The Return to Fairy Tales
A That's Not Canon Productions Podcast
Hi there and welcome back to Oof! Right in the Childhood. A podcast where I tell you the history behind the Disney animated feature films and then provide modern social commentary on the film itself. Today, we celebrate Disney’s return to fairy tales by talking about 1950’s Cinderella.
The story of Cinderella harkens back to the sixth century BCE in an ancient Greek tale Rhodopis in which a slave girl’s sandal is carried to a king by an eagle, and he, taken by its beauty, sought the woman to whom it belonged and married her.
There is also a version of the story from 9th century China, but the story entered modern consciousness in the 17th century when it was written down by French author Charles Perrault. It wasn’t collected by the Grimm Brothers until the early 1800's.
And it is the Perrault version that Disney used as the architecture for this movie. The thing is when you read the Perrault story, which I’ve linked in the show notes, it tracks pretty well with the cartoon. It isn’t until the Grimm Brothers’ retelling that we get the more gruesome portions of the tale where the stepsisters cut off portions of their feet to fit into the slipper.
And the history of Walt Disney and Cinderella goes back a lot further than you’d think. Walt first animated a version of Cinderella in 1922 when he was working for the Laugh-O-Gram studio in Kansas City Missouri. He wasn’t happy with it, and when he started the Disney Brothers Cartoon studio, which eventually became Walt Disney Productions, he planned to make one of the studio’s Silly Symphony shorts a better version.
But the length of a short proved to not provide enough time to tell the full story of Cinderella, so as early as 1938, the studio planned to make the Cinderella movie. The idea went through 3 different drafts, each a little different than the first. By 1943, the company had determined to allow Cinderella to be more outspoken than Snow White, which, let’s be honest, wasn’t that hard.
With the studio’s debts under $3 million, Walt negotiated with the bank to begin production of full length films as they would earn the studio more money than the package films of the 1940s. The bank tentatively agreed, but chose which films would begin production. They chose Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. Cinderella would, obviously, be greenlit to be released first.
Though its original budget was a million dollars, Cinderella’s final budget was $2.9 million or $31.2 million when adjusted for inflation. In its first theatre release, the studio brought in $4.2 million or $44.6 million today. That made it the fourth highest grossing movie of 1950.
This was not only enough to pay off their debts, but to secure their own distribution company instead of using RKO, and start building Disneyland! Have you ever wondered why Cinderella’s castle is the centre of all things Disney when Snow White started it all? Well Cinderella is the reason that the Disney company exists as it does today.
And as an aside, according to boxofficemojo.com, when adjusted for inflation, Cinderella has earned over $95.1 million in revenue. And that doesn’t count the merch!
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The credits have a song that say “Cinderella, you’re as lovely as your name,” and point of fact, Cinderella is what her stepsisters called her out of spite because she was always covered in soot. Actually, according to the original, one stepsister called her “Cinder wench” and the other, kinder, sister called her Cinderella. We actually don’t know her real name. Score one for Disney characters not having a real name.
Unlike Snow White, Cinderella tells the story of "best dad ever" ruined by "worst stepmother ever," a staple in all fairy tales. And this is just the saddest. I always wonder if Anastasia and Drizella are supposed to be twins or if one is older or what? They’re just the daughter’s age, after all.
I just realized that Cinderella lives in Rapunzel's tower. Birds in shoes and vests are harassing her to wake up.
There's an amazing, wonderful, great song right off the bat.
Why do the birds have shoes? How do they stay on?
"Oh that clock!" — Me every morning. Cinderella makes a statement that the clock is always bossing her around. I never noticed that foreshadowing before.
Now mice are helping her get ready too. These mice have dresses, pantaloons, and bows on their tails, just in case you couldn’t tell they were female mice. The face-punching gender norms in Disney movies deserve a podcast all their own.
Two male mice, we know that, because no skirts, run in screaming "Visit-or!"
The head mouse, Jacques, keeps saying, "Zuk Zuk!" is that what we yell if we get put in Facebook jail?
How is Octavius shortened to Gus?
They named a cat Lucifer. How can you expect that cat to be any kind of nice? I named my cats Gandalf and Éowyn. I expect magic and the striking down of the Witch King.
She talks to that cat the way everyone talks to a cat. "I'm sorry, Your Highness, did you not want food?"
I can't figure out if Bruno's not supposed to be inside, and she's telling him not to dream of chasing Lucifer because he makes noise, or if he can only be inside if he doesn't hate the cat.
Lucifer is the ultimate younger sibling to Bruno. The thing is, if the stepmother doesn’t want the dog, that means, that dog’s been around since Cinderella’s dad died, and judging from the images of her and her stepsisters, that had to have been at least 8 to 10 years ago. Bruno’s basically geriatric.
Jacques says the mice have to draw tails to decide who distracts Lucifer. Oops, he picked himself. I guess expected mice to have nerve endings in their tails.
If Disney didn't have several other positive renditions of cats, Lucifer would be enough to convince me he hated cats.
When I was a kid, I thought Cinderella threw little pieces of cheese for the mice. As an adult, I now see that was supposed to be corn. The idea of the chickens fighting over teeny wedges of cheese is now funny.
Gus with the corn. Oh Gus. Gus is probably my second favourite early Disney character after young Thumper.
Now we shall play the cup game with Gus while the worst humans scream for Cinderella. Did they expect magical transportation of tea? I mean, to be clear, it’s pretty obvious she’s not supposed to bring them their breakfast until they ring, and if they want hot water, they need to give her at least a minute.
Yo, if this mouse knows he can lift the cup and he knows Cinderella is nice, why did he not just be like, "Hey. Cinderelly, can I hop in a pocket?"
These women are the worst humans ever.
"For the 15 seconds it would take to put a mouse under your sister's cup, here are 6 hours of chores to fill your free time." I like that Lucifer got punished, though.
Meanwhile, over at the palace, the King is talking about how much he wants his son to get married. Apparently, he didn’t do his job and arrange a marriage the moment his son was born. That’s on you, Your Majesty.
"I AM PATIENT." — the King.
"I'm lonely in this desolate old palace." Y'know, Kingy, you have a whole passel of subjects who would LOVE to come in here.
"Your Majesty, if the prince should suspect—" wait just a hot second. Do we have a young man who is not wanting to meet a girl? I would like more information, please.
I want you to arrange an extravagant ball for tonight. I expect every single gal to show up. No exceptions.
And now we are at the worst portion of the movie where the sisters sing and play the flute poorly. I've always wondered what that casting call was like. "We'd like you to sing as badly as any person ever has."
Lucifer is cat. He is such cat. I don’t think he realizes he’s gonna have to have another bath.
I don't think I noticed how snarky Cinderella is as a child. "Well, maybe I should interrupt their 'music' lesson."
The invitation does say "every eligible maiden," and it is a royal command. I feel like they could be penalized if they hide an eligible maiden. Just saying.
The stepmother putting all these conditions on whether Cinderella can go to the ball and then stacking the deck against her actually makes her one of the most evil villains of all time. I mean, at least the Evil Queen from Snow White was like, “I’ll just kill her.”
Meanwhile, Cinderella has all these plans for one of her mother’s old dresses, and she’s telling the mice about it.
Gotta say that "Cinderelly" is one of my favourite of the old songs, even though it's so short. It's so fun to sing. It’s one of those songs I find myself humming to all the time.
"Leave the sewing to the women," It's sexist, but she's really saying, "please do not come near my masterpiece." I’ve sewn semi-professionally before, and I get it. Also, stay away from that paper with my fabric scissors.
"I don't see why everyone else has such nice things to wear," maybe because you squandered the family fortune on being twats?
The mice understand the law of abandonment. The stepsisters threw it away. No one owns it now. But Lucifer is not allowing them to take the stuff the stepsisters threw away.
Lucifer gets caught in a sleeve and becomes a snake. Or, as my daughter so aptly put it a “cat-erpillar.”
The thing about the dress making scene is that it’s not that far off of how you’d actually make this dress. But this was also during a time when a lot more people knew how to make one. Still, it gives the air of magic dress! The rodents did a thing!
"Isn't lovely?" Surprise dress is a surprise!
But, even though they didn’t want those things, the sisters proceed to destroy all the mice’s hard work. Worst. Humans. Ever.
When exactly do they think she had the time to make this dress? I mean, she’d have to have a time turner.
Fairy godmother’s like, “If you didn’t have faith, I wouldn’t be here.” I don't get it.
Now we have Bibbidi-bobbidy-boo!
I don’t think I ever realized that Fairy Godmother speaks in heroic couplets. And the scene where she’s setting up the whole carriage shebang and forgetting Cindy needs a dress is great.
Then, Magic Dress? Hold my beer! There’s some disagreement whether the dress was blue or white originally. I can’t find anything definite that says it was white.
The glass slippers thing has always confused me. They make less sense to me than any other footwear designed. Other versions of this story have them as gold and fur slippers, and though heavy, that makes way more sense to me.
My favourite thing about Fairy Godmother is that she's not sending Cinderella off to meet a prince. She just wants her to have a nice night out. What a great godmother.
The guards are like, "Oh, this gal arriving late in a glowing coach, but she looks nice."
There are literal princesses at this ball. And daughters of generals. Seriously, Your Majesty, you couldn’t have figured this out without relying on a random ball.
And the Prince could. Not. Care. Less. Really, there’s got to be a story about Prince Charming not wanting to get married.
"You, Sire, are incurably romantic." This man? Who thinks love is just a girl and a boy smooshed together in the right circumstances? That's a laugh.
I like how the advisor says, "That's a lovely thing in fairy tales, but not in real life." When they do little nods to who they are and what they're doing, it's super fun.
"Notify me when he proposes." They. Just. Met. Oh, and the Advisor gets killed if something goes wrong. A little early in France for the guillotine, but there’s always the axe.
I forgot that she didn't even know he was the prince.
Okay, so we're going to get into the question I have been asking since I was a small child. Why don't the slippers disappear with everything else? Why does the slipper stay on her foot and the steps? It makes no danged sense. It makes less sense than the dumb slippers being made from glass in the first place.
And I want to claim I didn’t research this as much as I did, but it was research. A few YouTubers suggested that the slippers were conjured from nothing and thus had nothing to return to. And in the live action Cinderella from 2015, that’s true. But I would argue that if the slippers came from nothing, they should just disappear and return to nothing. The real answer comes from the Charles Perrault version.
quote, Her godmother then touched her with her wand, and, at the same instant, her clothes turned into cloth of gold and silver, all beset with jewels. This done, she gave her a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the whole world, endquote
In the original version of the fairy tale, the fairy godmother gave her the shoes rather than conjuring them. As in, they existed before the magical transformation. Therefore, because they weren’t created from magic, the magic leaving could not affect them.
There you go, you’re welcome.
If I were the advisor, I’d probably have avoided waking the king, but that’s why I’m not a Royal Advisor. The king lights his cigar with Lumiere.
This dude's a king worthy of Game of Thrones. He literally tries to kill the messenger and won't listen to anything but what he wants to hear. I mean. I'm reminded of another current person in power, actually. Oof! Right in the childhood.
In the middle of his rage, he screams, “You were in league with the Prince all along.”
I’m not going to be happy until I get a Prince Charming back story.
"He said he'd marry her, we'll hold him to it.” How hesitant has this prince been to marry? My goodness.
The fine details back at the house are really well done. You can see paint chipping off of the threshold. It gives the house a more run-down feel.
"One of you two who looks absolutely nothing like that girl can trick the Prince into believing that you are that girl." Sure okay, that sounds like a thing that's going to happen.
Cinderella gets all distracted and starts humming their waltz song. Look, Cindy, all you had to do was play along for like 1 more hour, and you were home free. But you couldn’t just pretend, and now you’re locked in the tower.
I know that the slipper is teensy tiny, but I always wondered why they didn't come up for a plan that more than one person could fit this sucker. I saw a couple of theories that, because it was made of glass, they would have assumed it was custom made, but still. Or maybe that the person it fits isn’t actually available. Like, there was a royal decree that all eligible girls should attend, but unless they know everyone in the kingdom, and, spoiler alert, they don’t, some married gal could’ve danced with the Prince.
And again, the Advisor saw them dancing. These girls look nothing like who the Prince danced with. This whole errand is ridiculous.
Evil Stepmother doesn't notice a mouse in her pocket. That's fun.
"It may be a trifle snug." I almost wish for the version where they cut off their toes.
The herald is beating the glass slipper with a book. Again, glass slippers are such a weird choice.
Come Gus, we must carry a key that is heavier than both of us combined up 44 flights of stairs because they literally locked her in the tower.
LUCIFER! Look, I promise to take all the mice out of here and into the castle if you just give me that key.
To arms, mice! Why are there so many forks and dishes. on the stairs? There’s nowhere to hold them all. Did the birds carry them from the kitchen?
The Air Force is here!
Get Bruno! The calvary?
It fits Drizella, but she'll have a golden Lotus!
Bruno threw that cat out of the window, and I'm pretty sure it survived? Someone please show me the receipts that we didn’t kill the cat. Is that in the sequels I’ve never watched?
Lady Tremaine lies straight to the Archduke. “There’s no one else.” Liar, liar, cane on fire.
Look at her teensy feet! She shall be perfect. Lady Tremaine should be jailed for interfering with a royal decree. Thrice.
'Splain me why he had to try on the other glass slipper that she happened to have in her pocket onto her foot? Also, he was prepared to try that on her left foot, and it broke, and the other one from the pair, also fit on her left foot? How? Maybe glass slippers are ambipedal?
Anyway, they get married, she drops her normal white shoe on the steps, and they lived happily ever after.
And that is Disney's return to fairy tales. I want to know how you remember Cinderella from your childhood. Is Cinderella your favourite Disney princess? Is someone else? Head over to my social media and let me know. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram under oofmychildhood.
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Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you come back each week to discuss Disney through modern eyes. And while you’re at it, if you’re enjoying yourself, please let your friends know about me. I’d also appreciate a rating and review wherever you’re listening to the show. This podcast is written and recorded me. This episode was edited by Anastasia Saff. I release a new episode every Monday through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and many, many other podcatchers.
So, until next time, keep the magic alive.