Glass slipper fans everywhere can finally put aside their old, worn-out VHS copy of Cinderella and rejoice. Nominated for three Academy Awards in 1950, Cinderella has been theatrically released six times, but languished in the Disney vault almost 10 years. During that time, Cinderella became the most requested Disney title for release, even above Snow White and The Lion King. Happily, it was all worth the wait. Cinderella is a visual and audio delight, and the sixth release in Disney's Platinum Edition DVDs.
It's not necessary to retell the story of Cinderella here, since it is arguably the most well-known and beloved of fairy tales. The animated Disney version is seen as the quintessential telling of the story. Cinderella's transformation from scullery maid to princess is told simply and eloquently through the wonderful use of song, endearing characters and unique visual style that became the hallmark of Disney animation.
The film has been in the Disney vault since 1987 and never before released as a DVD. It's gone through a painstaking restoration with the use of state of the art digital technology and looks stunning. Film restoration experts carefully cleaned the aging film while audio experts removed the hiss generally found on older film soundtracks.
Cinderella Stories presented by ESPN ClassicsNFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath hosts video and studio profiles of some of history's most inspirational true-life tales including his own story, the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, Kirk Gibson, Lance Armstrong, and more. Very strange, yet not strange when you consider the fact that ESPN is a part of the Disney family. The very extended Disney family makes many appearances in this DVD set; some successfully, others not so much. I would rank Cinderella Stories in the not so much category. Even Joe Namath looks sheepish introducing the first of several presumably interesting sports stories.
A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes is a pop rendition of the classic song done by Disney Channel stars. The second of many Disney-family tie-ins, this time with young actors who secretly want to be pop stars. The video also includes requisite making of featurette. Embarrassing for grown-ups to watch, but your kids will be as glued to it as mine were.
Every Girl can Be a Princessrecycled from Disney's Princess Tea Party CD. This song was recorded by Susan Egan, who, among other Disney roles, played the original Belle in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast. She has a beautiful voice, and the song itself is not half bad. The song is accompanied by clips of Disney princesses, starring you-know-who.
The Cinderella Work Song and Dancing on a Cloud are two songs that didn't make it to the final film, and are presented with original storyboards. The original demo recording of Dancing On a Cloud survived; however, only the sheet music survived of the Cinderella Work Song, so a new recording was made.
From Walt's Table: a tribute to Disney's Nine Old men
During Disney's golden age, Walt would frequently lunch with is top animators and story men at Los Angeles' Tam O'Shanter restaurant, where the team would discuss current projects. One of these was Cinderellaone of only three films all Nine Old Men worked on together. Film Critic Joel Siegel serves as host to a panel of animators, including Brad Bird, Glene Keane, and Andreas Deja, at the Tam O'Shanter who discuss the group's influence on today's animated films. Brad Bird related how he would bring early reels of The Incredibles to Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston to critique. It was gratifying to see the admiration and respect current animators have for the Nine Old Men, and how their work has been influenced from childhood by watching the early pioneers of animation.
From Rags to Riches: the Making of Cinderella.
This featurette emphasizes the importance of Cinderella to the studio, which had not had a commercial success with feature-length animated films since Snow White. Disney had wanted to make the fairy tale of Cinderella into a film for many years and took a gamble in 1950, hoping the film would turn a profit and in effect, save the studio. Fortunately, the film was a smash hit from its first release.
The featurette also has many interviews with the voice actors, including the singing voice of Prince Charming Michael Douglas, who spontaneously sings along to his original recording of So This Is Love, and is still in fine voice. Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella, relates her own Cinderella story of recording the demo tracks for the film, never dreaming she would be considered for the role until Walt Disney heard her voice on the demos and hired her sight unseen. The infamous voice of Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians, Betty Lou Gerson, does a surprise turn as the mild, soothing voice of the narrator in the beginning of the film. All the principal animators are featured explaining what each brought to the finished film. Many interviews were recorded years previously but the audio and video quality are fine, and the insights still fresh and insightful. Most interesting to me was the way much of the film was shot in live action format, then transferred, andin some casestraced, to animation format. The only exceptions to this were the animal characters, giving animators much more free rein to be creative.
The Cinderella that Almost Was
In doing research for the DVD, an envelope was found in the Disney Archivesone that had not been opened since 1949. It was filled with a full set of photographs for a storyboard version of Cinderella that is somewhat different from the final film as we know it. Don Hahn, the producer of Beauty and the Beast, goes over the storyboards and explains why particular scenes may have been altered or cut. Using the storyboard sketches, Hahn walks us through several scenes that were scrapped in the final version, and dramatized are actual notes Walt Disney made during story development. The original ending shows Cinderella being brought to the castle, still in her work dress, to meet the prince. Will he still see the girl he fell in love with at the ball? Of course, but Walt Disney felt a more dramatic ending was necessarythus the wedding bells and cheers of the kingdom as Cinderella and her prince drive off in the carriage.
The Art of Mary Blair
One of the best featurettes on the disc, The Art of Mary Blair, takes a look back at the remarkable career of one of Disney's most talented and beloved art director/color stylists responsible for the look of Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Three Caballeros, Saludos Amigos, So Dear to My Heart, and many other animated short films of the 1950s. The influence of Blair's artwork and innovative use of color is influencing animators today. The featurette also shows wonderful early footage of Blair developing the attraction it's a small world.
Storyboard to Film ComparisonOpening Sequence
To assist in the animation of Cinderella, Walt Disney had most of the scenes involving human characters filmed using real actors in costume. The storyboards for Cinderella provide a unique blend of Photostat copies of still frames from this film intermingled with traditional hand drawn artists' renditions. This segment presents a split screen for the opening sequence of the movie, comparing a sampling of these fascinating and unusual storyboards with the final film.
1922 Cinderella Laugh-O-grams: Cinderella
A look back at the early days of Walt Disney's career, highlighting Walt's unusual black-and-white, silent animationthe earliest existing animation done by Disney.
Excerpt from The Mickey Mouse Club with Helene Stanley (original Air date: January 24, 1956.) Helene Stanley was the live action model used for Cinderella, and she gamely sings some of the songs from the film and interacts with the Mouseketeers.
This section contains the original release trailer and reissue trailers from 1965, 1973, 1981, and 1987. The main reason to watch the trailers is to see how trailers themselves have changed over the years. Additionally, seeing the sad condition of the film in the trailers makes you feel even more grateful for the restored DVD version.
Games and Activities
The House of Royalty features fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and some of the cast from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Sally, (Alyson Stoner) from Mike's Super Short Show on the Disney Channel, does a dress makeover with Mizrahi and a room makeover with Paul DiMeo, Michael Moloney, and Constance Ramos (sorry, Ty fans.) The featurette reeks of ABC tie-ins, but as with the other advertising ploys, your children will overlook it to see some of their favorite TV personalities. At least it is a more logical choice than the ESPN Cinderella Stories.
The Royal Life DVD-ROM Design Studio
There are three games on the DVD-ROM: Princess Gown Designer, Palace Designer, and Dream Room Makeover. All three are similar in style; kids can click on various options and create various rooms and dresses. One interesting feature allows kids to place their own picture (either scanned or from digital files already on the computer) on the mannequin. The games are best suited for children ages 5 to 9.
Princess Pajama Jam is a recycled featurette from Disney Princess Party Vol. 2. It's a dance session with a narrator calling out moves like at a square dance while clips of princesses play on the screen. Only interesting to very young children.
Music and More
This section contains many of the original demo recordings for songs that were eventually cut from the final film, including Dancing on a Cloud, discussed by Don Hahn in the previous featurette. It also contains the complete title song Cinderella as an original demo recording.
The Video, Audio and Interface
The restored film is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio 1:33.1. As I gushed about in the opening paragraph, you won't believe how clean and crisp the picture is and how bright the colors are. The film has never looked so goodnot even in its first release. You can choose from two different audio versions: The 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix (designed with newer home theater systems in mind) and the original theatrical soundtrack version. Since we have a traditional TV set-up in our house, we chose the original soundtrack. The soundtrack has been completely restored and complements the beautiful visuals.
The interface is animated and matches well with the visuals of the film. Since there are so many special features on both discs, children (and adults) can become a bit muddled trying to find the particular song or feature they would like to watch. The DVD guide that comes with this version has a navigational overview which is very helpful, so I would suggest keeping it near the remote until the family gets familiar with the features.
The Final Evaluation
Even if the DVD had no bonus features at all, the movie by itself is a must-own for most Disney animation fans. The many featurette are icing on the cake. Sure, there are a few clinkers with some of the ABC and Disney channel tie-ins, but overall this is an extremely detailed and high quality release.