by D.W. Lundberg

Thursday, July 7, 2011


My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Cinderella (1950; based on "Cendrillon" by Charles Perrault)

The Plot: The daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, raised by her cruel stepmother and two jealous stepsisters, finds true love with the help of her Fairy Godmother and some friendly mice.

The Songs: "Cinderella," "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes," "Oh, Sing Sweet Nightingale," "The Work Song," "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," "So This Is Love"

A Little History: This was Walt Disney's much- heralded return to feature-length animated storytelling, after wartime cutbacks forced him to release a string of anthology films to earn a profit at the box office. The fate of the studio rested squarely on Cinderella's shoulders (which cost $3 million to produce), as Walt hadn't scored a bona fide hit since Snow White. Roughly 90% of the movie used live-action references to help reduce production costs; to save money, Disney also turned to songwriters in New York's Tin Pan Alley to write music for the movie. Upon its release on March 4, 1950, Cinderella became an instant sensation, grossing $7 million in box office revenue that year; its success gave Disney the financial freedom to do whatever he wanted, including production on future animated and live- action projects, and the creation of Disneyland later that decade. Some trivia: The prince is never identified by his actual name (the film does not credit him as "Prince Charming"). Ilene Woods, who provides both the speaking voice and singing voice of Cinderella, beat out 309 girls for the part – her friends had secretly submitted demo recordings of her singing without her knowledge. Cinderella's transformation from rags to ball gown was reportedly Disney's favorite piece of animation ever produced by his studio.

How It Broke New Ground: The first Disney film with songs published and copyrighted by the Walt Disney Music Company. ("Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" became a hit single multiple times, with versions sung by Perry Como and the Fontane Sisters.) Also the first film to incorporate layered harmonies for one of its songs ("Sweet, Sweet Nightengale"), a technique musician Mitch Miller claims he invented years before Cinderella's conception.

How It Holds Up Today: Welcome back, feature-length narrative format! We missed you. After the cobbled- together tediousness of "package" films like Make Mine Music and Saludos Amigos, Cinderella comes on like a breath of fresh air, with its colorful side characters and infectious song score. ("Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," with music and lyrics by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston, is so irresistible it's hard to get it out of your head.) The plot couldn't be simpler, but of course that's the point: Walt desperately needed a hit, so he settled on two tried-and-true formulas – a fairy tale (his first since Snow White) and an underdog story, of a down-on-her-luck protagonist who overcomes adversity through patience and pluck. On top of it all, he added the subplot of those loveable mice (Gus-Gus and Jaq and the rest), who battle the plump, impish Lucifer the cat as a parallel to the main action. The result is surefire entertainment. The movie really couldn't miss, and luckily for us, it didn't.

Grade: B+


Hold tight, Disney fans – there's more to come. Still need to play catch up? Click on the following for: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun And Fancy Free, Melody Time, and The Adventures of Ichabod And Mr. Toad. Please comment!


  1. I LOVE Cinderella! I think it deserves more than a B+. ;) Those two endearing mice make that movie for me! Gus Gus is too cute! =)

  2. Darin,

    I love the work you put into these reviews. I especially enjoy the pieces of history you uncover and bits of trivia that make going back and viewing these old films a little more interesting.

    This is one of the few grades that I'll challenge you a little on, however. Take some time to watch the scene where Gus-gus is being chased by Lucifer culminating scaring of one of the step-sisters. There is a good 10 minutes of extremely precise music and absolutely delightful animation. In my opinion, this sequence was probably the best scene of animation produced up to this point in Disney films.

    My daughter, Abbie, went on a streak of watching Cinderella over 100 times and I never tired of it. Every time I watched it some new clever bit of animation popped out at me. The facial expressions, the movement of the characters, and the subtle beauty of Cinderella herself are just captivating. I challenge your rating a little (I give it an A-) only because you've, perhaps intentionally, put it at the same level as other Disney films that don't hold a candle in my view to Cinderella.

    Anyway, once again, I love your reviews and this collection of reviews on Disney films are an Internet treasure!

  3. Now THIS is what I'm talking about, folks! Let's have more comments like this. Not just the flattery but also a bonafide opinion of the movie at hand... just think of these posts as mere conversation starters - and these comments as an open forum for titles we're so passionate (or dispassionate) about.

    By the way, I have no problem with CINDERELLA per se; it's breezy and fun and a surefire way to help the Disney studio make loads of money. And while there's nothing wrong with that on the surface, I could have used a bit more thematic heft a la PINOCCHIO or BAMBI.