Critic Consensus: The rich colors, sweet songs, adorable mice and endearing (if suffering) heroine make Cinderella a nostalgically lovely charmer.
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Critic Reviews for Cinderella
Cinderella is beguiling proof that Walt Disney still knows his way around fairyland.
The musical numbers woven into the fantasy are generally solid, with at least two or three likely hit tunes standing out in the half-dozen songs.
This 1950 effort shows Disney at the tail end of his best period, when his backgrounds were still luminous with depth and detail and his incidental characters still had range and bite.
Considering the army of craftsmen who work on a Disney cartoon film, it is hard to give individual credits, for the memorable qualities.
As usual, everything is slightly glossy, soppy and hearty, yet not a string is left untwanged.
Audience Reviews for Cinderella
Besides sweet songs and adorable characters, what is so amazing about this fabulous Disney animation - which actually saved the company after the war and brought it back to shape after those forgettable anthologies - is how it creates anticipation even when we know the fairy tale inside out.
The story of "Cinderella" is one of the more beloved tales of the Disney universe, becoming such a pop culture sensation for it's time! It helms one of the most basic storyline's of it's kind, but it has one of the best executions onto the screen. As Cinderella is living a life of slavery to her family, her dream is to meet the King and attend the annual ball. Aside from the unnecessarily dragged out first half with the mice side plot, this film is enchanted beyond belief. this story has sparked what have become many children's films today, and filmmakers around the world will strive to create something as original as this is. It's not quite filled with enough story in the first half, but "Cinderella" is a great film!
When I reviewed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs several months ago, I took the time to address the legacy of the Disney Company on our culture, and to analyse whether the baggage thus created has undermined our ability to enjoy their films. In the case of Snow White, it's relatively straightforward: the film is a masterpiece. But when we apply the same criteria to Cinderella, things get a little more complicated.
If Snow White is the film which established Disney's aptitude for European folk and fairy tales, Cinderella is the film which consolidated their easily marketable character archetypes, which would rear their somewhat ugly head during the Renaissance. You could almost call it Snow White's commercially-minded sister, since it occupies very similar territory in terms of source material but has far less innocent intentions. It's still enjoyable as a frothy pantomime, and contains much by way of visual beauty, but its problems are a little bit harder to ignore.
On the plus side, there can be little doubt that Cinderella looks beautiful. While in other Disney efforts it's the dark reds and deep blacks that stand out, this film offsets a relatively earthy opening with shimmering blues and whites at the ball. It uses Technicolor to its full advantage, using the brightness and high contrast of the colours to create a sense of magic which paler animation might not succeed in replicating. Even if you're a miserable cynic like me, you'd still find something to admire in the ballroom scenes or the transformations.
However, the openly bright and cheery animation is also an indication of the liberties Disney takes with the source material. It's well-documented that the famous glass slipper is a mistranslation on the part of Charles Perrault: considering that fairy tales were mostly passed down by word-of-mouth, it's understandable that you could confuse vair (meaning 'squirrel fur') with verre (meaning 'glass'). By the time Disney came along the Perrault version was the most widely-known on both sides of the Atlantic, and so it was the obvious version on which to base an adaptation. But while we can't blame Disney for that particular bout of artistic license, they are guilty of a more unfortunate departure.
The Disney version of Cinderella is a pretty accurate take on Perrault's story, including the pumpkin, the mice and the fairy godmother. But Perrault's version ends with the ugly stepsisters (here called Drizella and Anastasia) begging for forgiveness at how they treated Cinderella; Cinderella in turn forgives them and all three end up getting married. Perrault's closing words prize graciousness over beauty, intelligence or breeding, saying that "even these may fail to bring you success." The Disney version undermines this by having the stepsisters humiliated, and Cinderella rides off without them even getting a look-in during the final scene. In short, they take something quite uplifting and make it unnecessarily cruel.
This departure changes both the story and the central character quite drastically. It ceases to be any kind of Christian morality tale, about loving one's enemies and working tirelessly for the good of others, and becomes a story about getting what you deserve without doing the hard work first. In one of her typically sardonic reviews, the Nostalgia Chick called it: "the revenge fantasy where you show up to your high school reunion in a white limo and 40 pounds lighter wearing furs, all under the guise of innocence and martyrdom." Even if you don't take such a forthright view, it's certainly true that the expectations the film presents are more than a little askew.
These uncomfortable feelings become magnified by the context in which the film was made. Cinderella was Disney's first genuine feature-length effort since Bambi, after it had finally sorted out the jumble of half-finished efforts that had accumulated during WWII. In the aftermath of the war, there was a greater emphasis on the family unit in society, and with it came the promotion of female domesticity: women who were empowered during the war were now being told to stay at home and help rebuild the population. Cinderella appears to promote this, with the protagonist desiring to be whisked off by a prince, and not much else.
Cinderella is the archetype on which the modern Disney Princess phenomenon is based. It is the epitome of someone living their life based on aspirations which are simultaneously unobtainable (the prince) and beneath you (the resulting acceptance of domesticity). While these characteristics may have been exaggerated and refined still further with the Renaissance (not to mention the explosion in Disney merchandise), it's hard to let Cinderella totally off the hook. Even dismissing it as a fairy tale doesn't work, since all fairy tales contain morals to teach children the ways of the world: when done right, they are works of substance which are only fanciful or ridiculous on a superficial level.
At this point you're probably thinking: if you hate this film so much, why give it so high a rating? Why does a film with such a seemingly anti-feminist legacy merit a higher rating than the completely unobjectionable The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad? The answer is that when you put aside the unwelcome changes to the story and the repurcussions this has on creating real-life expectations, you are left with a frothy, fun little pantomime which is every bit as enjoyable as Peter Pan. Whatever my negative feelings towards the legacy of this film, as a piece of narrative cinema in and of itself it is perfectly entertaining.
Much like Peter Pan, the entertainment comes through when we embrace Disney's visual and musical conventions, in particular their talent for music-related slapstick. Some of the best scenes in the film involve the mice trying to evade the clutches of the fat, proud Lucifer, with Disney's talent for comic choreography coming through. There's nothing quite on the level of Hook's battles with the crocodile, or the tea party in Alice in Wonderland, but there's still more than enough to keep young children entertained. As for the music, it's not as memorable as other Disney efforts, including Snow White, but there's plenty of variety within the score by Paul J. Smith and Oliver Wallace - enough at least to take your minds off how annoying 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo' is.
When we stop trying to analyse the make-up of the central character, what we discover is that the Disney film focusses to a relatively large extent on the supporting cast. While you'd have a good case for attacking its take on Cinderella herself, the film is every bit as much about the stepmother, the mice or the king. It's much like Disney's take on Sleeping Beauty nine years later, in which the main protagonists don't do all that much, and the real drama lies in the conflict between Maleficent and the fairies.
The interactions between the King and the Duke are genuinely funny, with the physical comedy being well-timed and the sets playing up the pantomime quality, such as the King's enormous bed. The happy-go-lucky attitude of the cute mice is fun to watch, particularly in the dress-making sequence. And while Lady Tremaine is perhaps too understated and reserved to be a proper pantomime villain, she fulfils the criteria in terms of her cruelty towards the lead character and her seemingly awareness that she is being evil. Eleanor Audley would later voice Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and it's easy to view this performance as her audition for that role.
Cinderella is a harder film to like than many of its predecessors, sticking in the throat with its worldview where Bambi did with its overriding schmaltz. There will be many out there who will balk at Disney's treatment of the Perrault fairy tale, or simply object to it on the grounds of its legacy. But for those who stay or attempt to overlook this, it passes the time very nicely as an enjoyably frothy pantomime romp with visual beauty to spare. It's not classic Disney by any means, but it's still vaguely satisfying - in spite of everything.
|Stepmother:||Well, I see no reason why you can't go...if you get all your work done.|
|Cinderella:||A dream is a wish your heart makes when you're fast asleep.|
|Cinderella:||Why, it's like a dream. A wonderful dream come true.|
|Cinderella:||I got go before the clock stricks 12:00.|
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