Disney’s animated adaptation of Cinderella is often seen as one of the studio’s classics. It’s also credited with saving the Disney company, as it ended up being the studio’s first real success since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs after years of financially unsuccessful films lead the studio to the brink of bankruptcy. Today, Cinderella remains a charmer, though by today’s standards there are some notable pacing issues.
Cinderella’s story needs little explanation, as I’m sure most know it quite well: Cinderella lost her mother at a young age, and her father remarried. After her father passed away as well, Cinderella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine, showed her true colors as a cold, unfeeling woman who was bitter towards Cinderella. Cinderella eventually became something closer to a servant than a daughter to Lady Tremaine, and her stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella were just as cruel. But with the aide of some mice, a Fairy Godmother, and a glass slipper, Cinderella might just find her happily ever after.
Like a lot of Disney’s old fairy tale movies, Cinderella is an honest and good-natured adaptation of its source material (with the darker elements of the story removed), which makes the story timeless, though not particularly deep. That may sound a bit stingy on my part, but knowing how far animated films (including those from Disney) have come in terms of storytelling depth, a lot of the older Disney films can feel like simple, lighthearted entertainments by comparison.
The good news is that, for the most part, Cinderella remains a textbook example of that lighthearted entertainment. Cinderella herself, while not a particularly interesting character, is easy to sympathize with. Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters are appropriately despicable. The mice are charming (though the earlier parts of the film perhaps rely too heavily on them), and the human comic relief characters can be really funny, with the King and Grand Duke being highlights. Then there’s the show-stealing Fairy Godmother, whose presence is memorable enough that most people seem to forget she’s only in a single scene.
The songs are also a plus, with the now iconic numbers “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” living up to their reputation. And as is the norm with Disney, the animation is colorful and fluid, and still looks impressive today.
On the downside though, the movie can often feel stretched a bit thin, and many scenes feel like padding. This is especially true in the first half of the film, where we see more than a few extended breaks from the main plot to focus on the antics of the mice and Lady Tremaine’s cat, Lucifer. There’s some harmless comedy to be had in these moments, but they end up feeling too excessive and distracting. Thankfully, the second half gets things back on track with more focused storytelling.
All in all, Cinderella is definitely a good, fun addition to the Disney canon that any fan of the studio should see. With age, the film has shown some missteps with its pacing – with too many distracting detours with the animal characters – and if you’re more accustomed to more sophisticated animated features, Cinderella probably won’t win you over to the retro Disney princess formula. But if you’re looking for a charming, nostalgic piece of Disney history, Cinderella delivers just that.