Hey Cinderella (1969)

“Cinderella lives with her wicked stepmother (as everyone who ever read the fairy tale knows), but what part of the story is never told is how Cinderella’s fairy godmother had help from monsters, a prince pretending to be a gardener, and none other than Kermit the Frog”

Max Vaughn, IMDB

Hey Cinderella is an early Jim Henson production that was filmed in Toronto Canada in the fall of 1968. The film debuted on Canadian Television in early 1969, and was released in the USA a year later. Muppets creator Jim Henson performs as Kermit, joined by Muppet performers Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson. According to the Muppet Wiki Hey Cinderella is apparently the first time that Kermit introduces himself as a Frog, as his previous television appearances did not clarify what, if any, animal he was.

More thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below…)

Full disclosure, but the nostalgia is strong with this one! I saw Hey Cinderella as a kid back in the 90s, and I’m fairly confident that I can credit it and Jim Henson’s Frog Prince with giving me a deep rooted love of the Muppets. As a result I don’t think I can objectively critique this particular film, hence why it’s escaped this blog for so long. But I’m in a very Muppet-y mood lately so hey, why not just come out and declare my love for this film.

This film is definitely dated, in fact it actually predates Sesame street by a few months! As you might expect it’s pretty rough around the edges. The sets are all pretty rough, but I think there’ a charm in how rough they are. As an adult it’s obvious, but little kid me sure didn’t notice any of that! Kermit is the only recognizable Muppet used in the special, primarily because a lot of the other Muppets had yet to be created! So I imagine it’s pretty hard for current day fans of the Muppets to get into this film, but as a kid I never questioned why Miss Piggy, Fozzie, or any of the other regulars weren’t there.

In this version of the story Cinderella and Prince Arthur meet by accident in his garden prior to the ball. Prince Arthur is dressed in overalls, so Cinderella assumes he must be the gardener. Arthur is ecstatic because he’s been hoping to meet a woman who didn’t know he was a Prince, since he finds that people start acting stuck up once they can say they’ve met a Prince. Arthur pulls some strings to get Cinderella invited to the ball, but unluckily for them it’s a masked ball. They aren’t able to recognize each other with the masks on, even though they end up spending the entire night with each other.

It’s all very silly, and this may be the aforementioned nostalgia chiming in, but I think it works great. Cinderella and Arthur admittedly come across as kind of dim, but it’s played with such earnestness that you really don’t mind it. The actors play their parts very straight, which I think is the exact thing you need to do in a Muppet movie. There’s a lot of built-in comedy just by having these two very straight-faced actors deliver very silly lines, or taking part in very silly situations without a hint of sarcasm. I think it’s part of the magic of the later Muppet movies, when you can have a film starring Frogs, Pigs, Bears, and Whatevers, and it’s the human actors who come across as the crazy ones.

So while I’m not sure if I can recommend Hey Cinderella, what with that thick cloud of nostalgia that encircles the movie for me, I’d at least say it’s worth a look for Muppet fans who want to get a look at the humble beginnings of Jim Henson. I think it’s genuinely inspiring to see this film and think of where Kermit and his friends ended up.

References

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