Monday, December 17, 2012

Cinderella: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson

Everyone orders Cinderella around: her cruel stepmother, her awful stepsisters — even the big clock in the church tower tells her when to start another day of drudgery. But they can’t stop her from dreaming, and Cinderella has faith that someday her wishes will come true. When an invitation to the royal ball arrives, Cinderella is sure her time has come — until her stepsisters, with the encouragement of Lady Tremaine, tear her gown to shreds. Just when Cinderella believes all is lost, her Fairy Godmother appears, and with a wave of her wand and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” transforms an ordinary pumpkin into a magnificent coach and Cinderella’s rags into a gorgeous gown, then sends her off to the Royal Ball. But Cinderella’s enchanted evening must end when the spell is broken at midnight. It will take the help of her daring animal mice friends and a perfect fit into a glass slipper to create the ultimate fairy tale ending.  This enchanting classic comes alive in stunning fashion for in-home viewing for the very first time on Blu-ray high definition with enhanced picture and sound, once again being embraced by new and old generation alike and only available … as long as the spell lasts.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The rags to riches tale of Cinderella has been told many times in a variety of movies, but the version that I believe connects with audiences the most is this one.   Walt Disney and his team of talented animators bring the story to life with flair and the choices that they made as far as character design and the beautiful backgrounds give the movie a timeless feel that ensures its continued popularity.  This story of a young girl who had it all, only to become a virtual slave to her cruel step-mother and abusive step-sister after her father’s death, still strikes a chord with viewers.  The dream that no matter what your current station in life could end with you becoming a princess is irresistible to a lot of women who dream of meeting their own prince charming.
Originally, Cinderella (Ilene Woods) lived with her well-to-do father who happened to be a widower until he met Lady Tremaine (Eleanor Audley) and her daughters.  After a time he married Lady Tremaine  but things took a turn for the worse after he passed away.  With him no longer there to protect Cinderella from Lady Tremaine and her daughters, Cinderella was forced to become a servant in her own house.  It’s at that point that I have a hard time with this movie because I don’t understand why she doesn't just kick them out of the house.  I’ve never understood why she left them bully her as much as they do or why she takes abuse from their cat Lucifer either.  In any case, Cinderella happily does their laundry, cleans their drapes, fixes their meals, feeds the animals, etc.  The only good aspect of her life is her friendship with the various animals dwelling with her that includes mice, a dog, birds, and a horse.  They keep Cinderella company and help her with her chores as well as keep her spirits up.
Meanwhile at the Royal Palace, the King (Luis Van Rooten) is upset that his son is not married and that he has no grandchildren.  In order to force the situation, he instructs his adviser the Duke to organize a ball and to invite every eligible female in the kingdom for the Prince to choose from.  When the King’s invitation arrives, they are all excited but none as much as Cinderella who has dreamed of escaping her lot in life.  Lady Tremaine tells Cinderella that she may attend the ball if her chores are done, but between her and her daughters, they do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.  They heap chore after chore onto Cinderella until there’s no time for her to get ready. Luckily for her, her mice and birds are excellent seamstresses, and they made a beautiful dress made up from the cast offs from the sisters.  When the sisters see how beautiful Cinderella looks in their hand me downs, they rip her outfit to shreds taking their items back and leaving Cinderella in tears.  All is not lost however as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Verna Felton) arrives to set things right and to give Cinderella a chance in a lifetime as long as she can make it back by midnight.
Cinderella is a cute film but it’s not one of my favorites because of a weak heroine and a paper thin plot.  You could easily sum up the movie in one sentence which usually isn't a good thing.  The animation is superb, especially during the transformation sequence orchestrated by the Fairy Godmother.  The voice acting is also excellent, especially by Eleanor Audley who provided the harsh dialogue for Lady Tremaine (as well as the voice of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty).  As usual for these early Disney movies, the Prince is just a cardboard cutout with no real personality at all. That tradition would continue until Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Phillip who was fully realized.  The mice, Jaq and Gus (all played by Jimmy MacDonald) are very popular which has added to the film’s appeal.  While I can certainly appreciate the movie’s merits, I would still recommend the aforementioned Sleeping Beauty over this one in every respect.

Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

I don’t know how Disney does it, but once again they've restored a movie that’s over sixty years old so well that it looks like it could have been released six months ago.  Colors are vibrant and the variety of hues on display is very impressive and beautiful to see.  The animation looks sharp and detailed and the contrast is spot on.  There’s no sign of digital defects or any other blemishes on hand to detract from this glorious picture either.  There is a lack of grain present but it’s not because the image has been scrubbed so clean that there’s no detail left.  The image looks clean but still as it should so purists shouldn't worry too much about this restoration.  This is another beautiful restoration job by Disney who are doing an excellent job of restoring and preserving their rich history.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

Cinderella offers two choices for your audio pleasure: a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround mix and a single channel DTS-HS Master Audio Mono mix for the purists.  Both lossless tracks sound fantastic but I have to say that I prefer the new 7.1 surround mix. Dialogue is crystal clear and clean and the rear channels deliver the ambiance, sound effects, and the music well.   The sound effects sound especially good in this new mix especially during the sequence where the Fairy Godmother works her magic to transform Cinderella.  I can’t imagine anyone complaining about these lossless tracks no matter which version they prefer as both sound incredible.

Extras (5 out of 5 stars) 

As expected, Disney’s Diamond edition’s extras are high in quantity and quality.  Not only have the past DVD’s extras been ported over, but they've created some new ones and included a Tangled short cartoon that continues the story from the film.
  • Diane Disney Miller Introduction – The now customary introduction by Walt’s daughter Diane from the Walt Disney Museum.
  • Classic Backstage Disney DVD Features -  These ported features add up to almost two hours of goodies but the bad news is that they are all in standard definition.  These include: ”From Rags to Riches: The Making of Cinderella“, an in-depth documentary on the making of the film; “The Cinderella that Almost Was”, which covers the various ways that the movie almost became; “From Walt’s Table: A Tribute to the Nine Old Men”, a great tribute to the legendary “Nine Old Men” who were Walt’s key animators; “The Art of Mary Blair”, another key person in the history of Disney who created backgrounds and provided inspiration for other projects like Saludos Amigos and the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland; a “Storyboard-to-Film Comparison,” which looks into the movie’s opening sequence; an animated “Laugh-O-Gram” of the original Cinderella short from 1922; an excerpt from “The Mickey Mouse Club” from 1956; and lastly six theatrical and re-issue trailers.
  • Deleted Scenes - Three deleted scenes are recreated through some original production art and storyboards.
  • Cinderella Alternate Opening Sequence - Another look at what could have been with a new song that would have opened the movie if it had been kept in.
  • Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition - These three featurettes make up the new material created for this release and combined they last thirty minutes.  The first one, “The Real Fairy Godmother” is a look at the inspiration for the Fairly Godmother who turns out to be Mary Alice, a wife of one of the animators who was one of the greatest humanitarians pf Burbank who helped many people.  Then there’s  ”Behind the Magic: A New Disney Princess Fantasyland”, which look into Walt Disney’s reworking and expansion of Fantasyland.  And lastly, there’s “The Magic of a Glass Slipper: A Cinderella Story” is a short film about shoe designer Christian Louboutin trying to create a his own version of the glass slipper.  I have no idea why Disney is making short films about guys that they hired to create merchandise but it’s kind of cute and there’s some animation in it too.
  • Tangled Ever After - I really liked this animated short that picks up where Tangled ended.  Flynn and Rapunzel are about to get married and they’ve entrusted the lizard Pascal and the horse Maximus to guard the wedding rings.  Then the rings are accidentally misplaced, comic hi-jinks and a lot of slapstick ensue.  This is a very funny cartoon and it’s cool that it was included and that it’s in high definition as well.
  • Classic Music & More - A little over a half an hour of archival audio recordings of the “Cinderella Title Song,” a collection of seven “Unused Songs,” a “Village Store” excerpt from 1948, a “Gulf Oil Presents” excerpt from 1950, and a “Scouting the Stars” program from 1950.
  • Personalized Digital Storybook: Bibbidi-Bobbidi-You - An interactive Disney Second Screen storybook that my son enjoyed.
  • DisneyView - Like the previous Diamond editions, this feature allows you to replace the traditional black bars on the either side of the film with custom created artwork that  that ties in with the themes of the movie.  In this case, the artwork was done by Disney background painter Cristy Maltese.

Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This is without a doubt, one of Disney’s classic movies that is much loved by fans across the world.  It’s a cute but slight story, but it’s filled with warmth, good humor, and good triumphing over evil which is always a good thing. This Diamond edition Blu-ray offers an excellent presentation for the movie with a gorgeous new transfer and a new 7.1 surround mix along with a bunch of great extras. There’s even a bonus Tangled cartoon to make this purchase even more irresistible.   While I like Sleeping Beauty even more, this is still an easy movie to recommend!
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