Cinderella Movie Review

She talks to birds, lives in a secluded room, and makes little outfits for mice. What a wacko.

Nah, just kidding. We're talking about Cinderella, one of history's most beloved fairy tale characters, and an early star of Disney's animated feature canon, brought to life in this 1950 classic. In Disney history, Cinderella is a transition of sorts: the first major release in eight years (late-'40s titles like Make Mine Music are not as timeless), it kicked off a string of major successes that line home video shelves now, decades later. Business and legacy aside, what little girl doesn't love the magic of this movie?

The starry-eyed tale, based on the 17th century story by Charles Perrault (creator of Mother Goose), is universally known. Poor orphaned Cinderella -- one of many orphaned Disney heroes -- is worked like a mule by her horrible stepmother and snot-nosed stepsisters, and dreams of a happier, more comfortable world. Her only friends are the kind animals that inhabit her dungeon-style room, aiding Cinderella more than once in her attempts to attend the grand ball.

In fact, the playful activity of the little critters takes up the first 20 minutes of the film, a dedication of time that would entertain only the younger members of today's audiences. In 1950, there was ingenuity in the sight gags and creativity in the animation, but that's been overwhelmed by animation today (hand-drawn or otherwise). The sequences are cute, but a bit tedious by current standards.

Once we get to the people portion of Cinderella, things get interesting. Disney storytellers make Cinderella firmly independent and sadly optimistic, and Disney animators -- including members of the studio's venerable "Nine Old Men" -- use distinct styles to establish their small cadre of characters. Our title heroine is a soft, realistic-looking, creamy white beauty (think Snow White) and the bumbling stepsisters are clownish, with round, bulbous noses and cartoonishly ugly faces.

The real accomplishment is the stepmother, resembling an angry Bette Davis with sharp eyebrows, evil eyes, and a chilling calm. When her face displays twisted, open-mouthed horror upon Cinderella producing the all-important glass slipper, it's a quick signature that may be the film's most satisfying moment.

Of course, there are the classic songs, including Disney standard "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes," all the twinkle of the Fairy Godmother, and the luxurious evening at the ball. It all adds up to a true cinematic fairytale. Disney films would mature with the years -- large casts would appear in the upcoming Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians -- but much of Cinderella's charm and sparkle holds up 55 years after its creation.

DVD Note: The quintessential Cinderella DVD release is the 2005 Platinum Edition, an overstuffed treat. It includes extras for fans of all ages: adults will appreciate the tribute to Disney's Nine Old Men and the documentary "The Cinderella That Almost Wasn't" and kids will dig goodies like the Princess Pajama Jam. The "Gift Set" version of the DVD release also includes a book, drawings, and a slipcase.

We can take that in.

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Cinderella Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: G, 1950


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