Many of Walt Disney Pictures’ animated fairy tales have come to be seen as definitive versions of the story they tell simply because they’ve been enjoyed by generation after generation. Yet it isn’t only longevity that gives them such classic status. As Cinderella reveals, Disney and his closest team of animators – dubbed by him the Nine Old Men – somehow knew what elements of the tales would resonate with our collective imagination. It’s as if the images they created were plucked right from our heads. That’s why scenes we saw at a young age live on as natural memories, be it the scurrying team of birds and mice as they weave Cinderella’s gown for the ball or that horrible, deflating moment when it appears, momentarily,
that one of the evil stepsisters has been able to make the glass slipper fit. As usual with Disney, it is the emphasis on character that makes the story work. Those stepsisters are so cluelessly obnoxious you almost feel sorry for them, while their conniving mother – given a pre-Cruella De Vil
purr by Eleanor Audley – could hold her own against any of Disney’s famed wicked witches. In comparison, the prim and perfect Cinderella comes across a bit bland – perhaps that’s why many of her scenes give way to the antics of those – birds and mice. Far more entertaining is Cinderella’sdelightfully plump fairy godmother, whose transformation of our heroine’s tiny friends into horses and servants is another of the picture’s indelible images. She sprinkles the screen with a dash of stardust that lasts long after the movie ends.