Sixty-four years ago today, Walt Disney released his second princess fairy-tale story in hopes of matching the success of his first, Snow White. It had been eight years since the studio had come out with a full-length feature. “Package films” like Melody Time and Fun and Fancy Free had instead been released due to wartime budget cuts. The future of Walt Disney Studios depended on Cinderella doing well because Disney had put much more money into the film than was recommended. In the end, however, Cinderella did extremely well, being one of the top grossing films of 1950 and an enduring classic for every generation since its release.
Cinderella was chosen by the company because it was so similar to Snow White, both films starring a young girl who is abused by her adopted family after losing her biological father. Both girls befriend animals and dream of their happily-ever-afters, sing, dance and are genuinely good-natured. Both girls exude sincerity and humility while being the underdogs and inevitably persevering. Cinderella is a bit more fleshed out than Snow, although she still is criticized for being flat in the film. Cinderella was the first film to be made by all nine of Disney’s famous “nine old men” and contains what was supposedly Walt’s favorite piece of animation in all his films in the transformation of Cinderella’s dress.
Cinderella was nominated for many awards, most notably for its songs and musical composition. The revolutionary layered harmonies in “Sing Sweet Nightingale” were said by Cinderella’s voice actor Ilene Woods to have been entirely Walt Disney’s idea. Notably, Woods beat out over 300 other girls in nabbing the part—and she didn’t even audition! Her friends submitted a recording of her and Walt picked her immediately. “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo” was nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars with the voice of the Fairy Godmother, Verna Felton, solidifying the track as one of Disney’s all-time most beloved tunes. Felton was also the voice of the Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland), Flora (Sleeping Beauty), Aunt Sarah (Lady & the Tramp) as well as a host of elephants including Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo).
I love this film because Cinderella is an underdog whom I find it virtually impossible to dislike. She works hard, she’s considerate of animals, she’s creative and she’s a dreamer. She’s exactly what the Walt Disney Company has tried continuously branding its leading characters as since then. There is also a ton of immensely brilliant animation in the film and also intense moments like when Anastasia and Drizella rip Cinderella’s dress apart or when Gus and Jaq have to bring Cinderella the key. Her stepsisters are so cruel and Cinderella is so antithetical to them, that this movie is also refreshing in its starkness. In a world full of moderate thought and middle grounds, its nice to see a film that says it as it is, with good and bad, truth and lies, beauty and ugliness laid bare.
“A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep. In dreams you will lose your heartaches. Whatever you wish for, you keep. Have faith in your dreams, and someday, your rainbow will come smiling through. No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.” –C’mon—that is pure, unadulterated DISNEY at its finest!