Article #1512 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-5-2005
Posting Date: 10-2-2005
Production Supervisor: Ben Sharpsteen
Featuring the voices of Ilene Woods, Eleanor Audley, Verna Fulton
The beautiful girl is abused by her cruel stepmother and ugly stepsisters, but is given a chance for happiness when the local king stages a ball to find a wife for the prince.
During the first twenty-five years in which he was engaged in making feature-length cartoons, Walt Disney achieved a certain level of excellence that cannot be denied; almost every one of these features is a recognized classic. However, that doesn’t mean that each feature was the equal to all the others, and though this feature is certainly a worthy addition to the list, I think it lacks the inspiration of many of the others. It certainly gets by on charm; like PINOCCHIO; the plot is at a standstill for the first quarter of the movie, but it really doesn’t matter because it so charmingly introduces us to the characters. In fact, the movie maintains that level of charm throughout. Yet, to some extent, it feels like a lesser version of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, with which it shares certain similarities. Like Snow White, Cinderella is at the mercy of her stepmother, but whereas the Queen in SNOW WHITE was evil and murderous, the stepmother here is merely mean, petty and selfish, and though one can’t really belittle Cinderella’s suffering, it’s obvious that the stakes are nowhere near as high as they were for Snow White. Instead of the seven dwarfs, we have an assortment of talking animals, but these are comparatively undeveloped, without even a Grumpy to win over.
Perhaps the most telling detail about his movie is that, unlike every single other Disney animated feature I’ve covered so far, there is not a single moment that blows you out of the water and makes your jaw hang open. Just to pick one at random from each, SNOW WHITE had the pursuit of the witch through the rain, PINOCCHIO had the transformation into donkeys, FANTASIA had the dancing ostriches and hippos, SLEEPING BEAUTY had the battle with the dragon, THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD had the encounter with the Headless Horseman, and DUMBO had Pink Elephants on Parade. There’s simply nothing in this movie to equal any of those moments. As a result, it feels relatively minor; it’s the difference between hearing a musical genius play an extraordinarily difficult number brilliantly and hearing the same musician play an easy number very well indeed. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the second piece, but it’s the first one that reminds you why he got to be called a genius in the first place.
Still, I won’t condemn a movie for failing to be brilliant, especially when it’s very good indeed. And let’s face it; during the sixties, seventies and eighties, it was a rarity for Disney to make an animated feature that was even this good.