Do you ever get tired of seeing people claim something, and you know it to be wrong?
Along with the numerous rumors about Walt Disney over the years (the tamest being that his head is frozen, and hidden deep beneath the Walt Disney World theme park), there are plenty of others revolving around items related to his legacy.
One I have heard a lot in the last few decades, was how Cinderella in his studio’s animated feature, was a pushover who was just waiting around to marry a prince.
Much like how some assume that Belle from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast developed Stockholm Syndrome, I felt this was a pretty ridiculous notion. For this post, I thought I would lay out some observations about Disney’s 1950 animated feature, that some may not have considered.
Why did Cinderella really want to go to the ball?
The short answer: because she was invited.
The palace sent out royal invitations to all the households in the kingdom, requesting that “every eligible maiden” attend.
It should be noted that it is the Stepsisters that jump at the mention of the prince being in attendance, and it is also the Stepmother who seems eager for one of her daughters to catch his eye. Cinderella’s main joy at the news is not related to any of their conclusions, but is simply the joy of knowing that she can attend, making it one of the first opportunities since before her father’s passing, that she can leave the grounds of the family chateau.
Did the Fairy Godmother intend to help Cinderella marry the Prince?
My two cents: I don’t believe so.
At the very least, she came to help the poor girl fulfill her greatest wish. I personally feel that if allowed to go to the ball, Cinderella could have endured for the rest of her life under her step-family, being given this one request…but as we see, her step-family are unwilling to show her even the smallest of kindnesses.
I imagine some assume the slippers were a way to lead the prince to Cinderella, but I also think this is simplifying things.
Though the Fairy Godmother claimed that “everything would be as it was before” once the spell was broken at midnight, Cinderella’s shoes still remained as glass slippers (with one still on her foot, and the other in the possession of the Grand Duke, after she fled from the palace).
I feel keeping the slippers as she transformed them, was the equivalent of the Godmother letting Cinderella have something she could keep to remember this magical night.
Did Cinderella realize she had met the Prince?
In writing this post, this question suddenly crossed my mind for the first time!
Watching the film, we as the audience have already identified who the prince is, but it’s not like every household in the kingdom has a picture of the royal family. It is very likely that most do not know who he is until they are announced to him at the ball.
It is notable that when Cinderella arrives at the palace, she doesn’t immediately make for the main reception area. Instead, she slowly wanders around, taking in the towering columns and architecture of the place she’s only seen from her bedroom window. When the prince notices her, she isn’t even looking at him, but is still just taking in the entire palace.
Some could wonder why he doesn’t ask her name, but it’s been a long, long evening of dozens and dozens of girls being announced to him. Maybe he sees her as a way to get out of this ‘royal rut,’ and do something besides just stand around ‘receiving’ guest after guest.
His interaction with Cinderella is all done in silence, though I think it’s assumed that he just quietly asks her for a dance. In Cinderella’s case, this is probably the first time she’s ever been asked by anybody to dance, and thinking that this is just what you do at a royal ball, she accepted without knowing who this man is. In her mind, it was just a magical evening getting to go to the ball, and dancing with someone from the palace.
I originally didn’t realize that her reaction the next day (when she accidentally drops some breakfast dishes), was the full realization of who she had danced with.
Plus, the fact that she reveals the other slipper to the Grand Duke, ends up being a triumphant moment for her, that not even her stepmother could prevent.
Kindness can Help You
This doesn’t quite tie into the main theme of this post, but I felt it had to be said.
Though abused and humiliated by her step-family, Cinderella doesn’t try to take out her mistreatment on those around her like a bully. She still tries to keep a positive demeanor whenever she can, though she does get a little ‘snippy’ on a few occasions.
She definitely isn’t a robot, as we see her get upset at the house cat Lucifer several times, and after she receives the invitation from the royal doorman, she has a mischievous grin thinking of interrupting her stepsisters’ off-key ‘music lesson.’
In a number of Disney films, there have been examples of how kindness can be reciprocal.
We see this on several occasions in this film, with the mice and birds Cinderella has befriended. They help her get ready to start the day, and when it seems she won’t have the time to alter her mother’s dress to go to the ball, they take it upon themselves to help her.
We also get a little guide to the household and her kindness, in the form of the little mouse she names Gus. At first caught in a trap, naked and afraid, Cinderella helps to free him, and provides him with his name and a new set of clothes. Cinderella even helps him out when he is unable to procure some corn for breakfast.
Gus isn’t the brightest of the mice, but he quickly becomes the sidekick to the main leader of the household’s mice, named Jacques. When the Stepmother locks Cinderella in her bedroom, the two mice struggle to overcome impossible odds to get the key to her, and help her persevere.
This leads to an interesting, reciprocal notation.
In the beginning of the film, it is Cinderella who helps free Gus from being trapped, and at the end of the film, with the help of Jacques and the other mice, Gus helps free Cinderella from being trapped.
In the end, it seems Cinderella’s attempts to stay kind-hearted and persevere under the worst of circumstances, were rewarded. This is reinforced in several places by the main theme song, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes. It’s a song that sounds bubbly and positive, but also includes talk of “heartache,” and “grieving.” But under it all, is the hope that things will turn out alright in the end.
It definitely isn’t the kind of film that would be made in today’s world (as can be attested to the changes made to the 2015 live-action rendition the studio produced), but one has to remember that the 1950’s film was a stepping stone in getting the studio back to producing animated features, following the end of World War II. Plus, the film helped cement the studio’s reputation for fairy tale stories revolving around princesses, that would become a staple of the Disney legacy as the years rolled by.