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". Nearly every culture has its own account, from China's "Yeh Shen" to England's version---and my personal favorite title---"Tattercoats". Various names and details 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 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: separate Rodgers and Hammerstein TV productions (one in 1957 starring Julie Andrews, and another in 1965 with Leslie Ann Warren) to 1998's Ever After---but arguably none of the modern variations are more widely known than Disney's 1950 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 to great success. Since then, it's been one of the studio's crown jewels, especially since "Cinderella" is easily the most well-known fairy tale of all. Yet by Walt's own account in testimonials, he was never truly happy with the finished product, convinced that too many corners were cut along the way.
So was a newer version by The House of Mouse really necessary 65 years later? Either way, Disney's 2015 adaptation of Cinderella spares no expense: this live-action production---with a handful of CGI flourishes, because magic---is a visual powerhouse that's been crafted with care. From the costume and production design to casting and music, this is a competent retelling of the story that will undoubtedly thrill fans of all ages. While its core story remains the same, the main differences here are that Cinderella's childhood has been fleshed out in slightly more detail and, unlike Disney's animated version, much less time is devoted to those cute little mice. It flows much more naturally as a result, enough so that the film's slightly longer running time (105 minutes) doesn't feel as padded as you'd expect.
The performances are first-rate...and with a few small exceptions, the characters feel like fully realized extensions of the story. There are a few exceptions: Cate Blanchett's Lady Tremaine (the wicked stepmother) and her daughters feel typically underwritten and almost "evil for evil's sake", which feels like an emotional shortcut. Still, the good outweighs the bad, and in all the right areas: Kenneth Branagh's direction is reliably good from start to finish, production designer Dante Ferretti creates some of the film's most memorable visuals (especially the royal ball, which bursts with color and detail), and Patrick Doyle's music cues offer plenty of support without fighting for attention. I was able to see Cinderella during its theatrical run a few short months ago, and can confirm that almost every aspect of the production translates well to the small screen, from the potent atmosphere to its vivid, stylish color palette.
Luckily, Disney's new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack also offers plenty of support for the top-notch audio and visuals, but there's a serious lack of bonus features on board that spoils the party somewhat. Seen below, the interface is smooth and simple, and this two-disc package arrives in a standard multi-hubbed eco-keepcase with a promotional insert, a Digital Copy redemption code, and an enhanced slipcover that replicates one of the film's original poster designs.
Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, Cinderella looks exactly as expected on Blu-ray. The film's careful color palette and terrific production design are reproduced perfectly in this 1080p transfer; it yields a high level of image detail, well-defined textures, stable black levels, and virtually no instances of excessive tampering and/or digital defects. Occasional bursts of CGI blend quite well with the live-action footage...and even when they don't, it's absolutely not the fault of the Blu-ray Overall, it's obvious that Cinderella was intended to look like a million bucks and this Blu-ray follows suit, serving up a pitch-perfect image that rivals its own theatrical presentation just a few short months ago. Without a doubt, fans young and old will find nothing to complain about here.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio won't disappoint either, as this dialogue-driven film is absolutely loaded with little sonic touches along the way. Cinderella features excellent channel separation, crisp and well-balanced effects that don't fight for attention, strong music cues, and a few stray but noticeable amounts of LFE along the way. Optional dubs are available in French and Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1 only), as well as a separate English Descriptive Video Service track in 2.0. English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are offered during the film and extras.
Much less than expected, and what's here rarely digs below the surface. Up first are four short Featurettes, most of which feature director Kenneth Branagh and select members of the cast and crew. "The Fairy Tale Comes to Life" (9:24) offers a basic overview of the Cinderella story and its lasting influence; "Costume Test Fun" (2:39) is raw rehearsal footage of cast members in costume and clips from the film; "Staging the Ball" (11:26) also features production designer Dante Ferretti and his comments about the visual design and on-set experience; and "Ella's Furry Friends" (3:43) includes words from animal trainers Guillaume Grange and Julie Tottman.
An Alternate Opening (3:02) is also here; entitled "Ella's Childhood", it's presented in finished form and also features an introduction from director Kenneth Branagh. And last but not least is "Frozen Fever" the
quick cash-in short film that played in theaters before Cinderella and is also available on the recent Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection. Like the other supplements, it's presented in HD and looks/sounds as good as expected.
Entertaining and visually ambitious, Disney's newest adaptation of Cinderella is an easy choice for family movie night: it's been made with care and rarely skips a beat along the way, even if the end product can't help but give off the same "very good, but not truly great" vibe as their 1950 animated adaptation. Either way, this new Blu-ray plays to the film's technical strengths, serving up a top-tier A/V presentation that will dazzle your eyes and ears. Sadly, the bonus features are slim and surface-level, making die-hard fans long for the days when Disney home video releases were definitive the first time around. Even so, this one's obviously Recommended for fans of all ages.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.