Cinderella is not high on the list of Disney movies I’m likely to watch. Mostly, I just wasn’t sure if Simon had seen it or not, and I figured it would be a good thing to show him. Because I’m the kind of parent who believes that kids might as well see the whole Disney canon, except maybe Chicken Little and Home on the Range. (I’ve never seen Home on the Range.) And we own Cinderella. And I wasn’t sure where I’d put my copy of Bambi or, um, the remote to the Blu-Ray player. I could play Cinderella with a button on the player.
Cinderella is probably one of the most passive of the Disney princesses. She is helped in everything she does. She’s got the birds and mice and her fairy godmother. On the other hand, she is explicitly an orphan, and I’m not sure it makes clear when her father died. If it was when she was young enough, is it really all that surprising that she wouldn’t be able to stand up for herself? If she’s been the family’s servant for ten years, that really is enough to grind someone down, and I have some sympathy for that.
One would also imagine that the family is emotionally isolated not just from one another but from anyone who would call them out on how they treat Cinderella. They only seem to have the one servant for an enormous house, leaving aside the music teacher. They’ve got a single horse, no other servants, and several other subtle implications that they don’t have a lot of money—one of the few similarities I see between this and Ever After. But this version, unlike that one, doesn’t make it explicit.
Honestly, this is not high on my list of preferred Disney movies. I’m sorry to say that, but there we are. Frankly, the animation isn’t great. Lady Tremaine is spectacular, but Cinderella’s face just seems weird to me. There’s one moment when a door gets opened and just disappears. Not becomes part of the background because they didn’t need to animate it anymore; it just isn’t there for a few frames. The fairy godmother is fine, and Lucifer is nicely done, but most of the birds and mice just get repetitive, and the prince is frankly bland.
If you’re going to have a heroine helped by birds and mice, you’ve got to have a villain assisted by a cat, I suppose. Further, I imagine that putting hats and coats on birds and mice helps visually distinguish them. But every time I see an evil cat, I get frustrated and frankly bored. And every time I see a vest on a bird, I wonder how it interferes with flight. I almost wonder how much better it might have been if we’d knocked off the animal companions and given Cinderella a little more initiative, though I know a lot of people like Jaq and Gus-Gus best, and I admit that I still quite like Lucifer. Still, with the mice and birds doing all the sewing, Cinderella’s just being quietly dignified.
I am also super irritated every time by “leave the sewing to the women.” (Especially since a male-appearing mouse helps with it later.) I know lots of guys who sew and more than a few who would be better off if they could. My son’s been told that he’s going to be taught to sew after he’s left my sewing table alone for a year—as of right now, October 13—in part because I’m so determined that sewing shouldn’t just be left to women. And they don’t even say, you know, “You guys have the most experience with fooling Lucifer.”
I will say, though—sixty-eight years ago, Disney figured it was okay to name a villain Lucifer without it being too over-the-top or on-the-nose. I don’t know if they were right or wrong on that, because he’s been around for that whole sixty-eight years ago, and I’ve gotten used to it. He and Lady Tremaine do, however, manage to be the most interesting characters in the movie.
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