On this Day:
In 1950, Walt Disney’s animated film “Cinderella” premiered in Boston.
Cinderella is a 1950 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney. Based on the fairy tale of the same name by Charles Perrault, it is the 12th Disney animated feature film. The film was directed by Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, and Clyde Geronimi. Mack David, Jerry Livingston, and Al Hoffman wrote the songs, which include “Cinderella”, “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, “Oh, Sing Sweet Nightingale”, “The Work Song”, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”, and “So This is Love”. It features the voices of Ilene Woods, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Rhoda Williams, James MacDonald, Luis van Rooten, Don Barclay, Mike Douglas, William Phipps, and Lucille Bliss.
During the early 1940s, Walt Disney Productions had suffered financially after losing connections to the European film markets due to the outbreak of World War II. Because of this, the studio endured box office bombs such as Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), and Bambi (1942), all of which would later become more successful with several re-releases in theaters and on home video. By 1947, the studio was over $4 million in debt and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Walt Disney and his animators returned to feature film production in 1948 after producing a string of package films with the idea of adapting Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon into an animated film.
After two years in production, Cinderella was released by RKO Radio Pictures on February 15, 1950. It became the greatest critical and commercial hit for the Disney studio since the first full-length animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and helped reverse the studio’s fortunes. It received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Music, Original Song for “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”.
Decades later, it was followed by two direct-to-video sequels, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002) and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007), and a 2015 live-action adaptation directed by Kenneth Branagh. The castle featured in the film has become an icon of The Walt Disney Company, serving as a basis for the production logo of Walt Disney Pictures. A real life construction of the castle was built at the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World, as well at Tokyo Disneyland.
In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
When Cinderella is a young girl, her widowed father marries Lady Tremaine, a widow with two daughters of her own. He dies shortly thereafter. Lady Tremaine, jealous of her stepdaughter’s beauty and determined to forward her own daughters’ interests, orders Cinderella to become a scullion in her own château, banishing her to the attic and overburdening her with chores. Cinderella’s stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella, also take advantage of her meekness, mocking her and adding to her workload. Despite this, Cinderella remains kind of heart, obediently doing her chores whilst taking care of the mice and birds that live in the château, making friends of them. She also protects them from being eaten by her stepmother’s cat Lucifer, who makes her duties even harder in retaliation.
One day, the local King becomes impatient for his son to provide him with grandchildren. Despite the objections of the Grand Duke, the King invites all the eligible maidens in the kingdom to a royal ball, so that the Prince will choose one as his wife. Wanting to attend, Cinderella finds a dress of her late mother’s to fix up. Her stepmother and stepsisters, afraid she will upstage them at the ball, deliberately keep her busy with no time to spare. Jaq, Gus, and the other animals decide to fix up the dress for Cinderella, using beads and a sash discarded by the stepsisters. However, when Cinderella attempts to go to the ball with her family, her stepsisters recognize their belongings and angrily tear the dress into rags, before leaving Cinderella behind.
A distraught Cinderella flees to the garden in tears, kneeling by a stone bench. There, she is met by her Fairy Godmother, who has come to help. She transforms Jaq, Gus, and two other mice into four white horses, a pumpkin into a coach, and Cinderella’s old horse Major and bloodhound Bruno into a coachman and footman, respectively. The fairy godmother also gives Cinderella a shimmering ball gown and glass slippers, but warns her that the magic will all end on the stroke of midnight.
Cinderella arrives at the ball, and is not recognized by her stepsisters, though her stepmother believes something is familiar about her. The Prince is instantly smitten, so the King orders the Grand Duke to make sure the romance goes without a hitch. The Duke prevents anyone from interfering as Cinderella and the Prince dance a waltz and wander out to the palace grounds, falling deeper in love. However, when Cinderella hears the clock tolling midnight, she runs away before she and the Prince can exchange names. Despite the efforts of the Grand Duke, Cinderella flees the palace, losing one of her slippers on the staircase. The palace guards pursue, but when the magic ends on the stroke of 12, Cinderella and the animals revert to their former appearances and hide in the woods. Cinderella discovers the other glass slipper is still on her foot, and takes it home with her.
The Prince swears he will marry none but the girl who fits the glass slipper. Elated, the King orders the Grand Duke to try the shoe on every girl in the kingdom until he finds a match. When the news reaches the chateau, Cinderella is shocked to realize it was the Prince she met. Hearing Cinderella humming the waltz from the ball, Lady Tremaine realizes the truth and locks Cinderella in the attic. While the stepsisters unsuccessfully try on the slipper, Jaq and Gus steal the key back from Lady Tremaine. As they take the key to Cinderella, they are intercepted by Lucifer. The birds summon Bruno, who frightens Lucifer into jumping out a high window, and a freed Cinderella hurries to meet the Grand Duke.
In a last effort to prevent Cinderella from overshadowing her daughters, Lady Tremaine causes a page to trip and break the glass slipper. Cinderella reveals she has the other slipper, which the Grand Duke places on her foot, much to Lady Tremaine’s dismay. Cinderella and the Prince are married, and share a kiss as they set off in a carriage for their honeymoon.
The film became a critical success garnering the best reception for a Disney animated film since Dumbo. In a personal letter to Walt Disney, director Michael Curtiz hailed the film as the “masterpiece of all pictures you have done.” Producer Hal Wallis declared, “If this is not your best, it is very close to the top.” Mae Tinee, reviewing for the Chicago Tribune, remarked: “The film not only is handsome, with imaginative art and glowing colors to bedeck the old fairy tale, but it also is told gently, without the lurid villains which sometimes give little lots nightmares. It is enhanced by the sudden, piquant touches of humor and the music which appeal to old and young.” Time wrote that “Cinderella is beguiling proof that Walt Disney knows his way around fairyland. Harking back to the style of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), a small army of Disney craftsmen have given the centuries-old Cinderella story a dewy radiance of comic verve that should make children feel like elves and adults feel like children.”
However, the characterization of Cinderella received a mixed reception. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, “The beautiful Cinderella has a voluptuous face and form—not to mention an eager disposition—to compare with Al Capp’s Daisy Mae.” However, criticizing her role and personality, Crowther opined, “As a consequence, the situation in which they are mutually involved have the constraint and immobility of panel-expressed episodes. When Mr. Disney tries to make them behave like human beings, they’re banal.” Similarly, Variety claimed the film found “more success in projecting the lower animals than in its central character, Cinderella, who is on the colorless, doll-faced side, as is the Prince Charming.”
Contemporary reviews have remained positive. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three out of four stars during its 1987 re-release. Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader wrote the film “shows Disney at the tail end of his best period, when his backgrounds were still luminous with depth and detail and his incidental characters still had range and bite.” The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported the film received an approval rating of 97% based on 35 reviews with an average score of 8.00/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “The rich colors, sweet songs, adorable mice and endearing (if suffering) heroine make Cinderella a nostalgically lovely charmer” (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
What did Prince Charming realize when the glass shoe fit Cinderella’s foot?
That she was his sole-mate…
Second, a Song:
“A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” is a song written and composed by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston for the Walt Disney film Cinderella (1950). In the song, Cinderella (voiced by Ilene Woods) encourages her animal friends to never stop dreaming, and that theme continues throughout the entire story. The theme of the song was taken from Franz Liszt’s Etude No. 9 Ricordanza of the Transcendental Etudes. This song was also performed by Lily James for the soundtrack of the live-action version of Cinderella in 2015. In April 2020, Demi Lovato and Michael Bublé performed the song for The Disney Family Singalong on ABC (per Wikipedia).
Here is Cinderella performing “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella (1950). I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky