Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wicked Stepmother Production Cel - Lady Tremaine from "Cinderella," 1950

Original hand inked and hand painted production cel of Lady Tremaine set on a lithographic copy of the matching key production background from "Cinderella," 1950

To purchase this cel or to visit the Art Gallery, CLICK HERE

"Often, patrons would be horrified or dismayed by the behavior of a villain, but more people actually hated the Stepmother more than any other villain we ever created." - Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas from "The Disney Villain," 1993

When I first saw Cinderella, I was one those kids that hated the Stepmother and was very frightened of what she might be capable of doing to poor Cinderella.  The Stepmother (or Lady Tremaine) was a tour de force for the Disney animation team and her motivation was simple.  All of her actions were the result of jealously for Cinderella's beauty and a desire to climb a social ladder by marrying off one her daughters to Prince Charming.  Lady Tremaine did not harm Cinderella physically but rather punish and abuse her psychologically, with an ultimate goal of gaining even more power and status.

Eleanor Audley (TV and film actress as well as familiar radio and animation voice talent) was filmed while she was dressed and speaking as the Stepmother; and as she performed scenes outlined in the film.  Those film reels were used by animator Frank Thomas to convey even more realism to the character.  Although the framed images were not directly copied by the animator, they were used as reference for lifelike movements.  Eleanor Audley also voiced the Stepmother and her articulation conveyed the fire and raw power of the character.  She could be sharp and curt in telling Cinderella what chores to do while lying in bed and slowly stirring her cup of tea, or her voice could be calm are cruel while watching as her daughters viciously destroyed Cinderella's dress.   As Cinderella stands there in the foyer in tattered rags, Lady Tremaine simply says, "good night" while she and her two daughters close the front door to leave for the ball.

Frank Thomas did a phenomenal job of controlling the Stepmother's actions to make sure that they were were not wild and out of control; but rather calculated, cold, and precise.  The story of Cinderella presented a situation where a villain lived and interacted with her victim day after day under the same roof.  The actions of the Stepmother seemed even more cruel because not only were both she and Cinderella animated in a very realistic fashion, but because of the close proximity the cruelness of the villain could be seen as even more intense by the reactions on Cinderella's face.  If all this were not enough, the Stepmother's arsenal of evil was compounded by her two ill mannered daughters Anastasia and Drizella; as well as Lucifer the cat, who delighted in trying to kill Cinderella's mouse friends. (More about these three in later posts.)

Framed original production cel of Lady Tremaine from "Cinderella," 1950

To view this cel in the film, click on the short video below:

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