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Friday, October 26, 2012

The Reason Why Stepmothers Have a Bad Rep: Lady Tremaine...& Other News

Okay, I misspoke. I had every intention of making separate posts for this, but the stories tied together so nicely that I felt they should be introduced together.

October is not only for Halloween. This year it has also been for Cinderella's anniversary and the many things that have accompanied it. So to finish off my villain spots for the month, I felt that it would be most fitting to include a villain that often gets overlooked - Lady Tremaine.

This is a woman with high standards, a commanding voice and a glare that could stab you in the chest. She is a mother that is overly-biased towards her own daughters and will do anything she can to get ahead in society. While she might not be the first character to come to mind when one thinks of a Disney villain, her mere countenance has rendered her a classic, and continues the social stigma that stepmothers are pure evil. She is the quintessential cruel mother that plays favorites, shouts, glares, and exercises her authority unjustly to simply feel the satisfaction that she can.

Part of the excellence of this character's performance comes from none other than the actress that voiced her. Eleanor Audley was a fantastic stage actress that lent her voice not only to Lady Tremaine but also to Maleficent in later years. In fact, much of Cinderella was actually shot in live-action sequences so that the animators could trace over the footage and speed up the animation process. Disney has generally used live-action footage as reference for animating, but the process on this film had some of the animators rather miffed.

But getting back to Lady Tremaine...why is this woman so hell-bent on making Cinderella's life miserable? You would think that she would honor her late husband by taking care of his surviving daughter, who lived in their French ch√Ęteau long before she and her obnoxious daughters moved in. You would think that she would take pity on this girl, who first lost her mother and then, not too long after, her doting father as well.

As for the once prosperous home, Tremaine and her daughters drove the place into ruin. Upper-class people that lose their wealth often have trouble adjusting to living more simply. Since the fortune was squandered, the help that was once employed was let go, and who better to pick up the slack than Cinderella? It's not like the girl had a choice, really...either she stayed and did whatever she was ordered to do or she would end up on the street.

The film Ever After played with this idea, and I think it connects with Disney's classic telling of Cinderella as well...Lady Tremaine probably harbored resentment towards Cinderella because she was jealous of the love and affection her new husband showed towards his first daughter. This image says everything, I think, and takes place at the same time as the previous image.

While much of the subtly here might fly over children's heads, there is a lot being communicated in this scene, and it is clear that there is a separation between the original family and the new family. Instead of everyone spending time together, the family is already split in two. Perhaps Lady Tremaine and her daughters did not want to go outside and possibly get themselves dirty with the animals. Maybe they were never even asked if they wanted to go outside and Cinderella and her father wanted to spend some special father/daughter time. What we do know is that while most newlyweds are usually joined at the hip and like to spend a lot of time together, they already seem to be very far apart. The use of light and dark in terms of animation also tells us a lot about the moods of the characters. You can almost feel the hatred brewing inside of these girls and their mother.

One other thing we have to remember is that Lady Tremaine came with her own two daughters into the new family. She was probably also a widow, and Cinderella's father probably felt a connection with her in that way - if nothing else, he was seemingly doing something kind for her and her daughters by ensuring that they had a home and future. The marriage would be very beneficial to Tremaine - did she attempt to seduce him into marrying her, or was it a mutual desire? None of us can know for sure, but we do know that the woman is all about brown-nosing in order to elevate her station.

Once Cinderella's father died, Tremaine's true colors were revealed. Obviously a mother wants her daughters to feel pampered and spoiled, and since all three of them harbored resentment towards this girl while the father was alive, Tremaine knows that she can let her daughters "rip and tear" at Cinderella now, completely free from having to worry about getting into trouble over it. The whole thing probably turned into a game for these women.

Tremaine could also be a bit bi-polar with a superiority complex. I'm confident in at least the latter.

I mean, come on...she named her cat Lucifer? Lucifer?! The name of the devil? How evil can this woman be? What's even more disturbing is that her new husband should have known about this, as he is present in the beginning of the film.

Anyhow, if nothing else, Lady Tremaine reminds us of how great our real mothers are (or gives us some tell-tale signs that we are living with a nasty tyrant). And if any of you are or become stepmothers yourself, try to remember to not play favorites and actually do some house cleaning and cooking yourself. Seriously, don't be a jerk.

There's not a whole lot to shop for in terms of this character. The Disney Store did make a limited edition doll that was released with the limited edition Cinderella doll, but she is already sold out. You might be able to find her on ebay. She looks pretty good.

Otherwise you could get her in the Cinderella doll gift set.

The WDCC has a couple of Lady Tremaine figures, including:

But yeah, that's kinda it.

So, what's the other Cinderella story?

Apparently the people running the Disney Parks campaigns needed a new "thing." And this new thing will have new things constantly coming and going, like this giant ice sculpture in Times Square.

The oh-so-clever name that they have given this promotion? "Limited Time Magic."

Yeah, I was being sarcastic. Okay, I understand why they picked that name; it signifies to the audience that all of these really awesome things that are coming only last for so long before they are gone and a new special offering comes in. But I'm going to be honest here - I never want to think of magic as a limited time thing, especially when it comes to Disney. The undertones of that phrase are actually quite disconcerting for long-time fans of the parks.

They announced this promotion this month, along with all of the other big Cinderella-related things. Why couldn't they have used a name relating to the film as well? "When the clock strikes twelve." "Back into a pumpkin." I'm not a promotion name generator, but I firmly believe there is gold in there somewhere to get the right message across. This name that they have chosen sounds awkward at best.

But ignoring all of that, the special offerings sound quite promising. One special thing they talk about in the article is about Friday the 13th, which will occur in September 2013. Since it is a special date that will take place during the Halloween celebrations, Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios are staying open until the 13th hour (meaning 1 a.m.). The Disney Villains are to host a dance party with other tricks and treats occurring that night. It sounds like a lot of fun, though I imagine that crowding will be a nightmare.

Anyhow, that does it for my October Disney villains posts. Maybe I will do more next year! There is still much more to discuss, but as Jack Sparrow would say, I must "wait for the opportune moment." 

In the meantime, tell me - did you enjoy the villains series? What do you think of this new promotion?

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