"Cinderella" is one of the most celebrated classics created by the late filmmaker. A gentler reworking of the fairytale, the film remains extremely popular among young and old. The DVD edition features a restored picture bringing all of the brilliant pastel colors to life and a digital soundtrack allowing all of the memorable songs to be heard as though they were recorded yesterday.
Cinderella's (Ilene Woods) wicked stepmother and two step-sisters have taken over the house once owned by her beloved father who has died. Stepmother spends every cent on her two daughters, singing lessons, dresses, every luxury, leaving Cinderella to do all of the housework in the large chateau, an indentured servant in her own home. Cinderella's only friends are the mice, including Gus and Jacques, and other animals that help her through the day. The King decides to host a ball for his returning son, the Prince, insisting that every eligible woman in his kingdom attend. After working her to the bone, Stepmother leaves Cinderella behind and takes her daughters. Distraught Cinderella loses all hope until her Fairy Godmother (Verna Felton) appears.
Summarizing an animated film is difficult. So many different things contribute to the success that merely describing it, without giving everything away, doesn't seem to give the film its due, to capture the magic.
"Cinderella" is a magical blend of great animation, fun songs and amusing animal characters. From the moment the book opens and the animation starts, you realize you are in for something special. Artist Mary Blair helped to create the look of the film, a blend of pastel colors perfectly evoking the period of storybook France in which the story is set. If anything, the restoration has made these colors a little too crisp, but they are bright and beautiful to look at.
The film is filled with classic Disney music. From "Bippi Boppi Boo" to "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes", some of the most fondly remembered music in the Disney library included in this classic. Clearly, very fond of this story, Disney worked on it for a long time. When the finished product was released, and praised, it became a hallmark of his work, a template for many, many animated efforts. It isn't a coincidence that he chose to put Cinderella's castle smack dab in the middle of his first theme park. In 1955, with Disneyland about to open, he realized that this film was one of his best and would continue to endure. Now, every version of the Magic Kingdom has a Cinderella Castle.
After watching Cinderella's horrible life with her wicked stepmother and step sisters, the moment when the Fairy Godmother transforms her, complete with 1950s era gown and hairstyle, is truly magical. Watching Cinderella get a taste, no matter how small, of the life she truly deserves is a gratifying experience. Maybe it's just me, but does it confuse anyone else why the Fairy Godmother makes the mice into horses and the horse into the coach driver? It seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse.
All of this magic more than makes up for the rather simplistic view of love presented in the film. The prince falls in love with Cinderella because she looks beautiful. He wants to dance with her before they even speak. He shuns all of the other women, rolling his eyes, simply because they aren't beautiful. Also, don't forget to "leave the sewing to the women". Great lessons for the little girls watching. I guess this was appropriate for 1950.
As with most of the recent deluxe DVD sets, "Cinderella" is filled with extras. I haven't had a chance to go through them all, but a few are worth mentioning.
Unlike in the past, the extras aren't organized quite as well. The first disc features the restored film but also includes "ESPN's Cinderella Stories", short documentaries on Joe Namath's New York Jets' team, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, Mia Hamm and the Williams Sisters. This is taking corporate synergy to an all new, ugly level. Joe Namath on "Cinderella"? There are also "Coming Attractions" for other Disney releases. I'm glad to see "The Little Mermaid" and "Lady and the Tramp" will both get the Platinum treatment next year.
The second disc contains material for both young and old. In previous releases, Disney has included all of the kid related material on the first disc, along with the film, leaving the second disc for the archival material. For "Cinderella", almost everything is combined on disc number two.
Perhaps the most interesting extras are two songs which were recorded for the film, but ultimately deleted. They are included with original concept art. If you need any evidence about how important it was to restore the soundtrack, just listen to the "Cinderella Work Song" and "Dancing on a Cloud", both in their original recordings. It is fun to watch the art, and hear the music, but they sound like recordings made from old LPs. Also, there was a minor glitch with my DVD. I chose the PLAY ALL function. After a brief intro, it skipped the first song and went directly to the next.
An interesting side note: "Dancing on a Cloud" would later be adapted for "Sleeping Beauty".
There are also seven deleted songs. Again a glitch seems to be present; it skipped two of these offerings when I pressed PLAY ALL. Like most classics, deleted material was usually deleted for good reason and none of these songs is particularly memorable.
The most interesting extras are four short documentaries. "The Cinderella That Almost Was" tracks Disney's work with this project over the years. "From Rags to Riches" is a more traditional "making of" documentary. "The Art of Mary Blair" explores her contribution to the look and feel of this project. As noted earlier, she was responsible for the beautiful pastel look so important to this film. Last but not least is "From Walt's Table: A Tribute to Disney's Nine Old Men". The nine old men are the guys who worked on most of Disney's best films, shaping the look, the characters, everything that helped to make them memorable today.
A variety of radio and television programs promoting the film are included, including bits with Perry Como and an excerpt from "The Mickey Mouse Club".
The least interesting extras involve more corporate synergy. "House of Royalty" is a featurette tied into "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and features Sally, from the Disney Channel. Just the description scared me away.
The obligatory music videos featuring current popular acts singing the classic songs, games and CD Rom material are included, along with a preview of "Cinderella III" and a 1922 Laugh-o-Gram based on the same fairy tale.
Any time Disney releases one of these Platinum Edition DVDs or the super deluxe editions they did for "The Lion King" and "Snow White", I will eagerly plunk down my money for a copy. But I wish they would return to a format of putting the kids stuff on the same DVD as the movie and putting all of the historical, technical and encyclopedic extras on a separate disc. I don't want to have to wade through music videos with tween singers and games about dress-up in my quest to learn everything I can about the making of a classic.
"Cinderella" is a full-fledged classic and a must for every library. Kids will love it. Adults will remember it fondly. Film buffs and historians will love the informative extras. Go. Buy it!
Restored Picture & Sound Five Stars
DVD Package Four Stars