Visual Styling 1950 Cinderella


“Blair’s painting of the Prince’s castle stresses elegance and fantasy, rather than a buildable structure. [Above] Medium: watercolor, gouache.”

“The basic look and palette of Cinderella were created by Mary Blair, one of the few women to play a major creative role in American animation at the time.



“Walt Disney loved her bold colors and stylized imagery that seemed to distill not only the physical elements but the emotional context of every scene.” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, p. 76.


“During production, however, the designs lost some of her modern simplicity.



“‘One of the things Blair contributed is a sense of lyrical whimsicality,’ says Frozen art director Mike Giaimo. ‘There’s a cursive style in Cinderella that’s perfectly appropriate for the French countryside, channeling sort of French Provincialesque effects.  Mary Blair’s artwork perfectly suited and channeled that aesthetic.'”



“Blair’s painting of the coach arriving at the castle deftly blends immediacy and fantasy under a green-tinted sky.  Medium: watercolor, gouache.” Solomon, p. 82.


“‘The look of Cinderella is a combination of high stylization and very fully realized sapce,’ Giaimo continues.  ‘When they do those long shots of the castle, the’re stylized; we’ve definitely taken off from Mary Blair’s inspirational work.’ ”  Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, p. 77.



“Mary Blair’s painting of Cinderella in the kitchen inspired Reta Scott Worcester’s illustrations for the Golden Book of the animated film.  Medium:  watercolor, gouache.] Solomon, p. 78


“Mary Blair’s early designs for Cinderella’s coach. Her use of pinks and blues (above) emphasize the magic of the transformation.  The delicate shading on the trees suggests speeding through a forest on a windy night [below].  Medium: watercolor, gouache.”  Solomon, p. 79.


“In a discarded fantasy sequence, Cinderella and the Prince would waltz among the stars.  … Medium: Watercolor, gouache.”  Solomon, p. 82.

“A final frame of the grand hall (top) … overscaled to give the audience the same sense of the awe and intimidation that Cinderella feelas as she makes her entrance.” Solomon, p. 90

“Giaimo’s excitement about the movie extends beyond just those scenes. ‘Inside the chateau and the palace, the spatial relationships between characters and environments are astounding,’ he says.  ‘When you enter the ballroom, when she opens the curtains up in the hallway in the chateau, you feel that screen is as wide as any wide-screen moviel  That’s really a tribute to the brilliance of the layout artists, particularly Ken O’Connor.’ ” Solomon, p 84


“…the Tremaine estate suggests a modern interpretation of a French country house.  With typical imagination [Blair, in th epreliminary study] … made the sky pink.” Solomon, p. 77.

“Much of the story unfolds in Cinderella’s house, a country chateau where she lived happily with her father–and much less happily after his death, when the house became the domain of her stepmother.  The condition of the house reveals that the family’s sttus has declined over the year.



“Fraser MacLean, the author of Setting the Scene, notes, ‘The mice she’s befriended appear through cracks in the stonework where the plaster has been allowed to crumble away.  These are all physical indications of the underlying theme of pretense and the surface appearance of things: internal as opposed to surface beauty.’ ” Solomon, p. 84


In these preliminary character sketches of Cinderella, the heroine looks younger.



“… the confined [interior] settings would feel claustrophobic in less talented hands. ” S0lomon, p. 84.

” ‘In the palace, so much of the relationship between human beings and architecture is terribl uncomfortable and unbalance,’ says MacLean.  ‘The pillars look too big.  The staircases look too wide.  The curtains look too tall.  Then we move into a series of designs where everything begins to be comfortably proportioned.  The hujans are no longer overpowered by the scale of the architecture.  It takes on a more friendly quality, partly because of the way the proportion is handled relative to the characters.’ ” Solomon, p. 91.


” ‘ A lot of the shapes in the environment during ‘So This Is Love’ take off from the Mary Blair artwork,’ Giamo adds.  ‘Some shapes are flattened out staircases, bridges, huge urns, and the sort of flowery elements coming out of them are all stylized and flattened out.  Yet you have a depth of space in the distance.’


“…the colors, architecture, floral motifs, and shadows…reflect the influence of Blair’s preliminary arttwork.” Solomon, p. 91

‘When you watch the scenes of her dancing with the Prince, the backgrounds are very romantic,’ Eggleston notes.  ‘But the moment the clock starts chiming, she tears away from the Prince and runs back into the castle, and the same series of shots which initially had lots of curves become higher contrast and and  much more angular.  Even the style of painting is different” same layout, but painted differently.  The Studio artists were using everything in their arsenal to tie it all together.’



Mary Blair Concept


Mary Blair Concept

‘You go into this wonderful palette of blues in the sequence with themfalling in love by moonlight, and it softens everything like a dream world, adds MacLean.   ‘You do’t dream in vivid, focused Technicolor.  You dream in a kind of expressionistic way where there are accents on particular shapes or colors.’ ” Solomon, p. 91

“In contrast to the softened palette Eggleston and MacLean describe, the colors are harsh and more stylized in the heartbreaking moment when the stepsisters rip apart the dress the mice have so carefully altered for Cinderella to wear to the ball.  ‘During a series of cuts as the stepsisters tear at her clothes, the background gets redder and redder,’ says Sohn.  ‘It goes completely cool when the stepmother says, “Girls, girls,” and we’re back in the real time of the fil.  What an attack it was!  They did a similar thing in Bambi when the young bucks duel, but somehow because we’re in these interiors, it’s very effective.’

“The intense colors, simpler backgrounds, rapid motions , staccato cutting combine to make the scene emotionally devastating.  Her hopes finally shattered, Cinerell runs through the house to the garden, where she collapses by a stone bench.


“She weeps brokenheartedly, while her animal friends watch helpless, unable to comfort her.  One of the most emotionally wrenching scenes in any Disney feature, it slowly shifts in tone as the Fairy Godmother materializes.  Solomon, p. 94


godmother godmother2

l_f6d4ad80-6f61-11e1-8058-b3826c400003 Mary Blair Concept


b077e3ce899f75d5c68d8cc47c597790 Mary Blair Concept

“Decades later, Frank Thomas confessed, ‘I still get a lump in my throat when her dress is torn off and she runs out into the garden.  Marc [Davis[ always thought that was throwing her to the hounds, so to speak; to have the stepsisters rip her to shreds was more than was needed.  ‘The fact that she’s not going to get to go to the ball was enough.  You didn’t need to tear up her pretty dress, but the sequence is beautifully structured.  It gets to you.’

“When asked about the sequence, Davis modestly recalled, ‘I worked on the girl.  I didn’t do any of the stempmother, but I did [p. 94] the stepsisters when [Cinderella] appears with the dress the mice and birds have made, and they rip it off.’

“Davis gave credit to others as well.  ‘I worked instory with Ken Anderson on the staging of the Fairy Godmother’s appearance.  I had the girl leaning on the bench, then the godmother fades in and the  girl’s head is on her lap.  I think that little sequence worked very, very well.’

” ‘Cinderella is one of Disney’s darkest movies,’ adds Giaimo. ‘ The sequence where the stepsisters rip the dress off her and she goes funning out into the garden is one of the most exquisitely lit scenes that has ever been done in animation.  Talk about dark-light contrast!  The depths of her despair and the art direction completely support ir with these strong, deep values.  It’s lifted with the Fairy Godmother’s appearance.  I often marvel at that whole sequence; they get the feeling of moonlight just by illuminating the characters.  Stunning.’ Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 94 – 95.


About jackikellum

Jacki Kellum is a Fine Artist, a Designer, and also a writer. For one of her graduate programs, she wrote her thesis on William Blake. Like Blake, much of Kellum's work is about childhood and lost innocence. Also like Blake, Kellum strives to both write and illustrate her work. .
This entry was posted in A Wish Your Heart Makes Charles Solomon, Mary Blair Concept Art, Shadows, Visual Styling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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