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Cinderella: Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD Review

Cinderella (1950) movie poster Cinderella

Theatrical Release: February 15, 1950 / Running Time: 74 Minutes / Rating: G

Directors: Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi / Writers: Ken Anderson, Perce Pearce, Homer Brightman, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Harry Reeves, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears (story); Charles Perrault (original classic)

Voice Cast: Ilene Woods (Cinderella), Eleanor Audley (Lady Tremaine), Verna Felton (Fairy Godmother), Rhoda Williams (Drizella), James MacDonald (Gus, Jaq, Bruno), Luis Van Rooten (King, Grand Duke), Don Barclay (Doorman), Lucille Bliss (Anastasia), June Foray (Lucifer), Betty Lou Gerson (Narrator), Clint McCauley (Mice), William Phipps (Prince Charming)

Songs: "Cinderella", "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes", "Sing, Sweet Nightingale", "The Work Song", "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo", "So This is Love"

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New: Blu-ray + DVD Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Limited Edition 6-Disc Trilogy Collection DVD Edition
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For those who associate the name "Disney" with animated fairy tales, Cinderella seems like one of the company's quintessential films. While in a way that is true, those who have studied the canon at length are liable to share my viewpoint that it is one of the studio's less remarkable animated features.
It doesn't offer the innovation and experimentation of Fantasia, the artistry of Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty, the emotion of Bambi and Dumbo, the fun of The Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid. What Cinderella does offer is a signature Disney fairy tale: a straight, simple narrative padded with animal antics and music.

That is a winning formula and one which the studio hadn't fully embraced since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, their 1937 smash hit entrance into the world of feature-length cartoons. Cinderella returned the studio to feature-length animation, something they had gotten away from during World War II, following the losses incurred on the initial runs of ambitious works like Pinocchio and Fantasia. A smash hit with the public, Cinderella reversed the fortunes of the studio and the medium, paving the way for the 1950s to deliver plenty of high-profile, high-spirited Disney feature animation.

At the start of her fairy tale, Cinderella is a lowly servant. Mice friends Gus Gus and Jaq get an awful lot of screentime in Disney's "Cinderella."

When discussing Cinderella, the title character naturally springs to mind first. The strawberry blonde heroine features most prominently in the marketing of the film, but her supporting cast does much of the heavy lifting here.

In Charles Perrault's first published version of the tale, Cinderella's name came out of mockery regarding the cinders that covered her as she curled up by a fireplace to stay warm. Even if you didn't know that, you do know that Cinderella's life is no picnic. Before his death, her widowed father made the error of marrying Lady Tremaine, a woman who has since proven to be evil. She cares for her ugly, jealous, tone-deaf daughters Anastasia and Drizella. As for their comparably-aged stepsister Cinderella, she is reduced to servitude and all the housekeeping at their large estate.

Cinderella's only friends are birds, mice, and a dog, whom she looks out for (and vice-versa). Two of the mice, Jaq and Gus, grab our attention as they scurry about and try to avoid Lucifer the cat.

A royal decree announces a ball meant to find the prince a wife and to be attended by all eligible maidens. Cinderella longs to go, and Lady Tremaine reluctantly says she can if she gets an inhumane amount of work done first. The mice and birds help Cindy by making a dress from an old one and any other materials they can find, but their efforts are in vain, as the stepsisters rip it to shreds.

But then comes the Fairy Godmother, prepared to transform Cinderella from her rags to the riches of an opulent dress and horse-drawn carriage. The magic, of course, will run out at midnight. But before then, Cinderella gets a chance to dazzle, as she dances with a handsome man she doesn't even know to be Prince Charming. As the clock strikes twelve, she races out, leaving many questions and a glass slipper behind.

A magically made-over Cinderella prepares to board her pumpkin-spawned horse-drawn carriage to the ball. Wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine has thought to keep Cinderella locked out of sight while the Grand Duke tries the glass slipper on her ugly daughters.

When I sort the classic Disney cartoons or even just the Disney princess movies in my mind, Cinderella usually falls to the bottom of the pack. It's never done all that much for me.
It's more sentimental, cute, and girly than perhaps any other Disney film and it doesn't even have a compelling placement in the canon to distinguish it (Snow White being first and Sleeping Beauty being the last fairy tale of Walt's time).

While it suffers by comparisons, it is a fine movie on its own merits, relying on the same basic elements that comprise so many of the Disney classics: comedy, music, magic, and romance. Of those four, romance perhaps seems the most valued here, but that perception doesn't really stand up to scrutiny, when you consider how little time Cinderella and the Prince share on screen and how their love is based on a dreamy, well-dressed waltz. Of course, you could question the foundation of any animated couple, especially back when expectations of character depth and dialogue weren't as high. (Fun fact: Prince Charming has a grand total of eight lines.)

My point is that this heart of the story actually makes up a pretty small portion of Cinderella. Much of the film is a cat chasing mice. These sequences only pretend to advance the plot. The sewing of the dress gets a musical number and then proves to be irrelevant anyway. So much time goes to the stepsisters trying on the glass slipper, only for it to shatter and Cinderella to produce the other one. There's nothing wrong with any of this and such a close examination misses the film's appeal. It lies in the fairy tale magic, dream fulfillment, and "happily ever after" that so many people are suckers for.

Seven years after its one and only DVD release, Cinderella hits Blu-ray today as the sixth release in Disney's line of Diamond Edition combo packs. While this review covers the two-disc Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, the film is also available in a three-disc set with digital copy. Those three discs can also be found in a limited edition trilogy collection with DVDs and a shared Blu-ray holding both of the 21st century direct-to-video sequels. Also, the new Cinderella DVD included in all these versions will be available to buy on its own on Thanksgiving week with unique cover art and an unflattering "DVD Edition" banner.

Watch a scene from Cinderella:

Cinderella: Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD combo cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio (Fullscreen)
Blu-ray only: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 1.0 Mono DTS-HD MA (English)
DVD only: Dolby Digital 5.1 DEHT (English), Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-Only: English
Extras Subtitled; DVD and Extras Closed Captioned
Release Date: October 2, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also in Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy ($44.99 SRP), Limited Edition 6-Disc Trilogy Collection ($89.99 SRP), and 2-Disc Combo in DVD Case ($39.99 SRP)
Previously released as 2-Disc Platinum Edition DVD and Platinum Edition DVD Collector's Gift Set (October 4, 2005)

VIDEO and AUDIO

It isn't exaggerating to say that Cinderella looks perfect on Blu-ray. The film's restoration is as good as any Disney has done. You can question whether a 62-year-old movie ought to look this pristine and flawless, but your eyes will tell you "yes." Although there is nothing to identify this as a 1950 film, the always sharp, always vibrant pillarboxed 1.33:1 presentation (which can also be seen with Disney View art filling in the 16:9 frame) is utterly pleasing and clearly superior to the DVD's dramatic appearance.

The default soundtrack is 7.1 DTS-HD master audio, which is equally terrific. Likewise, it is tough to believe that these crisp, clear elements were recorded so long ago. Purists will be glad to know that they can also view the film in something resembling its original state with a 1.0 DTS-HD MA track upholding the film's monaural design. Dolby Digital 5.1 "Disney Enhanced Home Theater" mixes are offered in French and Spanish and I'll leave it to you to figure out why they have been given that designation and not the new English mix.

The film retains its original RKO Radio Pictures logo card at the top, but places a modern computer-animated Disney logo at the end.

Diane Disney Miller supplies an optional introduction to the film from San Francisco's Walt Disney Family Museum. Good luck getting personalized digital storybook "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-You" to work as intended.

BONUS FEATURES

For a Platinum Edition, Cinderella got one of the lighter and more random collections of bonus features on DVD, with its ESPN Classic "Cinderella Stories" featurette exemplifying that the studio had sort of lost sight of what the line was celebrating and was more interested in exploiting it as a company-wide promotional device. That is once again the case, as this Blu-ray assembles a number of discordant supplements.

The first extras turn up when you choose to play the movie. You have the option to view the movie preceded by an introduction by Walt's daughter, Diane Disney Miller (1:16, HD), recorded at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, whose Cinderella collection she talks up.
You also can choose to watch the movie with the vertical side bars left by the Academy Ratio filled with Disney View artwork by Cristy Maltese inspired by the film. With most of the Academy Ratio 'toons released to Blu-ray, this unnecessary option is probably on the way out.

Next up is "Personalized Digital Storybook: Bibbidi-Bobbidi-You", a variation on Disney Second Screen, the feature that lets you look at content on an iPad or computer while something plays on your Blu-ray player. This one lets you enter your name, take or upload a picture, and pick a favorite character. The Audio Sync that was supposed to occur next didn't work for me after multiple tries, making it very much an ordinary, unpersonalized animated storybook playing on my player with Fairy Godmother narration and nothing but "Listening..." on the Flash application. While innovation is admirable, this is just embarrassing. It's disappointing too, because I had some fun personalization planned. A minute-long ad for this feature shows up among your choices to play the film.

Mary Alice O'Connor is celebrated as "The Real Fairy Godmother." Actress Ginnifer Goodwin gets us an already outdated update on the New Disney Princess Fantasyland expansion.

The computer application did allow me to play four games on my own: "Guess Gus Gus?", "Bibbidi Bobbidi Bubbles", "Lucifer's Paw Prints", and "Sew What." But as you don't need the Blu-ray to play those, I didn't feel it's necessary for me to play or review them.

Four new HD extras are collected under the heading Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition.

"The Real Fairy Godmother" (11:50) profiles Mary Alice O'Connor, the model for the Cinderella character as drawn by her husband Kendall. Their children and animation historians discuss her work as a Disney layout artist and her charitable life beyond that. It's an unusual subject that sustains interest here.

"Behind the Magic: A New Disney Princess Fantasyland" (8:17) promotes the Magic Kingdom expansion with "Once Upon a Time"'s Ginnifer Goodwin hosting. What is it about the theme parks that requires every official video on them to play like a commercial? At least the piece talks up the Beauty and the Beast-inspired changes which are seen in the midst of construction.

French footwear designer Christian Louboutin gets some help from cartoon friends in the short "The Magic of the Glass Slipper: A Cinderella Story." Maximus the horse gets his chance to shine as ring bearer in the wedding short "Tangled Ever After."

The short The Magic of the Glass Slipper: A Cinderella Story (10:03) was created for this year's Disney and Christian Louboutin glass slipper marketing campaign. Encouraged by an animated rendition of himself and cartoon animals, the footwear designer takes a Vespa ride around his native France to come up with a design.
It's more artistic than the typical extra, but knowing what this was created for does make it seem shallow, vain and stupid.

An alternate opening sequence to Cinderella (1:13) showcases storyboards recently unearthed at Disney's Animation Research Library with sound effects and an actress reading for Cinderella. It's short, rhyming, and reveals more sass than exists in the final character.

The short film Tangled Ever After (6:29) finds a home after attaching to winter's Beauty and the Beast 3D engagement. Though directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard return along with Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi as the voices of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, this departs from the musical fairy tale's tone to serve up slapstick starring Rapunzel's chameleon Pascal and Maximus the horse. Ring bearers at the couple's wedding, the two animals have to chase down the runaway rings. It looks nice, but is most forgettable. It is presented with 7.1 DTS-HD MA sound.

Classic DVD Bonus Features houses a sampling of recycled extras.

With galleries removed, the artwork featuring in two deleted songs assumes greater importance. "The Face That I See in the Night" is one of eight deleted songs presented in demo form. There isn't much to see for Ilene Woods' 1950 appearance on the radio show "Gulf Oil Presents."

First up here are two deleted scenes (9:42) introduced and contextualized by Don Hahn. Both "The Cinderella Work Song" and "Dancing on a Cloud" are demos of deleted songs, which are set to concept art.

A demo for the "Cinderella" title song (2:15) follows. Seven additional unused songs (17:48) are offered via worn demo recordings set to title cards. They are "Sing a Little, Dream a Little", "I'm in the Middle of a Muddle", "The Mouse Song", "The Dress My Mother Wore", "Dancing on a Cloud", "I Lost My Heart at the Ball", "The Face That I See in the Night."

Next up come three classic radio program excerpts featuring Ilene Woods (12:26). First, she appears on Village Store (March 25, 1948) to sing "When You Wish Upon a Star" to celebrate her casting as Cinderella. Woods shares her Cinderella story and sing "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" on a 1950 episode of "Gulf Oil Presents." Then in the February 23, 1950 episode of "Scouting the Stars", Woods and Cinderella's casting director explain how she landed the part.

Buried under the heading Classic Backstage Disney are the disc's best and most substantial bonus features, all from the DVD and presented in standard definition.

"From Rags to Riches: The Making of 'Cinderella'" makes use of a 1995 interview with Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella. With storyboards, Don Hahn tells us about "The 'Cinderella' That Almost Was." Modern day Disney animators including Ron Clements, John Musker, and Mark Henn pay tribute to their creative forefathers in "From Walt's Table."

"From Rags to Riches: The Making of Cinderella" (38:27) stands as the set's comprehensive general documentary. Gathering input from the accomplished admirers elsewhere on this set plus others including songwriter Richard Sherman, director Garry Marshall, historian John Culhane, and voice actors Ilene Woods, Mike Douglas (the singing voice of Prince Charming), and Lucille Bliss (Anastasia), this fine, segmented retrospective paints this as a company-saving production and puts it into context. It benefits from a wealth of materials, including archival interviews with the animators, who have all since passed away.

"The Cinderella That Almost Was" (14:08) shares story treatment for the film from the 1940s. Hahn hosts, pointing out discarded characters and plot points.

Hosted by the late Joel Siegel, "From Walt's Table: A Tribute to the Nine Old Men" (22:09) celebrates the loyal group of animators behind many of Disney's classic films: Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Woolie Reitherman, Eric Larson, Ward Kimball, Marc Davis, Les Clark, and John Lounsberry. Modern-day animation filmmakers Hahn, Brad Bird, Glen Keane, Ron Clements, John Musker, Andreas Deja, and Mark Henn gather around a table to discuss their creative ancestors, who themselves are heard in archival interview footage.

Mary Blair shows off some of her striking art design to three friends. A Storyboard-to-Film Comparison shows how true to plans the opening scene of "Cinderella" remained. The Fairy Godmother transforms Cinderella into a flapper girl for Walt Disney's silent 1922 Laugh-O-grams version of the fairy tale.

"The Art of Mary Blair" (14:58) pays tribute to the longtime Disney artist whose striking designs sometimes made it into the company's classic creations. Modern-day animators exalt her visions, while historians flesh out her life story and point out her specific contributions, from films to it's a small world.

A split-screen Storyboard-to-Film Comparison (6:59) demonstrates how precisely Cinderella's opening sequence was planned out, with some live-action reference photography standing in for drawn sketches.

The silent 1922 Laugh-O-grams short Cinderella (7:24) serves up an earlier take on the fairy tale, which is especially notable for being one of the earliest cartoons Walt Disney made, back in Kansas City before moving to California. It's simple and reliant on the aimless animal gags that dominated the medium at the time, so historical value trumps entertainment value.

Helene Stanley, Cinderella's live-action model, keeps the Mouseketeers entertained in a 1956 "Mickey Mouse Club" episode excerpt. The original theatrical trailer proclaims 1950 the Cinderella Year! Cinderella's holiday season 1981 theatrical reissue is promoted in this trailer.

An excerpt from the January 24, 1956 episode of "The Mickey Mouse Club" (3:55) has Cinderella's live-action model Helene Stanley
meet with Mouseketeers and sing for them.

Six theatrical trailers of varying lengths (9:07) are included, designed to promote the original 1950 theatrical release and reissues in 1965, 1973, 1981, and 1987 (x2). These are great to see, even if Disney can't be bothered to upgrade these to high definition the way that other studios do for their trailers.

The disc closes out with Disney's dated standard promos for DisneyFile digital copy (1:04) and Blu-ray 3D (4:25), along with legal disclaimers posing as "Info."

The DVD included here, presumably the same one to be released on its own next month, is a starkly lightweight disc, placing just Tangled Ever After and "A New Disney Princess Fantasyland" (plus the digital copy and Blu-ray 3D promos). Yikes, I feel bad for families who are only now building their Disney DVD collections.

Both Blu-ray and DVD load with ads for Disney Studio All Access, Peter Pan: Diamond Edition, Disney (something about girls), Wreck-It Ralph, and Secret of the Wings. The Sneak Peeks listing repeats those, followed by promos for Disney Movie Rewards, "Sofia the First", Disney Parks, quitting smoking, Brave, the upcoming Blu-ray + DVD 2-Movie Collection of Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, Finding Nemo Blu-ray, and Planes.

WHAT'S MISSING?

A number of the Platinum Edition DVD's bonus features have not been carried over here. Gone are the music videos for the Disney Channel Circle of Stars' "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" remix and "Every Girl Can Be a Princess" (the former was also joined by a making-of featurette). The out-of-place ESPN Classic featurette "Cinderella Stories" hosted by Joe Namath has been lost. An excerpt from a 1950 episode of Perry Como's television show in which Ilene Woods premiered Cinderella's songs is gone. Also cut: the makeover piece "House of Royalty", "The Royal Life DVD-ROM Design Studio" activity, and "Princess Pajama Jam." Perhaps the most significant casualty is the gallery of nearly 400 stills. Finally, the company announcement "Dreams Come True" is cut. Aside from the galleries, none of this material is particularly worth lamenting, but it is all gone and not replaced here.

Closely resembling the Blu-ray, the new Cinderella DVD's menu plays clips of the film between two ivy-wrapped pillars.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The scored menu plays clips between pillars and amidst sparkles. Like many Disney Blu-rays, this one can remember where you left off watching the movie, but it will still subject you to everything at the head of the disc instead of automatically resuming playback.

Naturally topped by a sparkly, holographic slipcover, the side-snapped standard Blu-ray case holds a Disney Movie Rewards booklet (with code), a coupon-free booklet of ads announcing some upcoming BD releases, and a small Blu-ray Guide booklet that talks up the new bonus features and declares Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid as 2013's Diamond Editions. A DVD-packaged combo pack is also available.

Cinderella fortuitously loses a glass slipper in her rushed getaway from the royal castle.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though offering less to marvel at than many earlier and later Disney classics, Cinderella is a lively and enjoyable fairy tale. The Blu-ray appears to be the lightest Diamond Edition yet, with the all-new supplements minor, tangential, and/or technologically lacking. But the feature presentation is exquisite and that alone is probably enough for you to want to add this to your Disney Blu-ray collection. Fans of the film who already have the best bonus features here on DVD have reason to be underwhelmed and disappointed. But this is an adequate release, even considering the movie's enduring popularity.

Buy Cinderella from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD / Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / 6-Disc Trilogy Collection / New DVD Edition
Platinum Edition DVD / Platinum Edition DVD Collector's Gift Set

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Related Reviews:
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New: Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season Dark Shadows Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures
1950s on Blu-ray: To Catch a Thief Hondo A Night to Remember The Killing Kiss Me, Deadly



Disney Animated Classic Blu-ray + DVD Combos:
Alice in Wonderland Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Dumbo
The Aristocats The Rescuers & The Rescuers Down Under The Fox and the Hound
Pocahontas Home on the Range The Princess and the Frog Tangled Winnie the Pooh

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Reviewed October 2, 2012.