Alright, Disney: Just Admit that You Edited Cinderella's Waistline

March 12th 2015

Ashley Nicole Black

Cinderella opens this weekend! No, not the cartoon, or the live action version you saw, or the other live action version you saw with Drew Barrymore in it. A new one! Well, another new one! Experts are predicting that the film will make $60 million in its opening weekend. That will make it the biggest film opening this weekend, despite Liam Neeson's Taken 15, ahem- I'm sorry, Run All Night, also opening. It will also be one of Disney's higher grossing recent films. 

One would hope that when updating Cinderella for 2015 audiences that the story would be infused with today's more nuanced understandings of gender and courtship... but judging by the visuals in the trailer, such hopes will be dashed. One aspect of the trailer has gotten some negative attention: A lot of people are shocked that Cinderella's waist is so tiny. In fact, audiences are accusing Disney of digitally altering her waist beyond the believability of human waists. I mean, organs and ribs have to go somewhere, right? Where is Cinderella's pancreas?!

What message does it send to young girls if Disney took an already thin actress and whittled her waist down even further digitally? 

The technology to alter an actor in every frame of a movie certainly exists. And it's used far more often than you might think. A Mashable piece quoted several sources, all anonymous, about the three visual effects (VFX) studios that do "beauty work," which consists of painstakingly editing performers' faces and bodies to make them look younger, thinner, fitter, and less like the rest of us humans. Use of the technology has been a slippery slope, according to the report. Industry insiders describe how beauty work was developed for films like "Benjamin Button" that had plots requiring the digital aging or de-aging of characters. Now, it's mostly used make stars look better.

We're all familiar with the stark differences between Photoshopped photos in magazines and the raw photos of actresses and models often released afterward. (Interestingly, it seems to be mostly women whose untouched photos are leaked -- though Justin Bieber has also gotten the treatment.)

Most recently, Cindy Crawford and Beyoncé had their untouched photos leaked. They are interesting examples because both women's names are synonymous with beauty and perfection. In Crawford's untouched photo, she has a few wrinkles, including on her stomach, and the natural folds and stress marks of twisting your body into a weird position aren't removed. In Beyonce's Photoshopped pictures, blemishes are removed, wrinkles erased, and a truly bafflingly horrible makeup application softened. (Like, I can't talk enough about how poorly her makeup is applied in the original photo. Particularly considering it's a makeup ad. What is going ON L'Oreal?!?!) Neither Beyonce's nor Cindy Crawford's photos are all that shocking. In the untouched versions, they still appear as ridiculously beautiful as we expect. They just finally look human. They have skin, with texture, like most humans do. Cindy Crawford has an incredibly thin and obviously well-exercised abdomen that looks like some babies once lived inside of it. Because some did. 

They each have faces and bodies that the average human (without the help of personal chefs, trainers, lots of money and free time, plastic surgery and facials, a team of hair and makeup artists, and perfect angles and lighting) could never achieve. Photoshop takes them out of the range of above-average, gorgeous humans into something machine-made. And that's the problem with beauty work and Photoshop: the stars don't look human anymore. Anyone who wants to look like a celebrity is trying to achieve something that only a computer can do. 

Disney maintains that Cinderella's waist was not digitally altered, that only her corset makes her waist look impossibly small. Buzzfeed contacted a digital illustrator, who says his professional opinion is that the "...waistline was definitely altered with CGI." It's pretty clear from watching the trailer that the movie is heavily digitally altered. The prince's eyes have an otherworldly sparkle, there's pumpkin magic, dresses glitter in a way that cannot be created by fabric alone, the glass slippers look completely CGI, and rats turn into people and stuff. Knowing that beauty work is done all the time and that this movie isn't invested in realism anyway, it seems like a fair bet that Cinderella's waist was altered (at least while in the heavily CGI'd ball gown). It's as disingenuous and dangerous to suggest that her tiny waist is the result of clean eating and a good undergarment as it is to suggest that makeup will give you Photoshop-like results. The woman who likes the subtle glow of the L'Oreal ad and purchases the makeup without knowing that it actually made Beyonce look slightly clownish (I love Queen Bey y'all, I just cannot with that makeup job they gave her) just loses out on some money. But the young girl who is led to believe that having a waist the size of your upper arm is how you attract a prince is hurt in a far more insidious way. And if box office predications are right, a lot of young girls are going to be seeing this movie this weekend. 

The movie is pure, computer-animated fantasy. Why not just admit it?