Cinderella appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Another winner from Disney’s archives, the transfer never betrayed the advanced age of the material.
Sharpness seemed consistently strong, as most of the picture appeared nicely crisp and well-defined. On a few occasions, I encountered some very mild softness during wide shots, but this remained infrequent and minor. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no concerns, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, I detected no problems. The image was clean and fresh.
Colors appeared lush and full. The movie went with a fairly pastel palette that the DVD depicted well. The tones seemed smooth and rich. Black levels seemed nicely deep and dark, and shadow detail was fine. Contrast was solid as well, as whites were pure and clean. Don’t expect any problems from this excellent transfer.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Cinderella proved less satisfying to me, largely because I don’t think it added anything to the experience. Disney touts this as one of their “Enhanced Home Theater” mixes, and they’ve done fine with those for flicks like The Lion King or Aladdin. In this case, however, it was pointless since it dealt with monaural source material.
The soundfield stayed pretty close to the center. Virtually all singing, dialogue and effects emerged from the middle speaker, and most effects remained there as well. It was the music that expanded to the forward right and left channels, with surprisingly heavy reinforcement of the tunes in the rears. At no point did I note any particularly discrete audio from the front or rear sides; the music in the speakers offered a mildly stereophonic impression, but I couldn't point out a single instance in which I heard a particular distinguishable sound from any of the side speakers. The side and rear channels simply echoed the music and didn’t issue clean stereo imaging. It didn’t seem like “broad mono”, so the audio from the different channels must have varied; however, I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific that came from one area or another.
Audio quality seemed fine for its age. Considering the era, speech sounded pretty natural and firm. The lines were slightly thin but not bad in the least given the circumstances of the period. They lacked any edginess and were consistently crisp and intelligible. Music failed to demonstrate great range but seemed acceptably smooth and clear. I wouldn’t call the score and songs rich or vibrant, but they seemed pretty distinctive for material from 1950.
Effects followed suit and sounded clean but unexceptional. I noticed no distortion and thought they represented the original audio well. Cinderella didn’t use many effects anyway, so they were a very minor factor. Bass response seemed acceptable for the era.
Overall, this was a perfectly listenable track, but again, I didn’t understand what purpose it served other than so Disney could market it with a “new and improved” mix. Sometimes I like 5.1 remixes, but this one didn’t do it for me. The way the music spread broadly to all five channels became a minor distraction, one that didn’t add anything to the experience. I listened to the 5.1 track for this review but in the future, I’ll definitely stick with the more satisfying monaural mix.
This “Platinum Edition” of Cinderella spreads its extras across two discs. DVD One opens with Cinderella Stories, a compilation of 10 sports featurettes. Viewed together via the “Play All” option, these run a total of 33 minutes, 45 seconds. Hosted by Joe Namath, we get stories of “classic underdogs” and folks who beat the odds. They cover Super Bowl III, Pele, 1980 US Olympic hockey team, Mia Hamm, 1983 NC State NCAA championship, Venus and Serena Williams, Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, 1985 Villanova NCAA championship, and Lance Armstrong. The clips are decent overviews, but I have to admit this is an odd extra. It maintains a marginal connection to Cinderella and feels more like a promo for ESPN Classic than anything else.
The “Music and More” area includes two music videos. First comes “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” by “Disney Channel Circle of Stars”. This atrociously overproduced pop version of the tune features an array of Disney Channel “talents”. Blecch! After the video ends, we see shots of the recording session and the video shoot with lots of praise and happy talk. Double blechh! “Every Girl Can Be A Princess” presents a performance from “Cinderella” and shows clips from that flick and other Disney princess efforts. It’s boring and pointless.
As the DVD starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Lady and the Tramp, Chicken Little, Cinderella III, Disney Princess – A Christmas of Enchantment and The Little Mermaid. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with promos for Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest, Kronk’s New Groove, Pooh’s Grand Adventure – The Search for Christopher Robin, Toy Story, Walt Disney World and Cars.
Now we move to DVD Two, where we launch with a collection of two Deleted Scenes. We find “The Cinderella Work Song” (three minutes, 20 seconds) and “Dancing on a Cloud” (four minutes, 35 seconds). The domain also includes a 115-second introduction from producer Don Hahn. He gives us some background on the tunes and lets us know a little about them. “Song” presents concept art along with a newly-recorded take of the number, while “Cloud” uses the same visual presentation but offers the original demo version. Neither stands out as particularly compelling, but they’re worth a look.
Another “Music and More” domain begins with a six-minute and 30-second clip of Cinderella and Perry Como. We learn that a few of the movie’s tunes debuted on a Como-hosted program. We hear voice actor Ilene Woods and the Fontaine Sisters do bits of some tracks while Como narrates the story and we see art from the film. It’s a decent archival piece.
A demo recording of the “Cinderella” Title Song lasts two minutes, 16 seconds. It sounds more like a dirge than a romantic opening tune. I’m sure a polished take would be stronger, but I can’t say this one seems like a loss. We also find an additional seven Unused Songs. Taken together, they fill 17 minutes, 47 seconds. Again, none of these stand out as very interesting, but it’s fun to screen them.
Three Radio Programs finish off “Music and More”. We hear excerpts from “Village Store” (aired 3/25/48, two minutes, 35 seconds) and “Gulf Oil Presents (1950, 5:25) plus “Scouting the Stars (2/23/50, 4:20). “Store” is the most interesting since it comes from the same day Ilene Woods won her role. She gets congratulated and croons “When You Wish Upon a Star”. “Oil” also focuses on Woods. She tells a sugary version of her casting as well as her work on the film. She also performs “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes”. Finally, “Stars” offers even more of Woods’ tale. All three are enjoyable to hear.
With that we head to “Games & Activities”. This area includes House of Royalty, a 17-minute and 55-second piece that encompasses “Look Like a Princess”, “Live Like a Princess’ and “Act Like a Princess”. Honey, I’m already there! Hosted by the Disney Channel’s “Sally”, we see her transformation from annoying sprite in a tracksuit to annoying sprite in a tracksuit with a spiffed-up room and a tiara. She involves designer Isaac Mizrahi, home redesigners Paul DiMeo, Michael Moloney and Constance Ramos, and princess Catherine Oxenberg. Unless you’re under the age of 10 and female – or a gay male of any age – skip this clunker.
An odd extra, the Princess Pajama Jam teaches you how to dance along with various princesses. We see film clips and step with Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, Melody, and Jasmine. It’s a silly piece oriented at very young kids.
Adults can take refuge in “Backstage Disney”. This section launches with From Rags to Riches: The Making of Cinderella. The 38-minute and 26-second documentary includes archival footage, movie clips, and comments from film historians John Culhane, Christopher Finch, John Canemaker, animators Andreas Deja, Marc Davis, Mark Henn, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl and Glen Keane, composer Richard M. Sherman, film critic Joel Siegel, filmmaker Garry Marshall, voice actors Ilene Woods, Lucille Bliss and Mike Douglas, and University of Alabama Professor of Musicology Dr. Daniel Goldmark.
The program examines the selection of the story, the status of Disney Studios at the time of its production, the animators called the “Nine Old Men” and their work on Cinderella, the use of live-action reference material, the voice cast, and the movie’s score and songs. “Rags” deals with its topics in a somewhat scattershot way. Really, it’s four separate connected featurettes and not one well-integrated documentary. That said, it offers a nice collection of notes. The discussion of the animation is excellent, and I also rather like the look at the actors and the way we see the progression of audio in Disney efforts. There’s a lot of good stuff on display here.
Next we find The Cinderella That Almost Was. This 14-minute and 10-second program recreates notes for production meetings conducted between 1946 and 1948. Hahn introduces and narrates it as we go through a history of the project. We also hear from Culhane, Davis, Johnston, Siegel, Kimball, layout artist Ken O’Connor, and quotes from story meeting transcripts recorded in the Forties. We hear about a mix of elements considered for the film but not used. The featurette provides an entertaining and informative view of different paths the story might have taken.
We learn more about the legendary animators in From Walt’s Table: A Tribute to Disney’s Nine Old Men. Hosted by Joel Siegel, the 22-minute and nine-second show presents remarks from Deja, Keane, Henn, Hahn, producer/director John Musker, director Brad Bird, and producer/director Ron Clements. We also get some archival clips from the Nine Old Men themselves.
The main participants sit together at a round table in a restaurant where Disney and the Men used to lunch. They chat about the Disney films that were early influences and their initial experiences with various Men, facets of their work, and many memories of the Men. We learn how they directly and indirectly impacted the modern animators and get a fine look at the Disney legends. It’s a warm and engaging discussion.
After this comes The Art of Mary Blair. A 14-minute and 59-second featurette, it includes comments from Keane, Henn, Canemaker, Deja, Culhane, Sherman, Disney Animation Research Library director Lella Smith, director Pete Docter, DisneyToon Studios production art director Frederick Cline, art director Michael Giaimo, costume designer Alice Davis, and production designer Lou Romano. We learn about her early life and interest in art, how she ended up at Disney and her work at the studio. The show covers facets of her creations and offers an appreciation for her art. We get a nice look at all that she did for Disney and learn more about how much she influenced various productions and other artists.
A Storyboard to Film Comparison presents elements for the “Opening Sequence”. It runs six-minutes and 50 seconds. The piece presents the art in the top left of the screen and the movie in the bottom right. This becomes a fun way to check out the two stages, especially since it also includes some photos of the live-action reference elements.
In the Galleries, we get nine sections. These include “Visual Development” (53 frames), “Mary Blair Art” (31), “Character Design” (90 across eight subdomains), “Costume Design” (18), “Storyboard Art” (31), “Layouts and Backgrounds” (63), “Live Action Reference” (45), “Production Photos” (20) and “Publicity” (22). We can examine these either as thumbnailed stillframe galleries or as slideshows. I appreciate the option. Either way, you’ll find a nice compendium of images that offer a fine display of movie-related material.
For a fun archival feature, we get the 1922 Cinderella Laugh-O-Gram. It goes for seven minutes and 26 seconds. Obviously it presents a much simpler version of the story along with very crude animation. It includes some bizarre scenes like jitterbugging bears and makes a strange choice in that both Cinderella and the Prince look like they’re about 10 years old. It’s fun to see as a historical curiosity, but I doubt you’ll want to watch it twice.
The disc heads into the homestretch with an Excerpt from 1/24/56 Mickey Mouse Club. In this three-minute and 57-second clip, Helene Stanley – the live-action reference for Cinderella – chats with the Mouseketeers and acts out a scene from the flick. She recruits the ‘Teers to play the most annoying mice in the history of the world. This makes for another mildly interesting oddball piece but it’s not anything stunning.
Finally, the DVD presents a collection of Trailers. This domain features the original 1950 ad along with reissue promos from 1965, 1973, 1981 and 1987. Note that two trailers accompany the 1987 re-release. The 1950 trailer is a bit of a disappointment, as it’s a very brief teaser, but the others are good to see. I like to watch trailers from over the years as they demonstrate how the art of advertisements changes in various eras.
Cinderella would deserve a special place in animation history simply because it revived the fortunes at Disney. However, it’s more than that, as the flick is still as charming and winning now as it was 55 years ago. The DVD offers excellent picture quality, but I can’t say I’m wild about the vaguely-defined 5.1 remix. However, the disc includes the original mono track as well, so I can’t complain about the audio. Extras provide a mix of pretty good behind the scenes materials and add to the experience. I definitely recommend this solid DVD and this terrific movie.