Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A COACH FOR CINDERELLA (1936)

I have almost no regard for advertising whatsoever, which is really funny since I ended up in the marketing world in the past year. To me, the world is one in which advertising is only there to be skipped -- TiVo, now that I have a variant of it in my cable DVR, is a boon to this drive to avoid such influence. Though perhaps influence isn't the right word; I am not actually avoiding the commercials due to fear of being influenced by them -- I just find them boring, and in most cases, badly done beyond belief. This isn't to say that if I happen to see a good or great commercial that I won't acknowledge it. I do, it's just very rare that I run across such a thing. And the ones that people go bonkers over are rarely the ones that I appreciate. Some would say it doesn't matter whether I try to avoid them or not. The message still gets through, whether through use of subliminal subversiveness or the wear-down effect of repetitive exposure -- you might think that you aren't being affected, but you are, these people say. Which may or may not be true; all I know is that I need a Budweiser.

Which is B.S., because I don't drink beer, and if I did, it wouldn't be a can of piss-lite like "The Jester of Beers". Life is too good to waste on subpar beverages. I can honestly say that rarely does a commercial (outside of movie trailers, but that is a whole different animal... and a topic for another post) inspire me to purchase the product it is pushing. Most of my grocery purchasing is done by convenience (not in "convenience" stores, but in the store most adjacent to wherever I might be located) as I am often stuck with only a couple of choices, if there even are a couple of choices, in any item that I require, due to the fact that I do not have the same mobility as other people who can whisk from store to store in a search for the item that they just have to own. And car advertisers, you can show me four million car ads in a row, and I won't be any closer to purchasing one of your planetary-death wagons. You see, I do not drive -- never have, never will -- and while I have seen the occasional car commercial that I thought was effective, stylistically interesting and nicely accomplished, the truth of the matter is that it never had one chance in infinity to convince me to go and waste my time making a "bargain" with some parking lot sleazoid.

So, what good is a cartoon like A Coach for Cinderella, a Chevrolet ad posing as a fairy tale cartoon, or vice versa, since its effectiveness as an ad is truly questionable. Nine minutes long, longer than most decent cartoons, A Coach for Cinderella was produced by the Jam Handy Organization in 1936 to unload a bunch of crappy guzzlers on the American public, and all in the guise of telling the famous tale of Cinderella, only without actually telling it... sort of... You see, this cartoon ends with Cinderella leaving for the ball (it was picked up a year later in A Ride For Cinderella -- whether this refers to her honeymoon night and whether the prince had a mustache will have to be determined once I actually watch it). And there is no fairy godmother, but it features instead a gang of devoted gnomes who want to do right by Cinderella, who has always treated them fairly and helped them out. We never see her do any of this -- in fact -- we barely get to meet Cindy at all as a person -- we just get it straight from the gnome's mouth.

The film itself starts off as something of a horror picture, as both we and the astonished lead gnome spy in on the ugly stepsisters as they prepare for the Prince's ball. By this, I mean "a dance that evening". Their climb to beauty consists of steps on a winding staircase broken and jagged, and the less detailed I make their unsuccessful ministrations, the better. As they get ready in a frenzy and trip about and over Cinderella, they go all James Brown on her and beat the poor girl until she lies in a crying heap on the floor. (Did I mention it is a family picture? This beating is offscreen, of course, but it's savagery is heard clearly.) As the girl lays there, the gnome takes advantage of Cinderella's unconsciousness -- no, not that way -- and measures her shapely body and comely limbs, marking all of her details down in a notebook which he takes back, aboard a horse-headed grasshopper, to his village which, years before the Smurfs, is constructed out of mushroom houses. (A common home among the little folk, it seems.) He reminds his fellow gnomes of Cinderella's past kindliness to their race, and the gnomes are almost completely united in their agreement.

Soon, in lieu of a decent fairy godmother, the gnomes set about to building a coach for Cinderella (hence the title) and making her a ballgown for the dance. A descent of woodpeckers carve out a modeling dummy from a dead tree; meanwhile, a pair of gossiping spiders discuss the "hussy" down the way while they spin material for the dress from their silken webbing. One gnome starts to build the frame for the coach from twigs, while a bird helps him screw things together with his beak. As several gnomes carry a pumpkin along for the chassis, a quartet of worms visit a barber whose shop is carved out of an apple. Each one is shaved of its silky fur, and then the worms roll into circles, offering themselves up to act as wheels on which to carry the coach along. A gnome attempts to place firecrackers underneath a turtle, but the reptile is built too low to the ground. The gnome jacks up the turtle's tail, which raises the creature a tad, and when the firecrackers go off, the shell is blown off the turtle's back. It is then placed atop the pumpkin to form a hardtop. Under the coach's hood, six mice perform the pumping action for each of the cylinders in the engine. Even the mosquitoes drop their bloodthirsty routine to use their sucking proboscii for the common good. They drain the color from some black orchids like cars at a gas station (inside the drained bulb sits a small gaspump), and when they reach the car, small Scottish-garbed gnomes tuck each of the vampiric bugs under their arms, squeeze them like bagpipes, and paint the coach from top to bottom with the black liquid.

This all seems fun and cute until the point that the deus ex machina appears. Incongruous to everything classically realized, woodsy and backward that has preceded it, a huge device called the "Modernizer" is apparently in the possession of the gnomes, and they slowly roll their cutesy coach up a ramp into the machine. Once it is triggered, though, one of the gnomes yells "Help! Lemme out!", and when he emerges, he is dressed in a striped coat and turned-up hat, playing with a paddleball, and asks in the current slang, "How'm I doin', boys?" (In response to his cheekiness, he is spanked by a flame-hand emitting from the machine, which flicks him in the rear, and then closes the door.) When it is finished with its "modernizing", the resulting update rolls out behind a huge, grand curtain, but we do not see the finished product as of yet. For this, we have to wait for the now dressed-for-the-ball Cinderella to awaken, and when she does, she is presented with whatever Chevrolet vehicle was au courant at the time. I do not care what it is, nor will I, and with her astonished look of joy, and then with a choral flourish as the car is presented in full, the picture ends.

I don't know how effectively this played in 1936, but I would imagine that some people reacted to it the same way that people react to commercials at theatres nowadays. Especially after enduring almost nine minutes of saccharine cartoon goodness, to reach the end to only have a sparkly car shoved down your gullet is hardly a payoff at all. Plus, patrons would have to wait a year for the conclusion of the story, though they are not told that in the cartoon. It just ends, and so does my patience with this cartoon. Animation-wise, the mostly anonymous creators of the film have produced something that is no worse than the most average of mid-30's Symphonies/Fables/Color Classic-type flicks. There are a handful of noteworthy sequences, and some of the backgrounds are charmingly rendered, but it no more than average. Which is what advertisers often seem to settle for anyway; hoping to hit that middle ground to appeal to all factions, they probably succeeded admirably in their day. At least, enough to warrant a few more of these films from Jam Handy's group.

All in all, it does nothing for me in the car department. It does, however, inspire me to go measure Jen's various body parts while she is asleep. Where is my tape measure?

A Coach For Cinderella (A Jam Handy Production, 1936)
Cel Bloc Rating: 5

1 comment:

Tibialmusician said...

Wow, I remember having this movie when I was a kid. I think it was the first cinderella story I ever heard. No wonder the disney one was confusing to me.