Movie Review: Cinderella

Today is the 64th Anniversary of Walt Disney's Cinderella and, as I did with Peter Pan, I thought I would write my review of this classic animated film.  Released on February 15, 1950, Cinderella was Walt Disney's 12th animated feature and it also marked the return of the classic animated storytelling audiences came to know before World War II.

While we all have come to know Pinocchio, Bambi and Fantasia as beloved classic Disney films, what many people don't know is that they were actually box office disasters for Walt Disney Studios.  In fact, heading into the war, the Studio was on the verge of bankruptcy.  With many of the animators and other creative members of Walt Disney Studios off to war, Walt Disney ended up spending much of the war years doing films for the government, including many propaganda shorts, the feature film Victory Through Air Power as well as Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros which went to promote the Good Neighbor policy.  Then, after the war, as the Studio started putting itself back together, there was a focus on smaller inexpensive package films, such as Make Mine Music and Melody Time, as well as Walt Disney's first forays into live action, such as Song of the South and So Dear To My Heart.  While being developed throughout the 1940s, Cinderella finally made it to screen in 1950, highlighting a return to a Golden Age in Disney animation.

The film, based on Charles Perrault's written version of the fairy tale, tells the story of a young woman who ends up finding herself in the "care" of her stepmother Lady Tremaine.  Unfortunately, Lady Tremaine was, literally, the classic wicked stepmother who doted on her own biological daughters who made Cinderella's life a living hell.  But, as fate would have it, after her stepmother made it impossible for her to go to the Prince's Ball, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother appears before her and makes it possible.  The catch is that she must be home by midnight.  At the Ball, the Prince finds himself enamored with this enigmatic beauty.  But, before she knows it, the clock is about to strike twelve and she runs away, leaving, as we all know, one glass slipper.  The Prince then searches the kingdom to find Cinderella.  While Lady Tremaine locks Cinderella away so the Prince cannot find her all the while trying to convince the Prince that one of her daughters is the woman he's looking for.  But, with the help of her animal friends, Cinderella is set free and she lives happily ever after.

I've always loved Cinderella, but I have to say that my love was recently reaffirmed when I watched it about a year and a half ago on the big screen at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.  I hadn't seen it in years and the first thing I was struck by was how amazing how closely the actual layouts for the film matched the brilliant Mary Blair's concept art.

The music in the film is quite beautiful and range from the more comedic "The Work Song" to the ultimate romantic "So This Is Love."  But, my favorite song from Cinderella is also one of my favorite Disney songs of all time - "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes."  I'm a sucker for songs about dreams and wishes and, along with "When You Wish Upon A Star," this song seems to best express why I find all things Disney so magical.  And, it really is the anthem for this film.

Also in this film is one of my favorite Disney villains of all time - Lady Tremaine.  While her daughters Anastasia and Drizella are the ultimate mean girls, they still have a level of comedic quality.  But, there's something so cold and calculating about Lady Tremaine.  There is an image of her that seers in my brain.  It's when she hears Cinderella humming "So This Is Love" and realizes that it was Cinderella who was the object of the Prince's affection.  Instead of letting Cinderella's dream come true, she must crush it.  And you can see it in her face.  It's such a cruel expression and it demonstrates the brilliance of the animator's acting.

 And, its because she's so convincing that makes Cinderella's happily ever after so satisfying.  After all, isn't karma a bitch?  But, in all seriousness, there is something satisfying about seeing good overcoming evil. The dream Cinderella's wish made has come true and it is glorious.  


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