Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cinderella, the Girl with the Glass Slipper

Cinderella Has a Long History

Cinderella 1950

The fairy tale of Cinderella, the put-upon girl who becomes a princess, is best known because of the classic Disney movies, but its origins actually go all the way back to ancient Greece. Strabo, who wrote a great deal about history and geography, told the tale of Rhodopsis, a plucky girl who lived in Egypt. One day, an eagle grabbed one of her sandals and flew it to the royal palace, dropping it on the lap of the king. He was so fascinated by the pretty sandal and how he obtained it that he had his men find Rhodopsis and, when he did, he made the her Queen.

Though little-known, the Egyptian Cinderella did exist

The fairy tale grew over the centuries, appearing as far away as China and the Philippines, but it gained the most popularity in Europe. It was adapted by medieval writers such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, who called her Cordelia and wrote that she was disinherited by her father the British king because she wouldn't flatter him. Instead, the king divided up the kingdom between her elder sisters, who then abused their father. Cordelia had the last laugh, though, when she married a neighboring king, helped him raise an army, and then came back and deposed her wicked sisters.

Rhodopis, the Egyptian Cinderella

The story kept getting retold and elaborated upon over the years before books and newspapers were common until there were different details in practically every town in Europe. Giambattista Basile wrote "Pentamerone," in which Cinderella is called Zezolla. She helps her governess become engaged to the prince, but then lets her six daughters treat Zezolla as a kitchen maid. The prince gives a ball which derived from the influence of a fairy, and Zezolla showed up dressed like a lady due to the help of her own fairy. He falls in love with her, but she runs away, leaving behind a slipper. The king rounds up all the maidens in the land, and when they are all in the palace, the slipper jumps out of his hand and onto the foot of Zezolla.

Rhodopis with the slipper
Rhodopis trying on her slipper

The best know version of the story, and the one which became "official" because it was published, was the one by the Brothers Grimm.

Grimm's Fairy Tales book cover

The Brothers Grimm: Aschenputtel, or the Tale of Cinder-Fool

A wealthy man's wife, a kindly soul, dies and leaves an only daughter, tasking her to be good and pure. The man later marries again, a woman who has two beautiful daughters who are pretty on the outside and evil within. The woman's daughters abused the man's daughter, stealing her fine things and turning her into a kitchen maid who they derisively called "Aschenputtel" ("Cinder-fool"). The girl continued to honor her mother, though, by remaining kind-hearted, though she would go to her mother's grave and drown her sorrow in tears.

Cinderella working while her sisters leave
Cinderella sewing while her sisters leave

The man goes to a fair and asks his three daughters what they would like him to bring back. The woman's two daughters ask for beautiful gowns and pearls and diamonds. The man's own daughter, though, only asks for him to bring back a twig which she can plant on her mother's grave. She continues to go to the spot and cry, and her tears make the twig grow into a mighty hazel tree. Eventually, the girl would sit under the tree and be comforted by a white bird.

Cinderella white birds
Cinderella with her only friends, the white birds

The king ordained a festival of three days and nights, with all the beautiful young maidens to attend so that his eligible son the prince may choose one as his bride. The woman's daughters are eager to attend, but when the man's daughter begs to go with them, the step-mother said that she could only come if she cleaned the fireplace, into which the step-mother promptly threw a plate of food, thinking it impossible to achieve in time. The girl, though, cleans the fireplace with the help of two white doves sent from her mother in heaven, but this only angered the step-mother, who threw more food into the fireplace. The girl cleaned that, too, but the step-mother left with her own daughters for the ball without her.

Cinderella wearing her nice gown
Cinderella admiring her dress

Devastated, the girl retreats to her mother's grave, crying and asking for help. The white bird drops a gown and silk shoes, and the girl gets dressed  and goes to the ball. She knows she must be home before midnight, though, so her step-mother does not find out. She dances with the prince, but leaves on time. The next night, she again attends, this time in an even fancier outfit with silver shoes, and the prince falls in love with her, dancing only with her. The girl manages to leave again before midnight, and returns again for the third and final night, this time in a dress of spun gold and golden slippers. The prince knows her tricks by now and has the entire stairway greased so that the girl cannot escape again. The girl does run away, but loses one of her golden slippers in the grease.

Cinderella leaving the palace at midnight and leaving a slipper
Cinderella leaving a slipper behind

The prince finds his way to the girl's house the next morning with the slipper. He tries it on the eldest daughter, but her feet are too big. The step-mother has her daughter cut off her toes so the slipper will fit, but the prince finds out when the doves from heaven show him the blood dripping from the girl's feet. Realizing that she is not his love, the prince next tries the slipper on the other step-sister. This one cuts off her heel so that the slipper will fit, but the doves turn her in just like the first sister. Frustrated, the prince goes back again and asks if there is another girl in the house, and the man replies that there is only a kitchen maid - not revealing that it is his own daughter. The girl washes herself and tries on the slipper, which fits perfectly, and the prince has found his bride.

Cinderella wearing her nice clothes
Cinderella happy

During the wedding ceremony, the doves fly down from heaven and, in a delicious ending that doesn't make it into the Disney movies, peck out an eye of each of the step-sisters. When the wedding is over, the doves return one last time and peck out the two girls' remaining eyes for being so greedy and selfish.

Cinderella and Prince Charming theatrical version
A typical local production of Cinderella in Chicago

Theatrical Versions

Having worked on this story for at least two millenia, storytellers weren't going to stop with the Brothers Grimm version just because it got published.  London's Drury Lane Theater got in on the act in 1904, and other theaters followed. The first filmed theatrical version was in 1926, also in London. In this stage version, Cinderella meets Prince Charming and a friend in the forest during a hunt and mistakes the prince for the friend and vice versa. Cinderella's father, Baron Hardup, has two step-daughters who rule him, and he is somewhat light on cash. Cinderella's Fairy Godmother appears and creates a coach from a pumpkin and a driver and footmen from mice and frogs, along with a dress from rags, so that Cinderella can go to the ball. The spell ends at midnight, so she has to be out of the palace by then or be exposed.
Cinderella's coach, with footmen, horses and driver
Cinderella's coach, from a North Carolina production

There were a dozen film versions before Walt Disney's classic 1950 animated version "Cinderella," and a couple of those previous versions were shorts by Disney as well.

Cinderella Mary Pickford filmprincesses.filminspector.com
Mary Pickford as "Cinderella" (1914)

Mary Pickford starred in a 1914 version of the Cinderella for the Famous Players Film Company. It featured an introspective look at Cinderella, focusing at one point on a nightmare she has about getting home by her midnight deadline. Another early version was "A Kiss for Cinderella" (1925), based on a play by J.M. Barrie. Barrie, of course, is better known for his original play "Peter Pan."

Cinderella 1925 filmprincesses.filminspector.com
Betty Bronson as Cinderella, Esther Ralston as the fairy godmother in "A Kiss for Cinderella" (1925)

Walt Disney no doubt was familiar with these early versions and may well have gone to see them when they were playing. Perhaps they even stirred Walt's love for fairytales. Much of Disney's own fame came by adapting stories told by J.M. Barrie in his plays of "Peter Pan" and "Cinderella," as Walt Disney Production's 1950s revival was built around the success of its animated films of those two stories.

Anne Hathaway Ella Enchanted 2004 filmprincesses.filminspector.com
Anne Hathaway in "Ella Enchanted"

Since then, the versions have continued endlessly in countless permutations, including 2004's "Ella Enchanted" with Anne Hathaway. Disney, however, superseded all of these films with the defining treatment in 1950. Disney Disney Studios also later came out with two sequels that further extended the story and cemented Disney as the dominant storyteller of Cinderella.

Walt Disney's Cinderella (1950): or, the Tale of a Wrongfully Abused Girl Who Triumphs

Everybody knows the basics of Cinderella the story, and there are no surprises in this film. In essence, this film "Cinderella" has become the story, so it can't deviate from the story - it is the story. Fairy tale Cinderella is a lovely girl whose wicked stepmother unfairly and cruelly favors her own very ordinary daughters over her. While they play, Cinderella slaves away in the house, cooking and cleaning without complaining. When an invitation to the King's (Luis Van Rooten) Ball arrives, at which the eligible young prince (un-named, but Prince Charming in the fairy tale and voiced by Mike Douglas, who later became the famous talk show host) will be present. Cinderalla works and works to earn an invitation, but her wicked step-mother reneges on a promise to allow her to go with the other girls. Not only that, she destroys the dress Cinderella would have worn.

Dancing in Cinderella 1950 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Dancing the night away....

Cinderella is distraught, but her Fairy Godmother (Verna Felton) appears and creates an elegant carriage out of the mice and some other items. The prince sees Cinderella and falls in love with her, to the dismay of her step-sisters and Lady Tremaine, but she has to hurry home before midnight when the spell that allowed her to attend the Ball expires. All she leaves behind is a glass slipper. The prince then embarks on a search with the slipper to find his true love.

The Prince kisses her hand in Cinderella 1950 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
The prince is enchanted with Cinderella

Cinderella is one of the most endearing characters in the Disney catalog. She is pleasant with a touch of humor, and is well-drawn. She looks even better in the restored version which you are likely to see now.

Cinderella filmprincesses.blogspot.com
Cinderella makes a break for it!

Cinderella is not overly romantic, so we don't feel excessively sorry for her as a victim, but instead as a fighter determined to work through her troubles and achieve her destiny. Ilene Woods, who voiced her, quickly had three children and didn't try to cash in on her fleeting fame, leaving this as a unique voice of the fairy tale Cinderella.

Leaving the ball in Cinderella 1950 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Hurrying down the step, watch out for that slipper!

If there is anything bad to say about this Disney movie, it is that it is not very original, but that was always the case with the classic Disney movies. Changing things, though, would have ruined the entire story and required someone else to do a lesser job of just telling Cinderella the story the way it is known by everyone. Walt Disney just got the pure version that had to be made out of the way with this Disney movie, which was a huge hit and continues to sell in the restored DVD version.

Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002)

As is well known, the fairy tale Cinderella (Jennifer Hale) lived "happily ever after," but that doesn't mean her subsequent life was uneventful. Cinderella's Fairy Godmother (Russi Taylor) loves to tell the tale of Cinderella's discovery, and when the Fairy Godmother is reading it aloud one day, Cinderella's mice friends Gus (Corey Burton) and Jaq (Rob Paulsen) arrive to late. The mice resolve to tell what happened to Cinderella after she married the handsome prince, and three stories in particular come to mind.

Cinderella and Prince Charming Cinderella II: Dreams Come True 2002 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Cinderella and the Prince leaving the palace after the wedding

In first fairy tale Disney movie segment "Aim to Please," Cinderella is in charge of planning the palace banquets and parties. She finds that the woman previously in charge, Prudence (Holland Taylor), is mean-spirited and rude. Cinderella decides that the kingdom's parties are too elitist, so she opens up the next one to ordinary folks who can act as they see fit.

Cinderella before a mirror Cinderella II: Dreams Come True 2002 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Cinderella wearing a dress she hates

In the second fairy tale Disney movie segment "Tall Tail," Jaq the mouse has developed a complex about his size. He thinks that he is useless because of his small stature. The Fairy Godmother turns him into a human so that size is no longer an issue. Pom Pom the Cat (Frank Welker), though, doesn't like the mice, and he still chases them around. Jaq turns out to be in love with a fellow mouse named Mary (Taylor), and after an incident with an elephant at a fair, he accepts and welcomes being a mouse.

Fairy Godmother reading Cinderella II: Dreams Come True 2002 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
The Fairy Godmother loves reading about Cinderella

In final fairy tale Disney movie segment "Uncommon Romance," Cinderella's evil step-sister Anastasia (Tress MacNeille) finds love with a common baker. Lady Tremaine (Susanne Blakeslee) and older sister Drizella (Taylor) do not approve and say unkind things about the nice young man and his bakery. Lucifer, meanwhile, chases Cinderella's mice around and runs into Pom Pom, falling in love. Anastasia has all sorts of problems when she goes to see her boyfriend, getting kicked by a horse and crashing into his shop. Cinderella tries to help the two get together, while the mice decide to help Lucifer win Pom Pom over as long as he agrees to stop chasing them. He strikes the bargain and romances Pom Pom, but she tells him she wants him to bring her the mice for dinner. Lucifer tries to catch them, but they drop a bucket of water on her and she is so upset that she leaves Lucifer. The baker asks Anastasia to the upcoming ball, and she agrees despite her family's disapproval. He is so sweet that she falls in love with him.

Cinderella and Prince Charming Cinderella II: Dreams Come True 2002 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
A nice shot of the royal couple

The fairy tale mice have various funny adventures unrelated to the Disney movie segments themselves while telling their stories. After the last one, they sing "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" and go to find fairy tale Cinderella to tell her about their stories. Cinderella loves the idea of her mice friends writing a fairy tale Cinderella book about their adventures, and they all go by the fire as she starts to read it. The Disney movie's songs appear on "Disney's Princess Favorites," sung by Brooke Allison.
The castle Cinderella II: Dreams Come True 2002 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
A magical castle

Viewers tend to have strong feelings about any attempts by fairy tale Disney movies such as this Cinderella movie to tarnish the magical legacy of the classic fairy tale Cinderella story. While a top seller, nobody seemed to like this Cinderella movie, except, perhaps, for the children for whom it was intended. Indeed, the entire product appears aimed squarely at the youngest viewers, with notes on the DVD packaging explaining what a composer does and simple things like that. The new Cinderella characters also are not that interesting. The fatal flaw of this Cinderalla movie is that this entire fairy tale Disney movie is more about others than it is about fairy tale Cinderella herself. This may be one of the reasons why this title was removed form the list of available Disney movies back in 2008, perhaps never to return - but, considering that Disney movie sequel "Cinderella III: A Twist in Time" was withdrawn at the same time, it may just have been Disney doing its usual job of guarding the legacy and keeping the Disney movie currency strong.

Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)

It is ten years since Prince Charming (Christopher Daniel Barnes) married Cinderella (Jennifer Hale), and the happy couple celebrates with a picnic in the woods hosted by Cinderella's Fairy Godmother (Russi Taylor) and attended by Cinderella's mice friends Jaq (Tress MacNeille) and Gus (Corey Burton). Anastasia (Lesli Margherita), Cinderella's evil step-sister, stumbles upon the Fairy Godmother's wand, and after a struggle, Lady Tremaine (Susanne Blakeslee) has the wand and the Fairy Godmother has been turned to stone.

Anastasia is a fully fleshed out character in "Cinderella III"

Lady Tremaine uses the wand to turn time back to the day before the Grand Duke (Rob Paulsen) slipped the glass slipper onto Cinderella's foot. Cinderella is locked in the attic with Gus and Jaq, and Lucifer (Frank Welker) is guarding the key. Using the wand again, Lady Tremaine makes Cinderella's glass slipper fit Anastasia's foot, so she is assumed to be the one who danced with Prince Charming at the ball. Stay away from the palace, Lady Tremaine warns as she breaks Cinderella's other glass slipper, but Cinderella sneaks over there with Gus and Jaq anyway.

Anastasia and the glass slipper Cinderella III: A Twist in Time 2007 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Disney animators are never subtle when it comes to things like this....

Prince Charming can tell that Anastasia is not the true Cinderella with whom he danced, but Lady Tremaine once again uses the wand to make him believe that she is the right girl for him. Cinderella figures out that Lady Tremaine has the wand, and Cinderella disguises herself as a maid in order to steal back the wand. Lady Tremaine catches her, but the mice get away with the magic wand.

Prince Charming and Anastasia Cinderella III: A Twist in Time 2007 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Prince Charming dancing with Anastasia

Prince Charming is on the verge of recognizing Cinderella, but Lady Tremaine orders her shipped out of the kingdom at once. The mice then intervene and tell Prince Charming what has happened, and he stops the ship from leaving, finds Cinderella, and asks her to marry him.

Evil Step-mother Cinderella III: A Twist in Time 2007 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
I love how they make the evil step-mother look like the bride of Frankenstein

The King (Andre Stojka) tries to arrest Lady Tremaine, but she escapes using the wand. She transforms Anastasia into a carbon copy of Cinderella, then transports Cinderella and the mice into a twisted pumpkin carriage driven by Lucifer in human form. The mice and Cinderella manage to escape, leaving Lucifer in the woods.

Lucifer showing his teeth Cinderella III: A Twist in Time 2007 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Lucifer has a great grin

Cinderella is too late to stop the wedding, but Anastasia has second thoughts and she turns Prince Charming down. Once again the King tries to arrest Lady Tremaine and Anastasia, but Lady Tremaine waves the guards off with her magic wand. Sending a beam toward Cinderella that will destroy her, Lady Tremaine and evil step-sister Drizella (Taylor) are instead turned into toads and transported to the castle cellar when Prince Charming's sword deflects the beam.

Prince looking into her eyes Cinderella III: A Twist in Time 2007 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Cinderella's eyes, no computer could draw those like that

Cinderella recovers the magic wand and restores the Fairy Godmother. Anastasia is remorseful, but the relieved King understands that she has a good heart, so he does not punish her. Rather than return to their own time, Prince Charming and Cinderella decide to stay in this version of reality and live out their lives in peace.

Prince Charming talks with Cinderella Cinderella III: A Twist in Time 2007 animatedfilmreviews.blogspot.com
Don't these two just look like they belong together?

A great deal more care was taken with this Disney movie sequel than with "Cinderella II." Live action sequences were filmed for aid in creating the animation, and the Disney movie animators put in a lot of time and effort, so much so that this almost has the quality of classic Disney movies like the original "Cinderella."

Below is a the mouse sing-along (think "Chipmunks") from "Cinderella."


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