Film #12 in the Disney Animated Marathon!
Story By: Ken Anderson, Homer Brightman, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Harry Reeves, Joe Rinaldi & Ted Sears
Directed By: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske
When reviewing the last entry in this marathon, The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad, I hoped that the upturn in quality of that film was a sign that the titan of animation that is Disney was finally back on track with their feature films. I’m happy to declare that I appear to have been right, as if there was ever any doubt, as Cinderella is an improvement on the recent bunch of Disney films I have reviewed and hearkens back to the first films reviewed in this marathon. It isn’t a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, and I do have my problems with it, but it is a step back on the right track for Disney and a joyful movie to watch.
Right away the first thing that struck me was the instant virginal innocence theme that Cinderella hinted at. Similar to Snow White, Cinderella herself is a character that is a pure as the driven snow, able to engender the help and interact with all the creatures of the Earth, a clear sign that she is on another plane of innocence. However, unlike Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, innocence is only a minor theme in Cinderella, it’s constantly present, but not focused on.
I don’t know if there is much of a theme in Cinderella, it might be that if you wish hard enough and endure enough hardships that your dreams will come true. Maybe the theme is that of innocence pointed out above, or maybe Cinderella is a simple one sided love story without any need for a grander theme. It is possible that the lack of a definitive theme could be viewed as a fault of the film, but I didn’t find Cinderella to be interested in imparting a theme, so maybe the fault lies with moi and my incessant need to look for a theme?
One thing that is both awesome and clear about Cinderella, is the role of the animals. They set the tone of the story, provide the information we need to know and take on the interesting roles of conduits. Outside of Cinderella herself the humans don’t matter that much, and the movie early on realizes this is the case and keeps the focus on the animals. Mayhaps my usage of conduit isn’t all that clear, let me elaborate. In most stories one character or a group of characters are the decided story tellers. Sometimes they break the fourth wall and speak to the audience, but more often than not they are the storytellers because the story is related through their actions and what they see. There isn’t much, if anything, that happens in Cinderella that isn’t seen by the animals. They become the conduits for all that we see and all that we know, and I found that a particularly charming facet of the movie.
Another area that impressed me was the spoken word nature of the film. There were some songs in the film, and they were good, but for the most part even when the characters were talking they were doing so in a spoken word musical style. The characters continued to rhyme and carry a musical tone in their voices long past when any given song was over. It doesn’t happen all the time, that’s partly why I missed it at first, but later in the film I began to realize what they were doing. Using spoken word for the majority of the film was inventive and endearing, adding another layer to a film that needed some.
I don’t want to be terribly negative towards Cinderella, honestly there wasn’t a whole lot to be negative about. There were however some things that didn’t quite sit well with me or felt off during the movie. One such thing was the shallowness of the story. I understand it’s a simple tale and it was told in a simple style. Still, without any major themes to accompany the story it was almost too simple, too shallow. It’s not a major problem, but when it’s over Cinderella doesn’t leave you with much to think about.
The human characters outside of Cinderella were also pretty darn shallow. The scenes at the palace (not including the dance), or involving the palace officials, were necessary, but were also the weakest part of the film. Cinderella’s step-mom and step-sisters were indeed wicked and awful, and enjoyably so for the most part. However, at times the sisters were a bit much, there wasn’t much to them and there were a few times when they were lingered on for too long and how one note they were was broadcast a little too clearly.
The animation in Cinderella was also pretty simple, but it was clean and unfettered. The animation was in no way a detriment to the film, it had a streamlined feel to it. Not only did it look good but the clean, streamlined style helped the regal look that the film wanted. There is of course the bubble moment, the one time when the animators tried for something more than simple, and it was a stunning example of quality animation.
Lucifer is a son of a bitch, and those darn mice are funny as all get out. A statement like that leads me to my final thoughts on Cinderella. It isn’t the deepest film you’ll find, or the most complex, but it is an enjoyable tale that breezes by and gets to its high points in expedient fashion. The animation is splendid and even if not too meaty the characters are appealing and interesting. Cinderella marks a return to quality film making by the fine folks at Disney, a trend that I don’t see stopping with any of the upcoming films.