Cinderella's Place in Cinema History

Hahn and Woods both reflected on what makes Cinderella stand out among Disney's canon and animated cinema at large.

Hahn on Cinderella's unique visuals: "Part of that is Mary Blair, the amazing color stylist who worked with the Disney animators to create the colors and the look of the film. Walt's Nine Old Men -- Marc Davis, Eric Larson, the guys that animated the characters -- they were just at the top of their game at that point. They hadn't made a feature in a while and they were hungry to do something very, very special and Cinderella was the result.

Woods: "Marc (Davis) was in the control booth when we were recording every single day. Even though I didn't do the actual dancing part and the filming of it for the artists, he would sit there every day and watch expressions and hand movements. My father, when he first saw the movie, said, 'I knew I was watching an animated character up there, but it was like looking at my daughter because of the facial expressions and hand movements' from Marc having sat in the control booth for many, many days.

   
Has the passing of fifty-five years rendered Cinderella old-fashioned? Hahn doesn't think so.

Hahn: The great thing about animation is it ages really well. You can enjoy an animated film years later like Cinderella. In a sense, it hasn't really aged at all. You look at the story, the characters, the cast, and this beautiful girl who wants to go to the ball. That's kind of a timeless story, yet there are things -- some of the musical references, some of the costumes and makeup and the way the characters may look -- that may reference the '50s when the film was made but that's part of the romance of it as well, I think that the fairy tale '50s was a very nostalgic, wonderful time for the audience. There's always a place for Cinderella, such a classic story.

How does Cinderella differ from today's animated characters?

Woods: I think Cinderella had a lot of spunk and she was a happy girl. She made the most of anything she had. She was going to get to that ball somehow or other. Of course, she had all her little friends to help her when things went wrong. I love the character and I loved playing the character because she accepted life as it was and made the most of it. She was a happy girl.

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What distinguishes Cinderella as a film from other fairy tales that the Disney studio has adapted?

Hahn: There were only so many really classic fairy tale stories - certainly Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast. I think with Cinderella, for some reason, everyone appreciates that underdog story. Snow White wasn't exactly an underdog. Belle wasn't an underdog -- she was bookish and she fell in love with a Beast through an unusual circumstance. But Cinderella was really kept down, kept in the cellar, kept on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. As an audience, we really relate to that, because we've all been in that place, where we saw no way out and no possibility that our dreams would come true. In fact, there's a whole segment of Cinderella Stories on the DVD, whether it's sports teams or Lance Armstrong or whatever, characters who have had these great Cinderella stories in their lives and I think that's why it is one of the greatest fairy tale stories and why it's existed so long.

Woods: Cinderella never lost her spirit and she always knew deep down inside that there was always a chance, there was always something wonderful was going to happen. That's what kept her spirits up. That's what young women loved about her so much. In the face of all that tragedy, she was a happy, spirited girl.

   
How does Cinderella compare to the other animated heroines that have been created by the Disney studio?

Woods: I think some of the other Disney princesses were really lucky. I think that the reason young women seem to like Cinderella so much is her spirit. She never lost her spirit. She was born into royalty and she was wealthy as a child, but she lost all of that. I think she was just a very spirited person. I don't like to compare to any of the others because I loved playing her so much and I loved her so much, I'd rather not make comparisons.

Hahn: We looked at your character for Beauty and the Beast and some of the later movies. Cinderella is a really interesting character that goes through a lot of change in the movie and her ability to carry the story and to sing and to perform and all that stuff is really the essence of what most of our audience recalls as a Disney animated fairy tale and it's a tough act to follow.

Are there elements of Cinderella that Hahn may have consciously or not reworked in the films he has produced?

Hahn: Unconsciously, lots of Disney films are about transformation and about characters that are either physically or emotionally transformed. One that comes to mind is in the garden when Cinderella runs out and is weeping and all is lost, and the Fairy Godmother appears and transforms her into that beautiful ball gown. That was one of Walt Disney's favorite animated scenes of all time. Those kinds of moments certainly show up later in the movies like Beauty and the Beast and some of the fairy tales we've done. The other thing, that classic romantic prince and princess dancing in the ballroom, we literally stole that for Beauty and the Beast. It's such an iconic thing, and it's something that's might be difficult to do even in a live action movie. In animation, you can stylize it and it was done so beautifully in Cinderella that we wanted to have that same emotion and that same kind of romance to BATB and so we really borrowed heavily from those emotions from Cinderella and Snow White and Disney fairy tales.

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How does Cinderella influence other Disney films and other Disney princesses?

Hahn: It's certainly a movie we all grew up with and looked at a lot. It's funny - we're working on a movie right now called Rapunzel - and Glen Keane, one of our top animators who animated the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, and Ariel in The Little Mermaid - there's only been six movies that have been Disney fairy tales with the character in the title - Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and so on - we obviously go back and look at those and look at how those characters tell those stories. They're very precious stories so we don't want to mess them up too much and yet the key characters and influences that a movie like Cinderella has on us is pretty profound. They're not only great stories, which is very important to us, but they're great pieces of art and the technique that those guys used under tremendous financial pressures at the time is still pretty lasting - that's the kind of thing that can be really inspiring to us when we're making movies right now.

Woods: I love the fact that so many young women will come up to me and say "I had a Cinderella wedding" or "Oh I just love Cinderella. I love her spirit and I loved the movie so very much." Other girls will come up and say "I had my whole bedroom decorated in Cinderella's colors." It just thrills me that the women mostly will come up to me and say to me how much they loved the character and they love Cinderella.

Hahn recalls his introduction to the film: That's the great thing about animation and why I've always wanted to work in animation since I was a kid growing up with these movies. The first time I saw Cinderella was probably in the back seat of my parents' station wagon at a drive-in theater. It does capture your heart and that's the only way to put it. Some movies have a good story, some have interesting characters or music. When you look at a film like Cinderella, it does grab ahold of you and grabs your heart. I have to say later on when we made movies like Beauty and the Beast, we really stood on the shoulders of the guys and girls who came before us and made movies like Cinderella and Snow White. Telling a fairy tale is not always easy; there are a lot of pitfalls and people have something in their mind about what that fairy tale is. Certainly, Cinderella is the master of them.

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