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RCE Info


Walt Disney's Cinderella: 2-Disc Platinum Edition

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // October 4, 2005
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted September 30, 2005 | E-mail the Author

It's been retold countless times over the years, enough so that it's nearly impossible to pin down exactly who created the original story of "Cinderella". The truth is, nearly every culture has its own account, from China's "Yeh Shen" to England's version---and my personal favorite title---"Tattercoats". Various details, names and outcomes have obviously changed with each version, but the fundamental story has remained roughly the same: "Cinderella" is the story of a young woman, kind but unappreciated, who is eventually rescued from her difficult life by someone of royalty. It wasn't until the late 1600s that author Charles Perrault updated a handful of popular stories in his "Tales of Mother Goose", which included the story in question as well as "Sleeping Beauty", "Little Red Riding Hood" and several others. Perrault refashioned the story to fit upscale audiences, while the Brothers Grimm also contributed the famous German version in 1812.

There have, of course, been many other variations of the modern story---from the Rodgers and Hammerstein TV production in 1957 (starring Julie Andrews) to 1998's Ever After---but arguably none of the modern variations are more widely known than the classic Disney animated feature. Interestingly enough, Walt Disney had feverishly labored over early versions of the fairy tale for nearly 30 years before the final production was released theatrically in 1950. Disney's film department was in financial trouble as Cinderella neared completion, having only one major hit in their 1939 debut feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The follow-up efforts---including Pinocchio, Fantasia (both 1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942) really hadn't turned much of a profit, so the success of Cinderella was a fairy tale in itself. Since then, it's been one of the studio's crown jewels, especially since most consider "Cinderella" to be the most popular and best-loved fairy tale of all. It may not be my favorite film in Disney's catalog, but there's no doubt it was an important one.

Looking back on an animated film that's over 50 years old is usually tough, but the charm and skill on display in every frame makes it feel more like a trip home. It's interesting to see how the simplicity of the story works with the style of traditional cel animation, creating as close to a "storybook feel" as you're likely to see on the big screen. The high standard of quality in Disney's early work ensures that it still stands up to today's animated features, and Cinderella is no exception. There's no current radio hits and pop culture references to make the film feel dated, no toilet humor and no cliffhanger endings to guarantee the inevitable $equel (though there's actually two…but we won't go there, will we?).

Still, there are a number of factors that keep Cinderella from being at the top of Disney's repertoire. For starters, the overall flow of the film focuses on some of the less interesting aspects of the story; for example, the introduction never goes into detail about the young woman's happier years. Instead, she is cast right into the darkest time in her life, after the death of her father and during the ill treatment by her new "family". By showing her earlier life in detail, Cinderella could have become more of a three-dimensional character (no pun intended), thus making her rescue all the more satisfying.

Instead, there's a little too much emphasis placed on the animals that help our heroine. They're certainly cute and funny, but the bulk of the film's first half feels more like an extended Tom and Jerry episode than a proper setup for the conclusion. This isn't a major criticism, of course---especially since so many variations of the original story exist---but it's a baby step back from the story's core. A better balance between the main and supporting characters would have given this film the seamless flow found in only the best Disney animated features. Still, it's basically a futile effort to criticize any Disney film for including too many cute, fuzzy animals: after all, that's their bread and butter.

Regardless of Cinderella's placement on your favorite list of Disney films, there's no doubt that the studio has treated the originals with great respect (well, except for those lousy sequels). Their DVD efforts have been uniformly excellent---and although it's a real surprise that it's taken roughly eight years for Cinderella to make its DVD debut, this 2-disc Platinum Edition package stands tall in just about every department. In more ways than one, this is one release that's certainly been worth the wait. From a top-notch technical presentation to a handful of (mostly) interesting bonus features, those who grew up with the film will have much to look forward to. More importantly, the younger generation will be able to appreciate this animated classic on a number of different levels.

Just steer clear of the lame music videos and you'll be fine.

Quality Control Department

Video & Audio Quality:

Make all the "Di$ney" jokes you want, but they're virtually second-to-none when it comes to excellent DVD transfers. Presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (it's actually 1.37:1, for the nit-pickers), Cinderella looks absolutely fantastic in every way. Image detail and contrast are superb, while the vivid color palette really brings this 55 year-old film back to life. There was little to no edge enhancement found anywhere, while the film's short running time ensures that it has plenty of room to breathe. Overall, this terrific visual presentation is certainly up to the high standards of the Platinum Collection, so long-time fans of Cinderella have nothing to worry about.

The equally impressive audio presentation is yet another highlight, as Cinderella is available in 2.0 stereo or a new 5.1 Home Theater mix. The latter option has been available on previous Platinum releases, and it's a perfect example of a tastefully done remix for an already great-sounding film. This new mix obviously holds a clear edge in overall clarity, dynamic range and overall ambience, but the 2.0 track sounds excellent in its own right, offering clear dialogue and strong musical cues. Optional English subtitles and a THX optimizer have also been included.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:

The menu designs are colorful but surprisingly static, though the navigation is smooth and simple overall. Bonus features and other options are nicely organized, while the sub-menus and packaging also offer several indexes for your browsing convenience. The 75-minute film has been divided into 24 chapters, while no apparent layer change was detected during playback. Packaging is not unlike other Disney Platinum releases, as this 2-disc set is housed inside a slim double keepcase with a matching slipcover. A DVD Guide and several advertisement inserts are also inside the package.

Bonus Features:

Spread over both discs, the included bonus features aren't terribly consistent but there's a little something for everyone. Disc One unfortunately doesn't feature any audio commentaries, but things kick off with the ESPN-produced Cinderella Stories (34 minutes), a collection of tales from the sports world that mimics the rags-to-riches story of the film itself (a strange inclusion, but I suppose Dad might like it). There's also an awful Music Video for "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" (or at least a sterile Top 40 version of it) as performed by the Disney Circle of Stars, as well as an animated montage video entitled "Everyone Can Be A Princess". For the kids who enjoyed the videos, there's also a fluffy and forgettable Making of Featurette (4 minutes). Don't worry, the next disc is better.

Kicking off Disc Two is a pair of Deleted Scenes in rough storyboard form ("The Cinderella Work Song" and "Dancing On A Cloud", 10 minutes total) along with a short Introduction. This is the first of four total sections, each broken down according to its theme and target audience.

The next section, "Music and More", is home to a few historical extras; the first is a Television Clip (6 minutes) hosted by Perry Como which showcases vintage performances of several songs. Next up are more Music Demos (20 minutes), including Cinderella's theme, "The Mice Song", "A Dream Is A Wish...", "The Dress My Mother Wore" and others. Rounding out this section are a trio of Radio Excerpts from vintage broadcasts with more early music and voice work.

The third section is entirely avoidable for everyone except young girls: yes, folks, it's the dreaded "Virtual Babysitter" "Games and Activities". This section includes on-screen games such as "House of Royalty" and something called "The Princess Pajama Jam", as well as a DVD-Rom fashion design feature called "The Royal Life". You'll have to look into those for yourselves, I'm afraid.

Fortunately, The Mouse chose to end this disc on a high note: the fourth and final section, "Backstage Disney", offers a number of great extras. First up is From Rags To Riches: The Making of Cinderella (38 minutes, above left), an entertaining documentary that goes into great detail about the film's production and success (including some of the history mentioned above). The next supplement, The Cinderella That Almost Was (14 minutes, above right), is actually more of a companion piece to the documentary and provides an additional layer of perspective. It's a great one-two punch.

There's also A Tribute to Disney's Nine Old Men (22 minutes), an interesting look back at the original team of skilled animators. Up next is a brief Storyboard Comparison, The Art of Mary Blair (the Cinderella art director) and a vintage Laugh-O-Gram from 1922 that provides an oddly comical take on the classic story. Winding things down is a Mickey Mouse Club Excerpt, a moderately detailed Art Gallery and a healthy selection of Theatrical and Re-Issue Trailers. Last but not least, there's information on various Disney-related charities and how viewers can get involved. All in all, it's a nice spread for the whole family, though the bad-to-good ratio is still a bit too high.

Final Thoughts

It's not Disney's best film, but Cinderella still holds up as a classic that the whole family can enjoy. Fortunately, the DVD includes a number of highlights: from a top-notch technical presentation to a handful of interesting historical extras, those who love animation will find much to enjoy here (although the lack of a commentary is disappointing). It might be tough to stomach all of the included bonus features---so if this disc has one drawback, it's that it spreads itself too thin. Even so, those who enjoyed Disney's past volumes in the Platinum Collection will certainly want to pick this up---from top to bottom, it's still a fine film that direct-to-video sequels can't tarnish. Highly Recommended.

Randy Miller III is a moderately affable art instructor based in Harrisburg, PA, who also enjoys freelance graphic design and illustration. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.
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