I think it’s been proven by now that when Disney starts to enter a financial and/or creative limbo, they bust out the princesses, and then all is well. We’ll see a similar phenomenon happen with The Little Mermaid and (hopefully) The Princess and the Frog. Facing a major financial slump, Disney made Cinderella, and it was a huge success, and another Disney princess was born.
Cinderella is obviously trying to bring back the magic of Snow White, but with more talking animals and humor. We open with the storybook, and like Snow White, Cinderella likes talking to animals because her family hates her. In this case, though, some of the animals (mostly the mice) talk back, which either makes Cinderella less crazy or way more crazy than Snow White. Not sure yet.
What’s kind of neat about Cinderella is that we have two intertwining worlds–Cinderella with her prince and her stepfamily, and then a separate space with all the animals, mostly Gus and Jack the mice versus Lucifer the cat. It’s like they took the cuteness and humor of more episodic movies like Dumbo and Bambi and then combined it with the central fairy tale plot. It works wonderfully, and those little animals end up saving the day without ever feeling like filler the way Snow White’s dwarves sometimes did. (Okay, sometimes Gus annoyed me because he’s just too dumb to live, but I’ll let it go.)
Even more exciting for me is the return of the Disney villain. We had some minor ones, but no one compared to Snow White‘s Evil Queen. Until now! Lady Tremaine manages to be completely mundane–no magic, no murder–and yet still downright scary. It certainly helps that she’s voiced by Eleanor Audley, who will voice an even awesomer villain in the future. Also, I think Lucifer is the first major animal villain sidekick. And he’s a total brat. Something curious, though, is that the villains aren’t punished in this movie beyond just not getting what they want. Certainly the original Grimm ending is a bit…harsh…but they don’t die or get maimed or anything. So far as we know.
Prince-wise, we’ve gone a step up since Snow White, but there’s still a lot left to be desired. This prince has a backstory, kind of, but what ends us happening is that the King and the Grand Duke steal the show. (They’re also voiced by the same dude!) I kind of love the King, who really only wants his son to get married because he wants grandchildren, dammit. My feminist sensibilities are kind of offended that he only sees his potential daughters-in-law as baby factories, but he’s just so gosh darn adorable! He dreams about playing with the grandkids! It’s sweet. Oh, wait, I was talking about the Prince. Yeah, he doesn’t say much. And he and Cinderella don’t say anything to each other before falling in love. And then he doesn’t even do much, either. Wouldn’t the glass slipper search have been a lot easier if the Prince came along to find the girl himself? This prince is even more useless than Snow White’s prince, but at least he has a fun entourage.
And then there’s the lady herself. I was all ready to start being annoyed at how complacent Cinderella is. She gets ordered around, and she just kind of takes it. But you know, even though I bet I’m giving the writers too much credit, I kind of feel like maybe that makes her even stronger. She’s completely opposite from her stepsisters, who are screechy and constantly irritated, and it makes Cinderella seem so dignified…kind of like her stepmother. At one point, Lady Tremaine tells her daughters, “Above all, self-control,” and both stepmother and Cinderella seem to follow this. It’s only when Cinderella loses her self-control and her hope that the Fairy Godmother steps in–before that, she didn’t need the Godmother. She took care of herself in a sucky situation, and she made the best of it. I don’t know, I have this weird new respect for Cinderella, even if she does have that whole typical damsel in distress thing going on. She’s a dignified lady, that Cinderella.
Favorite scene: Sing, Sweet Nightingale
Because BUBBLES! No, really, the animation is gorgeous. “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” will always be my favorite song from the movie, but this scene is so purty.
Next time: Alice in Wonderland!