The classic fairy tale by Charles Perrault is lovingly and imaginatively brought to life in this animated Disney version, also a classic. Cinderella, a sweet, docile, and beautiful girl forced to act as a servant for her mean stepmother and stepsisters, goes to the ball with the help of her fairy godmother. But her godmother warns that the beautiful coach and gown will only last until midnight. Cinderella meets the Prince at the ball, and they share a romantic dance. But when the clock begins to strike midnight, she runs away, leaving behind one of her glass slippers. The Prince declares he will marry the girl whose foot fits that slipper. He finds her, and they live happily ever after.
Disney expanded the simple story with vivid and endearing characters and memorable songs. The animation is gorgeously detailed and inventive. In one musical number, as the stepsisters squawk their way through their singing lesson in another room, Cinderella sings sweetly as she scrubs the floor, reflected in dozens of soap bubbles.
When Cinderella asks if she can go to the ball, her stepmother tells her she can, if she can make an appropriate dress. She then keeps Cinderella much too busy to have time to make the dress. But Cinderella’s friends, the mice and birds, make one for her in another delightful musical number. As the fairy godmother sings “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo,” she transforms a pumpkin into a coach, the mice into horses, the horse into a coachman, and finally, Cinderella’s rags into a magnificent ballgown. The scene when the Duke comes looking for the girl whose foot will fit the glass slipper is very suspenseful and highly satisfying.
While the story has enduring appeal, many people are troubled by the passive heroine, who meekly accepts her abusive situation and waits to be rescued, first by her godmother and then by the Prince. It is worth discussing, with both boys and girls, what some of her alternatives could have been (“If you were Cinderella, would you do what that mean lady told you?”), and making sure that they have some exposure to stories with heroines who save themselves. A superb book called Ella, Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine has an ingenious explanation for the heroine’s obedience.
In today’s world of blended families, it might also be worth discussing that not all step-parents and siblings are mean. Even children who are living with intact families of origin may need to hear this so that they will not worry about their friends.
Families who see this movie should talk about these questions: Why does Cinderella do what her stepmother says? What could she have done instead? Why is the King so worried about whether the Prince will get married? If you had a fairy godmother, what would you like her to do for you? Or would you like to be a fairy godmother? Whose wish would you grant?
This story has been told many times, and families might enjoy seeing sme of the other versions, including “Cinderfella,” with Jerry Lewis as the title character and Ed Wynn as his fairy godfather. The made-for- television musical version starring Leslie Ann Warren, with songs by Rogers and Hammerstein, and the remake with Brandi and Whitney Houston are available on video and well worth watching. Drew Barrymore’s revisionist “Ever After” gives us a spirited Cinderella who rescues herself.
Children might be amused to hear the rumor that Cinderella’s most famous accessory is the result of a mistake. It is often reported that in the original French story, her slipper was made of fur. But a mistranslation in the first English version described it as glass, and it has stayed that way ever since. But in reality, while there have been many versions of the story over the years, the best-known early written version, by Charles Perrault, did describe her slippers as glass. Other versions have her wearing gold slippers or a ring that fits only the true Cinderella.