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Cinderella Blu-Ray

 

Cinderella: Diamond Edition

Published November 7, 2012

By Albert Gutierrez

"Rucifee mean!" - Jaq

"I suppose it would be frightfully dull and completely - completely wonderful..." - Cinderella

"Good heavens, child! You're not going like that." - Fairy Godmother

Cinderella: Diamond Edition

Original Release: March 4, 1950

Blu-Ray/DVD Release: October 2, 2012

Film Length: 74 Minutes

The Movie:

Our heroine Cinderella is awaken by friendly birds, leading her to sing about how "a dream is a wish your heart makes." Soon, that nasty ole killjoy known as the Clock starts ringing, warning her of how little time she has to herself. She needs to get ready for the day's long list chores, starting with breakfast for her stepfamily. While she is washing the floor, a messenger arrives with a letter from the palace. The King is throwing a ball to celebrate the return of the Prince, with every eligible maiden invited to attend. The stepsisters - Anastasia and Drizella - rejoice at the news and the prospect of meeting the Prince. Cinderella, too, is excited as this will be a chance to go out and have fun. Her stepmother, Lady Tremaine, tells her she can go IF she gets her work done and IF she finds something suitable to wear. Immediately, the stepsisters give Cinderella plenty of tasks to keep her busy. As evening draws nearer, Cinderella has presumably finished her chores, but has no dress to wear.

Fortunately, her little friends - mice and birds - have been working secretly to make her a dress, based on a pattern Cinderella shows interest in, and using her mother's dress as the template. Cinderella, grateful for the gift, immediately changes and runs downstairs before her stepfamily can leave. Anastasia and Drizella are enraged, but Lady Tremaine points out that Cinderella did do as she was told. She also points out some noticeably "borrowed" items (which the mice took): beads and a sash. The stepsisters, in a fit of fury, remove both from Cinderella, and in their anger, completely tear up her dress. The family then leaves, while Cinderella runs off to the garden in tears. As she is crying, her Fairy Godmother appears, promising to fix things for her. She turns a pumpkin into a coach, her horse Major into its driver, faithful dog Bruno into a footman, and four mice (Jaq, Gus, and the twins) into horses. And for Cinderella, a sparkling new silver dress (that strangely turns blue as the night goes on. Oh, Disney restoration team...), complete with glass slippers. Cinderella can go out, but has to return by midnight, when the spell is broken.

Behind the Scenes:

Walt Disney's relationship with Cinderella actually began in his Kansas City days. He had produced an animated version of the fairy tale for his "Laugh-O-Grams" series in 1922, a full twenty-eight years before his acclaimed animated feature was released to the public. That film, while an intriguing short to watch, contains little of the charm and magic of his later film, but remains a historical curio. 1950's Cinderella, however, is still timeless and magical, enthralling audiences today just as it did sixty-two years ago.

Cinderella would mark a return to both fairy tales and feature-length animated films for Walt Disney's animation studio. From 1943 to 1949, Disney animation was mainly done as "package features," films that were comprised of shorter works, in order to keep the studio afloat during and after World War II. The first two, Saludos, Amigos and The Three Caballeros, could each be said to contain a singular story, but were still comprised of shorter works within a larger framing narrative. Make Mine Music and Melody Time were nothing but short films packaged together. In an effort to flesh out these shorts, Disney looked to some of their feature films in development before the war. Features based on "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Bongo the Bear" were shortened and paired up in Fun and Fancy Free, with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy co-starring in the "Jack and the Beanstalk" story. Likewise, Disney's development for "The Wind in the Willows" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" were also turned into half-hour stories and paired up in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. However, Disney knew they would have to return to feature-length films with one singular story.

1946's Song of the South might have been that film. Walt had wanted to make an animated feature based on the Uncle Remus stories. However, he also wanted a live-action Uncle Remus to tell the stories. Taking a cue from his "Alice in Cartoonland" shorts and The Three Caballeros, he decided that the film would instead be a blend of live-action sequences and animated vignettes. 1948's So Dear to My Heart would also feature a live-action story with animated scenes, but still was not quite what Disney intended. He had wanted the picture to be 100% live-action, but was forced to include animated sequences, as animation was what Disney was known for. More importantly, fully-animated feature length films was what Disney was known for, and he knew he had to deliver, even though he had a vested interest in live-action filmmaking.

Thus, Walt looked to what other stories were still in development before the war, and which were strong enough to start production again. The three chosen were Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella. Between them, Walt chose Cinderella as the one to begin production first. It was furthest in development, and its roots as a fairy tale would harken back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney's first animated feature, and a huge success for the studio. And like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella would also be a gamble. The package films kept the studio afloat, but they needed a surefire hit. Fortunately, Cinderella was that surefire hit, saving the studio from near-bankruptcy and paving the way for Disney's second Golden Age. In the sixty-two years since its original release, Cinderella remains a popular and financially successful film, turning its $2.9 million budget into $85 million at the box office, garnered from various theatrical outings throughout the years.

My Thoughts:

Author's Note: A portion of My Thoughts have been repurposed from a "Saturday Matinee" I wrote last year regarding the characterizations Cinderella and the Prince. As they still remain relevant to my views on the film today, they are included here.

In my summary of the film, I did my best to only tell the story from Cinderella's point of view. I intentionally left out as much as I could of the Jaq-Gus & Lucifer battles, the King and his desires to have grandchildren, and the stepsisters' lack of social or musical skills. The story of Cinderella should be all about Cinderella. And honestly, that's where some of my problems lie with the film. More time is spent with everyone else, that Cinderella - the titular character - is left with little to actually do on her own. Granted, it would have been boring to see Cinderella just doing chore after chore, or crying helplessly in her room for ten minutes. Apparently, it's more exciting to see how Jaq and Gus get their breakfast, gather items for the dress, and transport a key up several flights of stairs. As a child, I loved the Jaq and Gus scenes. They were fun antics and seemed like Disney's answer to the hugely-popular Tom & Jerry, from MGM Studios.

As I grew older, all these extra bits were still fun to watch, but they became invasive to the heart of the story: Cinderella herself. I didn't care about them as much as I used to, and it felt like they were taking over what should be a truly romantic story. What little romance that is actually in the film still works, but there should be more of it. Truthfully, all that's romantic is contained in "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," "So This Is Love," and the finale. Everything else is filler. I wanted to know more about Cinderella, who she was, how she'd react, what made her tick. This is usually why I still like Cinderella III: A Twist in Time more than Cinderella. She's actually doing something, and we actually spend time with her. With 1950's Cinderella, we get a passive heroine, someone who's been emotionally abused and scarred for years and forced to be a slave in her own home. From the get-go, we see that her entire arc in the story will be to keep the faith, and as a result, she gets back-burned in order for the audience to see how everyone else will react to that.

The best parts in the film are when Cinderella's at her emotional highs and lows, beginning with the first time she actually doubts herself - after the long day of work and the Torn Dress Moment. It is important that Cinderella is at her lowest point, as that enables her to rise above it and her faith is now rewarded. This occurs again later in the film, when behind a locked door, she's once again reduced to tears and faith. She went from the emotional high (finding out "that guy" was a Prince... and he wants to marry her!) to an emotional low (a simple locked door) in such quick time that all she can do once again is have faith. Surely she could have found a hair pin or other device to pick the lock. Instead, she's now completely broken and despondent. This limitation of action does her a disservice, I feel, since such an emotional low could prompt others to finally take action. But it wouldn't be true to her character's arc of keeping the faith. I'm not suggesting that simply believing in something will cause it to come true, that's silly. But within the confines of this story, it's essential. Believing is the magic that gets Cinderella out of the house and into the palace.

The palace for Cinderella is never really about the riches and power, even though many call "Cinderella" a rags-to-riches story. If anything, the palace represents the life and love that she needs. The prince himself becomes the embodiment for this, even if we only see him in two scenes. All we really know of the Prince is what the King says of him (he's avoided his royal duties) and what Cinderella thinks of him (she's in love, even if she didn't know he was the Prince). We don't need much more than that, because he serves the story best as a catalyst for the action in the second half of the film. The one true important aspect of the Prince is his role in Cinderella's life; he is the reason for her to escape her family. However, we must remember that Cinderella doesn't leave her family merely for a man. She leaves them for what he represents: pure, unadulterated, and unconditional love - all based on one magical night. Cinderella needs that kind of love, especially after her years of neglect and unhappiness. As a result, that's all that Disney needs to tell us of the Prince. Everything else can best be left to the audience's imagination. For instance, most Disney fans unofficially recognizes him as "Prince Charming," but I've taken to giving him a much longer name: Prince Chancellor Callum Cleophas Courtland Caldwell the IV.

Still, for a romantic film, I would like to know more about Cinderella and the Prince beyond their magical night. Timelines in Disney fairy tales often seem to only take place over a few days, because "love at first sight" is meant to take care of the why-for of a character's relationship. For a modern audience, it's a bit hard to swallow. Rather, these fairy tales with their grandiose and epic love stories should be taken merely as escapist cinema. A modern cynic could attribute "love at first sight" in real life as more likely being "physical attraction at repeated starings," which is partly true. A first impression of a person generally can change after repeated encounters, neither of which Cinderella or the Prince is afforded. They've got one night, and that's it. Fortunately, one night is all that's needed in a fairy tale, and I'll happily accept it as their ever after.

Honestly, even with some of these story issues, I really don't want to be too critical of Cinderella. When considering the state of Walt Disney Studios at the time, and how this film was as big a gamble as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, such story issues should not get in the way. After all, the film is still beautifully animated. The package films of the 1940's all served as teasers to what Disney could do with Mary Blair's style, and we get the first of those results in Cinderella. There's a charming whimsy to the film; it's a very calm picture, which helps to reflect the calm and reserved nature of Cinderella. The few, but essential, dramatic moments in the film take full advantage of lighting and shadow opportunities, like the midnight chase or Lady Tremaine's terrifying stares that darken a room. And the transformations - be it Torn Dress to Silver Dress, Pumpkin to Coach, or Drizella's Foot Fitting Into Slipper - are some of the best work by Disney animators. Even the mice's adventures are given top-notch treatment. Gus's eyes when he sees Lucifer about to roar at him is one of my favorite shots in the entire film (briefly covered in this Saturday Matinee). These individual elements add up to create a wonderfully produced picture, with winning songs and enjoyable characters, as well as the hints of danger and intrigue that help provide some dramatic tension to a fairly simple plot.


Lady Tremaine is shocked that deep down, I still love this film.

I should admit that no matter how much I might try to find fault in Cinderella, I will forever have a bias in favor of the film. I've had that bias since I was three years old. That was when I first watched the film, making it the very first Disney Animated Classic that I ever saw. It was an enchanting experience that made me believe in the Disney Magic, sweeping me away with the wave of a magic wand, the dance in the misty blue light, and the bells of a joyous wedding. Try as I might to criticize the film for an inactive heroine, overemphasis on mice, and nameless prince... I can never bring myself to ever truly dislike it. Cinderella was my gateway to all things Disney, for which I'm forever grateful. To bring this to a close, I'll just share my favorite ad from Disney's 2001 "Magic Happens" campaign. It's - no surprise here - the Cinderella one, which can still bring tears to my eyes:

 


Just like Cinderella, you may find yourselves torn after reading this next section...

The Disc:

Video: 1.33:1 Academy

Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD MA (1), English 1.0 DTS-HD MA (2), French 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix (3), Spanish 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix (4)

Subtitles: English (1), English HoH (2), French (3), Spanish (4)

Chapters: 24

Before I talk about the video, let me just get the audio assessment out of the way. It sounds great. If there are any problems, my ears didn't catch them. Both mixes (7.1 and 1.0) are crisp and clean, as are the foreign language tracks. There, that was easy.

So how does the video compare? Well, if this is your first time ever seeing the film, or if you just want to sit back and enjoy it, Cinderella will look gorgeous on your television. Colors are beautifully rendered and mostly consistent (more on that in a moment). The image is sharp and crisp; everything looks like it was just inked to the cel yesterday. This is a beautiful picture, rich in pastels, and its Mary Blair style artwork makes this one of the nicest looking picture from 1950's Disney. On aesthetics alone, I rank it second after Sleeping Beauty. Were this an entirely new film, it would look like something straight out of the 90's CAPS era: hand drawn, digitally inked, and remarkable. It should deserve the highest marks for a video assessment.

Unfortunately, now things get complicated. Fans who complain about the DVD & Blu-ray's color palette seem to ignore when such instances work in the film's favor. Take a look at the images below. The one on the left is from the 1995 Laserdisc. The right is the 2005 & 2012 transfer. What we need to remember is that for the 2005 restoration, colors were chosen based on the ink-and-painted animation cels from the original production. While that seems like it should be the closest source for how the film look, colors will change when photographed, due to lighting and the Technicolor dye-transfer process. Disney's animation studio mixed all their own paints, creating their own shades that would become the color they intend when a cel is shot and color-timed with the Technicolor camera. Therefore, if we wanted to know what the "true" colors of the film would be, we would have to consult the original negatives and color timing notes. Colors on a cel are not what would be projected on the screen, and therefore, not the intended look for the film. Imagine it like seeing a clown 75% done with their make-up. You can recognize what look they are going for, but are not quite there yet.


Click "here" and "here" to see the individual images at an uncompressed size

In this shot, the difference in Cinderella's dress is obvious, and one in which I - and others, I'm sure - do prefer the 1995 Laserdisc. We get a silvery-blue color for her dress, which we expect the dress to be. However, for the 2005 DVD and 2012 Blu-Ray, it's suddenly a bright blue. On the flipside, the Prince's pants are darker in the 2005/2012 version, which better sells the darkness of midnight. When inside the ballroom, they are bright red, and yet that bright red is only slightly darkened for the Laserdisc when outdoors in this shot. The much-darker version seen here is more accurate to the time of day (er, night). Likewise, the backgrounds are darker - and sharper - in this version, than in the 1995 Laserdisc, which make it look like early evening. Thus, we see how the cel colors can be both good and bad for the intent of a shot. At the end of the day, every fan will have their own conception on how the film should look, but no one really has a "say" in it except Disney themselves. For now, I'll begrudgingly accept that this is the version they want to issue on home media.

I should also mention how DNR - Digital Noise Reduction - has affected the film. The automated process is intended to smooth out an image by removing extant grain and other noise that is picked up when an analog source (in this case, 35mm film) is scanned digitally. For animated films, a grain-free image can look great, and Cinderella does. However, in some shots - which I haven't been able to accurately capture, but others have posted examples online - some hand-drawn lines were mistaken for noise, and DNR removed them. Under a watchful eye, such mistakes can be caught and corrected. For the most part, the restoration team for Cinderella (Lowry Digital Images, now known as Reliance MediaWorks) did that in 2005. Still, human error has led to several shots in the film in which missing lines are quite obvious when paused.

While these color palette issues and DNR-caused mistakes can be considered a problem with the presentation, most viewers may not even be aware of it unless someone pointed it out. Whether or not they decide to cry "foul!" is up to them. If you decide to cry "foul!", my advice is to write to Disney Customer Service (link "Disney Customer Service" to here: ) to voice your dissatisfaction with the product. If Disney is aware of these issues, and if a fair amount of consumers voice their opinion regarding them, hopefully a future release of the film will correct them. In the meantime, the most that consumers can do beyond writing to them is voting with their wallet: decide if the error is a large enough factor to prevent a purchase of this Blu-Ray.

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