. So where does it shift?
As I noted earlier, the relationship is paper thin, but it could benefit from the relative shrinking of the antagonist’s role, making it look larger in comparison.
But I think this also made the roles of the animals inflated as well. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since they were well developed.
Another aspect I quite liked with this movie was the music. I’m fond of waltzes, so the dance is an auto favorite. But nearly every other song from this movie has become a classic as well, which is probably why it won an Academy Award for it’s score as well as for best song for “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”.
That’s all I’ve got for this week! Next week, a trip down the rabbit hole!