Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) would be the cookie cutter that Disney used in their featured animated princess fairytales. I am extremely thankful for the success of that movie since this formula has yield movies the likes of The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), Tangled (2010) and Cinderella (1950).
Following in the footsteps of Snow White, this movie suffers the same major problems. A simple plot summary should make it more than apparent. Cinderella is about a girl who loses her mother. The father marries a stepmother, and then when the father dies, the stepmother shows her true side; yes, of course she is evil. The stepmother and her two daughters make Cinderella their servant, but then Cinderella’s big break comes through when the King invites all females to the castle with the intention of making his son fall in love with someone. Of course, the stepmother doesn’t allow for this to happen, and so Cinderella needs a fairy god mother to go to the ball. Cinderella goes to the ball, dances with someone unknowing that it is Prince Charming (that is literally his name), and drops her glass slipper as she rushes back home before the spell times out. When it is revealed to Cinderella that Prince Charming is searching for his mystery girl by way of fitting the glass slipper on people’s feet, she starts day-dreaming and humming to herself. This makes the stepmother lock Cinderella up in her room in order to stop her dreams from coming true. Fortunately, her animal friends unlock Cinderella, and so Cinderella is able to prove she is the one Prince Charming has been looking for, and they get married and live happily ever after.
So, couple problems… this film claims that love is just one dance away. And apparently after this one dance, you will not be able to identify the girl who you love unless they leave a souvenir behind. I mean, it’s not like Cinderella’s face was covered, and even if she would be unrecognizable without the elaborate dress she wore to the ball, you should be able to recognize her personality if you loved her!!! Okay, now let’s talk about the good stuff.
Cinderella is a timeless princess. She’s animated very well, she sings a lovely song in A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, and like Snow White, she has a likable personality. Despite all the hatred she receives from her stepmother, two sisters, and the cat, she treats each one of them with respect and dignity. This sort of unbreakable kindness explains why the birds and mice love her as much as they do. Best of all, Cinderella doesn’t stop dreaming despite how oppressed she is, which is certainly admirable. All this combined makes us want Cinderella’s dreams to come true, as they are as vague as simply experiencing something outside eternal servitude. Sure, maybe critics have a point when they say Cinderella isn’t all too proactive, but she’s always working. She certainly understands the virtue of hard work and what’s so wrong with hoping she’s rewarded for being a good person?
All the magical elements that made Snow White feel like a fairytale are still here with the talking animals and her fairy god mother. While the villain isn’t as memorable and the side characters, being the animals, are not as charming as the seven dwarfs, this is in my mind fully redeemed by an improvement in princess animation and vocals, along with a pleasant focus on the concept of dreams. This element was certainly evident in Snow White, but it was clear Snow White was dreaming of love. To contrast, Cinderella’s dreams are never told to us, and this skyrockets the educational value of this movie as it tells its audiences that you will be rewarded if you continue to focus on being as good of a person as you can be, despite the circumstances you might be forced into. This is about as moral as a message can possibly get, and Cinderella delivers it with magic and charisma.