Cinderella is outfitted for the ball, from the cover of her comic book adaptation. Artist: Dan Gormley.


Original Medium: Prose fiction
Published in: France
First appeared: 1697
Creator: Charles Perrault
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Like Snow White and Three Little Pigs, the story and characters of Walt Disney's 1950 feature, Cinderella, was taken from folk tales that are probably …

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… very old. Unlike them, the version Disney used can be positively traced to a single, specific source — Charles Perrault's book, Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé, avec des Moralités: Contes de ma Mère l'Oye (Stories or Tales of Times Past, with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose), which was published in Paris, in 1697.

One factor pointing to Perrault is the name. Other written versions have different names for the protagonist, but Perrault called her Cinderella. Even more telling is her footwear — only Perrault specified anything as fragile, stiff and no-doubt intensely uncomfortable as a glass slipper as the clue by which the prince tracked her down. It's widely believed that was a mistake on either the translator's part or Perrault's, and the slippers were supposed to be fur — but no, the word Perrault used was "verre", correctly translated as "glass"; and it's unlikely he meant "vair", as that word for "fur" was no longer in common use. Disney saddled the poor girl with glass, so Perrault's version is the one Disney used.

Disney's Cinderella marked a return to animated feature production, following a hiatus of more than seven years. After Bambi (1942), all Disney's feature-length releases had been compilations of short segments, such as Saludos Amigos and Melody Time. These were easier and cost less to make than features in which a single story had to sustain the audience's interest the entire time, but seemed more like collections of Silly Symphonies than "real" movies. Cinderella, released February 15, 1950, broke the string, and since then the vast majority of Disney features have been true features.

Unlike Perrault's version, where the only named character was Cinderella herself, most of the Disney characters had names. The wicked stepmother was Lady Tremaine, and she was played by Eleanor Audley (who also did the villain in Sleeping Beauty). The stepsisters were Anastasia and Drizilla, played by Lucille Bliss (Crusader Rabbit) and Rhoda Williams (mostly a face actress), respectively. The Fairy Godmother didn't have another name, and was played by Verna Felton (elephant in Dumbo). Prince Charming was more an accessory to the "happily ever after" part than an actual character, but to the extent he spoke, he was voiced by William Phipps (another with few other voice roles). Cinderella herself was Ilene Woods, who did very little other acting work of any kind. The story was narrated by Betty Lou Gerson (Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians).

Disney also added new characters, mostly animals. Mice and birds helped fashion the fabulous gown Cinderella wore to the ball, and a couple of the mice stood out — Gus and Jaq, both of whom were voiced by James MacDonald (Humphrey Bear). There was also an animal villain, Lady Tremaine's cat Lucifer. His voice was done by June Foray, later famous as the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel, in her first credited role.

The movie was adapted into comics form as a sequence of 16 Sunday half-pages, distributed to newspapers by King Features Syndicate. These were written by Frank Reilly (who did a similar job on the following year's Alice in Wonderland) and drawn by Manuel Gonzales (Scamp) and Dick Moores (Gasoline Alley). Dell Comics did an adaptation as part of its Four Color Comics series, which was drawn by Dan Gormley (who also did Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker and others for Dell). Gormley's adaptation was later reprinted by Dell, and still later by Gold Key Comics. Little Golden Books also did a version of Cinderella.

No really promotable characters came from Cinderella, tho Lucifer was seen occasionally, and for years afterward Gus and Jaq were among the vermin infesting Grandma Duck's barn in Walt Disney's Comics & Stories. But the film itself was both a commercial and a critical success, and held its own in the merchandising arena.

Like so many classic Disney features, it spawned a direct-to-video sequel decades later. Cinderella II: Happily Ever After came out on Feb. 23, 2002, with Jennifer Hale (Zatanna in an episode of Justice League Unlimited) in the title role. Other voices include Tress MacNeille (Babs Bunny), Rob Paulsen (Yakko Warner) and Frank Welker (Jabberjaw). Another sequel came out in 2007.

These may turn out to be as ephemeral as most sequels. But the original still draws in a huge audience whenever it's re-released to theatres or on video.


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