14 September 2014

Disney's illogical Cinderella

Cinderella is famous fairy tale, based upon the French Cendrillon ou la petite pantoufle de verre (Cinderella or the little glass slipper) by Charles Perrault (1697). Most agree that the spelling should have been vair (a party-coloured fur, properly white and blue) instead of verre (glass), because glass slippers make no sense while furry ones do. Besides, in Perrault's version, the glass aspect plays no role at all, which would definitely be the case if glass had been intended, because glass slippers in themselves would be an overwhelming marvel. In Cendrillon's Italian predecessor La gatta cenerentola (the ash pussycat), from 1634, the nature of the slippers is not even specified, except that there was nothing more beautiful than the pianella lost.

In 1950, Walt Disney turned the story into one of his animation masterpieces. The slippers are glass all right, but there is something more astonishing about them. At midnight, when the fairy stuff (coach, valets etc.) returns to normal (pumpkin, mice etc.), the glass slippers somehow survive, not returning to their previous housemaid version. Yet, they were fairy-made and intended to be short-lived. Here is the very moment when Cinderella's rags and ordinary red slippers are magically transformed:

  This is a logical inconsistency, which may fool many but not all of the intended audience. (While I had never noticed, my granddaughter Suzie spotted it immediately.) Now a fairy tale is above mundane logic, but it should not contradict itself. But does it really? In Perrault's version, the fairy turns a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman, lizards into valets, and Cinderella's rags into costly garments. This done, she hands her a pair of beautiful 'glass' slippers, adding that, at midnight, the coach, horses and valets would return to normal, and that her old rags would also assume their original form. Perrault's fairy is very careful not to include the slippers in the bargain; they are most beautiful, yes, but not magical, which enables them to play their important role in the sequel. Disney's fairy, on the other hand, while represented as being of a sloppy forgetful kind, should not be allowed to get away with internal contradictions. Speaking of which. The animation film contains a frame where the palace clock has two XII's, one replacing XI.

In later views, the clock is normal, and there is no reason, not even within the magical context, for the discontinuity. Walt?