Cinderella: Part 1 (1950)

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A lot has happened since Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to worldwide acclaim. World War II has come and gone, along with a string of several flops at the box office. Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Bambi (1942), beloved though they may be today, all failed to generate a profit when they first opened in theaters. Heavily in debt, Disney agreed to produce another animated feature film, this time using the classic fairy tale Cendrillon by Charles Perrault as the inspiration. Begun in 1948 and released in 1950, Cinderella was hailed as the greatest animated film since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and is widely considered to be one of the greatest animated films ever made.

The future princess was voiced by singer Ilene Woods. She had become friends with songwriters Mack David and Jerry Livingston, and one day they called her over to record demo tracks for three songs: “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” “A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes,” and “So This Is Love.” When Disney heard the recordings, he hired Woods immediately to voice Cinderella, choosing her over 300 other girls who had auditioned.

Cinderella in the prologue of the movie

Like Snow White before her, Cinderella (as the story proper opens) is living life under the whim of her brutal stepmother Lady Tremaine and her mean stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella. They also have a devious black cat named Lucifer, who is always trying to catch the mice and birds that are Cinderella’s friends and helpers. While her stepfamily enjoys a luxurious life, Cinderella is forced to do all the chores in her own home. It’s during this time that she rescues a new mouse from Lucifer and names him Gus.

Left to right: Lady Tremanie, Drizella, Anastasia
Cinderella sings to Gus and the others about how important dreams are, that “dreams are wishes your heart makes.” This is how Cinderella goes through life. You can see the opening of the song in the music below. Compare the opening of this song to any song that Snow White sings and you’ll see the difference. Whereas Snow White was a high soprano (Adriana Caselotti was an opera singer later in life), Cinderella’s vocal range is closer to that of a contralto (lower than a soprano, but still with a fairly wide range of notes). Keep in mind that over a decade has passed since Snow White was released, and musical styles have changed greatly since then.
Later in the day, Anastasia and Drizella are taking music lessons from their mother and we are “treated” to the sound of Drizella’s…..talents….followed in contrast by Cinderella’s take on the same melody. This song is special because in it, Walt Disney pioneered the use of double tracked vocals (years before the Beatles did the same thing). A double tracked vocal is when you record an artist singing a song, then record it again and have the artist sing in harmony with the first recording. Ilene Woods did this at least four times, to create a four part harmony with her own voice, and the results are spectacular.

Cinderella “Sing Sweet Nightingale”

Of course the message Cinderella gets is the one announcing a royal ball where “every eligible maiden is to attend” so that the Prince may select a bride. This does include Cinderella and Lady Tremaine knows that perfectly well. However, as she herself says “IF Cinderella can finish all the chores, get her sisters ready AND have a suitable dress to wear, THEN she may indeed come with them.” The key word in that entire sentence, is IF (as a kid it took me years to understand that Lady Tremaine never intended for Cinderella to come with them at all).

The mice, hearing the stepsisters and Lady Tremaine keeping Cinderella busy by running all over the house, are furious and decide to work on the dress so that she can go to the ball in spite of her stepfamily. This leads to “The Work Song.” I personally love this song, especially the opening part where Jaq is imitating the nagging voices of the family.

Cinderella “The Work Song”

Of course, to finish the dress, the mice may have…borrowed…a few things that Anastasia and Drizella threw away (particularly a necklace and a sash (the ribbon that ties around the waist)). What will her stepsisters think of this? You’ll have to read part 2 to find out!

*All music/images are the property of Walt Disney Studios

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See also:

Cinderella: Part 2 (1950)

Animated Film Reviews

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2 thoughts on “Cinderella: Part 1 (1950)

  1. Pingback: Patrick Doyle Talks Cinderella (2015) | Film Music Central

  2. Pingback: Cinderella: Part 2 (1950) | Film Music Central

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