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Featured Blu-ray Review: Cinderella

October 1st, 2012

Cinderella - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Cinderella first came out in 1950 at a time when Disney was in danger of going under. Had the film failed, so would the company. However, the film was an instant classic and a huge hit at the box office and not only saved the company, but allowed it to become the entertainment juggernaut it is today. Does the film live up to its reputation? And is its Blu-ray debut worth upgrading to?

The Movie

The film begins with a prologue introducing us to Cinderella. Her father was a kind widower who doted on her, but wanted to her have a mother, so he remarried. His new wife, Lady Tremaine, was from a good family and had two daughters of her own, Anastasia and Drizella. However, after he passed away, his second wife revealed her true nature and became cruel towards Cinderella. As the family fortunes dwindled, the house fell into disrepair and Cinderella was forced to become a servant in her own home. But that didn't crush her spirit. With the help of her animal friends, she maintained a belief in dreams.

After what could be a short film with mice dealing with Lucifer the cat (which ends when one of the mice is trapped by the cat, under Anastasia's teacup, causing Cinderella to be punished with more work) we get to the actual plot. In a nearby castle, the King is quite upset with his son, Prince Charming, because he hasn't found a wife and had children. He's a prince, this is his number one duty. The Duke says the King should have patience, but the King has other ideas, he will host a ball where Prince Charming will meet his true love. The Duke is to arrange the ball for tonight, and he must ensure every eligible maid is there. When the royal invitation arrives at Cinderella's home, Anastasia and Drizella are excited about going, and because every eligible maiden must attend, Cinderella can go, as long as she gets all of her chores done and can find a suitable dress. As she races to finish her chores, her animal friends make her dress, and it is a beautiful dress. It is so beautiful that Anastasia and Drizella get extremely jealous and under the encouragement of Lady Tremaine, they tear up Cinderella's dress.

All is not lost, as Cinderella's fairy godmother is there to help. How? That's getting into spoiler territory.

There are just over 50 films in the Disney Animation Canon; however, from number six, Saludos Amigos, through number eleven, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the studio was releasing compilations of short films. Cinderella was their return to the feature-length format. However, after losing money throughout World War II, the studio was in trouble and didn't have the resource that they had for some of their earlier films. As such, this one feels smaller. There are no giant action scenes like Pinocchio being swallowed by the whale, for instance. There's the early scenes with mice and the cat, but those don't have nearly the same scope. Also, for a film with a romance at its center, the Prince Charming is rather, well, dull. He barely exists as a character and is more of a MacGuffin. It's hard to get wrapped up into a romance when one half of it is a blank slate. In fact, many of the characters are underwritten with the evil step-sisters being little more than spoiler brats. The King and the Duke don't even get names, but at least they bring a lot of energy to their scenes.

On the other hand, the film does have a lot of strengths. It boasts some excellent music, with "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" being the most famous song from the film. The addition of a myriad of animals was a wise move, as it gave the film much of its humor and heart. The animation is impeccable, even if it lacks the big flashy scenes of some of the earlier films. Even without these action scenes, this film does still generate a lot of tension, including the finale with the mice trying to free Cinderella so she can try on the slipper. Overall, Cinderella is a great fairytale and does have a timeless sense to it. That said, if it were made today, it would have had a more complex narrative with more fully-fleshed out characters.

The Extras

Extras begin with a short introduction by Diane Disney Miller. You can also watch the movie with Disney View, which is painted backgrounds to fill in the sidebars. (The film was made before widescreen.) There is also a second screen presentation, but I still don't have anything that works with this to test. There is a 12-minute featurette on Mary Alice O’Connor, whom is described as The Real Fairy Godmother, as she was the inspiration for the character. Later on, she did extensive charity work, thus really earning that title. There is an 8-minute featurette hosted by Ginnifer Goodwin, which is about the expansion of Fantasyland. The Magic of the Glass Slipper is a 10-minute short featuring Christian Louboutin (Who?) trying to design a glass slipper for the 21st century. There is also an alternate opening in storyboard form. The final new extra for the Blu-ray is Tangled Ever After, a short film about Rapunzel and Flynn's wedding day. (There are also plenty of older extras from the previous DVD releases).

The film looks stunning. The restoration process turned a 60-year old film into a reference-level video presentation. The level of detail is outstanding, especially the backgrounds. The colors are incredibly vivid and there's no fluctuations. The blacks are deep while the contrast is just as strong. It goes without saying that there are no signs of print damage or compression issues. It is simply fantastic. The audio is less impressive, but the film was originally made in mono and trying to get a 7.1 track out of an original mono track is hard. Don't expect a lot of separation or dynamics, as the surround sound speakers are not taxed (especially the subwoofer). That said, the audio is very clear, which is more important for a film this old.

The Blu-ray costs $23, or $28 with the digital copy. There's also a Franchise Box Set, for those who can't wait for the sequels, but you are going to be paying more for a fancy box.

The Verdict

Cinderella rightfully holds a place in the classics, although in some aspects, filmmaking has improved since the Golden Age. The Blu-ray Combo Pack is definitely worth picking up and a contender for Pick of the Week, but I'm not sure it is worth paying extra for the Box Set.

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Filed under: Video Review, Cinderella, Ginnifer Goodwin, Zachary Levi, Mandy Moore