Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cinderella: Behind the Fairy Tale

Nobody loves fairy tales and Disney movies more than me! Yeah that's right I have claimed that right to love them more than anyone. But aside from that blatant truth, I have always found it incredibly interesting to read the original fairy tales that the Disney movies were based from. Disney is truly magical, for many reasons such as a creative narrative, memorable songs and characters and spectacular animation. But there is also lessons to be learnt from Disney movies; some may debate that, I call those people with no heart. The original fairy tales are often quite dark and have harsh life lessons, and I think that is very clever seeing something so harsh come out of something quite beautiful. Disney is about making the viewer happy and making them feel warm and loved, but also learning a strong message. The message may not be as intense or even the same as the original, but Disney can teach children a lot about life. Both texts teach the viewer and reader about life, but in the dark and in the light. To all the 'half glass empty' people, believe it or not life lessons can be conveyed positively, not all life lessons come from some sort of suffering either emotionally or physically. How do each of the texts stand up toe to toe, and how did Disney stray from the original source material? And more importantly why? Surely we will be able to tell the difference between Disney's 'Cinderella' and the Brothers Grimm version and which version depicts the stronger message. The 'Cinderella' fairy tale has been around for centuries and it is apparently unknown where the original story comes from, it just a story that has been passed down from generation to generation along with hundreds of different retelling's of the story throughout hundreds of cultures. Rumour has it that Disney's 'Cinderella' was an inspiration of the Brothers Grimm version as well as the Charles Perrault version. You can definitely see the influence of both versions in the animated feature. 

I have met a lot of people who dislike Disney for the fact it 'waters' down the original story, which is true it does but I can think of plenty of reasons why it does. Firstly I am not even sure if the Disney haters have even read the original fairy tale counterparts, but all I can say is this, go try reading some of them to a group of five year olds and see the reaction you will get. Every child is different, without a doubt, but I grew up with Disney, so did my mother, as I am sure many other people did too, and I can tell you from my mother's experience and my own we have a strong love for Disney. And as much as I do love original fairy tales, I just think Disney does it better. And I believe a lot of people would agree with me on that. I know their could be some cynics who believe that Disney doesn't tell the truth and that people should be more interested in reading than watching a movie. And that is all well and good but I can guarantee that more people would rather watch a Disney movie because even though at times they can be quite dark, they all incorporate magic into the narrative, opposed to the classic fairy tales. Disney obviously had to change a lot of the original source material because it wasn't appropriate for an animated feature for that time, and also children may just not understand it. Sure children's brains are like sponges and they suck up any new information given to them, but whether they truly understand what is given to them, that is a different story. I believe Disney created the version they did because they wanted it to appeal to the masses, to make children and adults happy and being able to share something truly loveable together. Disney movies in general are great because they are a brief distraction of your life. People may say that is a bad thing, but if it is then why are movies even made? 

'Cinderella' is one of the classic Disney movies that really pushes out the magic with such ease among it's audience even 63 years after it's initial cinematic release. Not only does that prove it is a timeless film, but each generation have adapted to that kind of magic and grown up loving it and passing it on to their own children. Cinderella is a fairly colourful film, and not very dark unlike some of the animated Disney films, but at the same time it does get a little upsetting in some parts. There are clear differences between book and film. While Cinderella is kind in the film and the Perrault version, in the Brothers Grimm adaptation she is kind but doesn't have much of a 'voice', so I found it harder to feel for her character because she seemed quite faceless. The fact she is so sweet and kind to anyone in the film is a great thing for young children to see because kids take influence on what they watch and I guess it makes them root for her. In the film there isn't much discussion about Cinderella's dead mother and father, it's just a quickly told story which leads you up to where she currently is now. Whereas the book discusses how Cinderella is constantly at her mothers grave, and how her dad really doesn't take much notice of what his wife and step-daughters are putting his own flesh and blood through. He just turned the other cheek, and I guessed played dumb and ignorant. 



Cinderella's step-sisters are actually quite vicious in the Disney version, especially the scene where they rip apart Cinderella's dress while she is still wearing it. That moment actually taught me a lot about women, and how they sometimes will do ANYTHING if they are jealous of you or what you have. The step-sisters in the Brother's Grimm tale are mean, but again nothing is really said of how mean they can get besides them putting her down by telling her she can't go to the ball because she can't dance. In the Brothers Grimm adaptation, both sisters try on the gold and silver slipper and both of their feet are too big so one cuts off her toe to fit into it and the other cuts off part of her heel, all under the influence of their mother. The prince falls for both of their gruesome efforts claiming to be his mysterious woman, which proves he is a little bit thick. Although I guess there is a point to them cutting off parts of their feet; proving they would do ANYTHING to be a princess and live in a big castle and be able to wear all the pretty dresses and jewels they like. By the end of the story they are invited to Cinderella's wedding and their eyes are pecked out by birds. The lesson there is them being blinded to be malicious to Cinderella to get further than her and to get what they want. If being blinded by expensive things is what they wanted then let them be blinded. I think that is quite a strong message, but I don't think that would go down so well in the animated film, so in the end they get nothing. Obviously Disney didn't want to concentrate on the step sisters after Cinderella's foot fits into the glass slipper but in a way it does have a message; If you are vicious, mean, jealous you will get nothing. 

Now here is what you don't see in the film unlike the book. Cinderella meets the prince 3 times before she tries on the slipper she lost at the ball. It was a 3 day event and each time she ran off, but on the third night as she was running down the staircase her shoe got stuck on the tar that had been laid out on the steps...Yes that's right the prince was so crafty he put tar on there in an attempt to either stop her or find out who the shoe belonged to. There was no fairy godmother in fact it was a bird in a tree that was growing next to her mothers grave which would pass down anything she asked for. The infamous glass slipper from the film adaptation wasn't glass in the Grimm Fairy tale; it was made with silk and silver. There is also no talk of the animals like the mice, cat, and dog but obviously that is a Disney thing which is used in a lot of their films. 


As far as emotion goes the Disney film does incorporate a lot more heart and a bigger wave of emotions which flow within the natural progression of the storytelling. And as much as I love the Brothers Grimm version, it does come across as very cold at times but it does have it's intense moments towards the end. I also find the emotion is sucked out of it because I don't really feel anything for any of the characters including Cinderella, I was just more interested in the lesson bestowed upon the step-sisters at the end of the story. This is only my opinion though, but it's how I interpreted it. Some people may prefer the book version to the film, because they feel Disney took away a lot of it's depth, which I don't believe it did. I believe that both versions are different, and they both have their merit, but I find Disney's Cinderella is the clear winner in terms of getting the point across through terrific storytelling. 'Cinderella' is an amazing interpretation of the classic fairy tale, and it didn't destroy any legacy in the literature world by it's so called 'watering' down of the themes if anything it made people want to read fairy tales. Even though 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' was released in 1937, I do believe that 'Cinderella' was the first Disney fairy tale, because of the elements, magic and strong emotion it possessed. While 'Snow White' did posses those things, 'Cinderella' really did take it to a whole new level, and she really gave young girls a voice and let them know that good things do come to those who wait, and that patience really is a virtue. 



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