Senior HTF Member
- Feb 24, 1999
Studio:Disney Year:1950 RunTime:76 minutes Rating:G Aspect Ratio:4x3 encoded 1.33:1 (@ OAR) Audio:5.1 DD DEHT English mix, Original Mono Mix (DD), French, Spanish SpecialFeatures:Deleted Scenes, Image Galleries, multiple documentaries, Trailers (yes, trailers), more… ReleaseDate:October 4, 2005
A personal moment with DaViD...
I think I can safely say that my finest hour thus-far as a DVD reviewer has just taken place. Cinderella is my favorite Disney Animated classic, and like other classic films viewed from an early age, it has become part of my life to be enjoyed again and again as I grow older. Now having entered my 34th year, viewing Cinderella I’m rewarded as profoundly as when I was a child. Disney’s magnificent effort to bring this classic to DVD has made that experience even more rewarding.
Having the privilege to review this DVD and share my impressions with you is an honor that I do not take lightly. It is with gratitude and appreciation to all those responsible for this beautiful DVD edition that I offer you my review.
A veritable classic among Disney’s historic animated feature films, Cinderella is just as impressive a work of art and entertainment today in 2005 as it was 55 years ago when it graced the screen for audiences the very first time. Like all of Disney’s “fairy tale” translations, it has its host of critics who will be quick to tell you all the ways in which the animated feature film deviates from the historical tale. However, Cinderella’s transgressions aren’t any more egregious than any other Disney feature loved and enjoyed, and given that there are a multitude of variations on the historical tale already, in my humble opinion Disney simply adds one more—and a it's a good one.
Note to film enthusiasts: the version of Cinderella that I find Disney’s adaptation most closely resembles is actually a 1939 Deanna Durbin film called “First Love” (included in a DVD collection titled “Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack” which contains six of her films…it’s a must own). That film made use of many visuals, scenes, and characters that Disney appears to have worked into his own feature royalty-free: the characters at her home who help her get to the ball and befriend her are represented by Disney’s mice, when Deanna arrives at the ball and approaches the stair case and when she and the “prince” dance together is also clearly parallel…with Disney creating a more grandiose, but undeniably similar visual effect. I highly recommend that every one of you who appreciates classic films or the Cinderella story in general give Deanna Durbin’s “First Love” a watch and see if you don’t agree. I haven’t felt that I’ve discovered a stronger undocumented “inspiration” from one film to another since I saw the heroine in “THEM” torch the ant larvae in what was CLEARLY the inspiration for Cameron’s scene when Ripley torches the Alien’s egg lair.
Cinderella is well-paced, well edited, and delivers a compelling story with characters that get you emotionally involved. Cinderella may be an innocent, but she's not naive (just look at the way she rolls her eyes when she's about to interrupt the "music lesson" when the King's announcement arrives). The coldness of the stepmother is chillingly frightening…and I’m sure the inspiration for many a childhood nightmare. The tension that the movie builds in the final scenes is nothing short of fantastic considering that even having viewed this film dozens of time it still produces the same gut-wrenching agony as if maybe this time the movie won't turn out with a happy ending after all. While some sequences may be a bit slow for today's kids who are reared on MTV-strobe-like childrens' programming, those of you already working hard to make sure your children grow up enjoying classics like Bambi and Snow White know the importance of not letting the next generation miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience these masterworks of film for the first time at a young age.
Cinderella’s animation (which bears a strong influence from the concept artwork of Mary Blair, much like Alice in Wonderland) is sophisticated. Look at the carefully depicted backgrounds…at times they are quite abstracted and stylized…at times they are less assuming and more realistic…at times colors are bold and electric and at times somber and subdued. Every choice, every brushstroke, is placed on the canvas for a purpose. Nothing you can see is merely arbitrary; it all works together to compel the characters, the story, the emotion that Disney artists want you to feel. Some sequences are beautifully realistic, and some sequences (like the “Sing Sweet Nightingale” or “So This Is Love” ballads) are wondrously surreal and display a Fantasia-esque creativity. No two Disney animated features are just alike in technique, and just like Snow White, Bambi, and Fantasia, Cinderella is Disney Studios animation at its best.
Those of you who grew up with Cinderella and, like me, have been dreaming of the day you could own it on DVD have been well rewarded for your patience. Those of you who haven’t seen this film, there's never been a better opportunity.
Since my first love-affair with laserdisc in the 1990’s I remember the covetous way that I snatched that 12-inch platter from the hands of the store clerk and raced home to experience Cinderella ecstasy—in what was then the highest-quality consumer-format available. In those days of debating which provided better image quality…to use a composite video cable and rely on your 4x3 interlaced television’s built-in comb filter or run “S-Video” using your laserdisc player’s comb-filter…I remember being blown away by what seemed to me then to be a pristine image before my eyes and feeling a deep satisfaction knowing that I owned an “optically read” copy of one of my childhood’s most cherished films that I could watch over and over again without wear.
However, taking that laserdisc to the high-end video store and watching it magnified on a CRT projector confronted me with just how poor a film-facsimile the laserdisc medium really was. My loyalty to laserdisc was broken, and I began to dream of another future format that could much more closely “replicate film” in my living room. When DVD hit the streets in 1997 and it became clear what potential improvements the format would be able to offer…I remember dreaming that one day I might be able to purchase Cinderella again…on the DVD format…and if fate were kind, it might ameliorate the problems inherent with the laserdisc medium and transport me to video nirvana.
That day has come.
Folks. I could stop right there. Every else in this section is merely an elaboration upon that one simple word.
The magicians at Lowry Digital have outdone themselves yet again. They seem to be getting better and better with each Disney animated feature they do. Starting with Snow White, moving to Bambi, and then to Cinderella (omitting a few in between for brevity), the progress is clear. Add to that Disney’s apparent improvement at learning how to properly digitally master for the DVD medium and the winning combination is what you see here.
You’re not looking at a film that’s 55 years old. You’re looking and hand-painted cells and background artwork dancing on your screen with a purity that looks as if they were photographed yesterday. I take that back…they don’t look “photographed” at all. The effect is as if you’re staring directly at the artwork itself. Stunning.
Much like with Bambi, the visual experience of watching Cinderella is dazzling for the videophile viewer…especially for those viewing on a wide-angle/large-screen display. Background images reveal so much detail, so much depth, that you feel as if you could run your fingers along the image and feel the ridges from the painted brush stroked on the canvas. The image is so pure, so stable, so free from any anomalies whatsoever, that it’s as if those painted cells are coming to life right before your eyes. I’m still stunned even 2 days after having first viewed this DVD.
Unlike Bambi, which was an outstanding effort but still revealed a few very (very) minor artifacts (whether from film or electronic origin) like a mild softness/occasional edge-ringing and some film-related artifacts like a few strange motion "blurs" and color-shifts while the camera changed focus or moved through the multiplane layers, Cinderella contains no noise whatsoever from any source: film or video. There is no evidence of film-grain to be seen. No compression noise or color banding that I can detect. No color instability or contrast pumping or image bobbing/weaving. No edge-ringing anywhere or “digital” looking haze to obscure the natural detail. No unnecessary high-frequency filtering to remove fine detail and destroy the sense of image depth. Blacks are clean/compression-noise free, contrast is exactly right, and colors are exactly as they are meant to appear.
It’s simply perfect.
The only room for criticism I can find is that the original RKO logo is missing (replaced with the modern Disney logo) but the original musical intro score is fully intact and overlays the new Disney logo leading into the title credits in the same manner. Not the end of the world (I love that beautiful historic RKO logo on my laserdisc) but that about sums up the only issue I have with the video presentation...
I’ll make mention that this sort of “digitally restored” image is controversial with some folks…and we’ve had some healthy discussion on these points in past threads here at HTF. I think that in general it’s fair to say that with “movies” the film-negative or first-generation print (as it was intended to look by the original artists) should be the reference point that the restoration and DVD presentation aspire to achieve...and whatever "grain" or other film-related artifacts one might see in those first-generation elements ought to be left alone...that's the movie the artists made and that's the way they expected it to look (note, this has to do with "intended" grain...not film grain or noise incurred from poor-quality post-production duplication or wear).
However, in the case of animated art like Cinderella, I think it could be argued that the painted artwork could be viewed as an “earliest generation” copy of the art, if you will. If the image can be cleaned to reveal that artwork more clearly…it might actually be serving the artists’ original intentions better than the prints did that delivered the film's theatrical debut.
An audio analogy would be considering the discrete-recorded audio tracks to a classic Beatles' song as the "original" work...not the overly-compressed 2nd generation master tape used for LP...so you create a new high-res 24/192 master using those discrete tracks (without the added tape-hiss and distortion of the master tape on file) being careful to achieve the same overall balance of the original mix and this becomes the new source for your DVD-Audio disc or SACD.
Of course, without having the original artists present to share their point of view on the matter we can’t ever know for sure if we've best served their intended result. But I think that at the very least enthusiasts should allow themselves to enjoy a DVD presentation like Cinderella for what it is *and* for what it brings them that no audience outside the orignal animation team ever had the opportunity to enjoy previously. The high-resolution digital files can always be printed back to film for physical preserviation and to impart the signature of film back into the image in any desired way, and so the work done resurrecting a title like Cinderella for a DVD presentation such as this is not a disservice to the art and integrity of film…it ultimately can serve to preserve it.
John D. Lowry’s own comments relating to this issue (regarding another title) taken from this excellent article:
“Generally speaking in the industry, grain removal equals detail removal,” says Lowry. “But we’ve been able to reduce the granularity while increasing the detail. I don’t know that anybody else is doing that in an effective way. As a matter of fact, most of the grain we reduce is grain that crept into the film through many generations of optical duplications. The philosophy of my critics, that every grain in a film is sacred, and to leave grain untouched, is a bit ridiculous in my mind.”
to clarify Lowry's moderate stance on the issue, the article goes on to say...
Jim Ward, the happy customer, concurs. “The issue of how much grain to keep in the (Indiana Jones) trilogy was Steven Spielberg’s call. It was really about exact balance, which John has the ability to modulate. Steven wanted a little grain — that’s what he likes and prefers — and you see that in the end product, but with beautiful clarity and color saturation.”
Again, I encourage you to read the article to get the full context.
In the same way that the Toy Story 10th Anniversary disc blew me away with it’s “super bit” like quality that sets a reference standard and maximizes the full potential of the DVD format, the same is true for Cinderella. I can’t imagine any DVD edition of this title possibly looking any better—only a high-resolution HD encoding could supersede the image quality of this outstanding DVD.
To the folks at Lowry Digital and Disney studios, thank-you for what you’ve done with my favorite Disney animated classic title.
Picture Quality: 5 / 5
In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later):
SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE) or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.
Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.
Very, very good. Bambi is the perfect companion DVD title to compare: In the same way that Bambi presented a tasteful 5.1 DEHT (Disney Enhanced Home Theater) mix that respected the integrity of the original sound and did a marvelous job of giving some stereo separation to the sound and widening the frequency response, so does the 5.1 DEHT mix of Cinderella “enhance” the presentation. Also, just like Bambi, enthusiasts have the opportunity to enjoy Cinderella's original restored mono soundtrack just as it was originally created. The differences between the two mixes on Cinderella strongly parallel the differences on the Bambi disc: The new 5.1 mix sounds “fuller” with stronger bass response and a satisfying spread across the soundstage as well as a pleasing front/back presence by utilizing the surround channels for ambient musical information in a pleasing and non-gimmicky manner. The mono track is also similar to that on Bambi: it sounds a bit crisper and more detailed…especially on vocals, and has apparently suffered from less noise-reduction and its attendant detail-robbing artifacts. The tonal balance of the mono mix is brighter, with far less mid and low bass in comparison to the 5.1 mix.
I will venture to say that the 5.1 mix of Cinderella sounds a little better to my ears than the 5.1 mix on Bambi. While some mild noise-reduction/loss of detail can be heard, it’s much less obvious and I found myself feeling quite pleased listening to the 5.1 mix for extended periods without wondering “what I was missing”…I remember with the Bambi DVD I kept feeling tempted to toggle to the mono mix to hear some of the detail that I felt might have been robbed from the noise reduction (though it too sounded good enough to enjoy). One aspect where the new 5.1 mix on Cinderella really shines is on the musical numbers which have choral or orchestral accompaniment (most of them). It sounds positively lush to hear those choral voices filling the left-right space at the front of the room and to have some realistic weight/size to the presence of the orchestra. I’m quite impressed. I think those of you who enjoyed the 5.1 mix on Bambi will be well pleased with the new DEHT mix on Cinderella, and those of you who preferred the original mono presentation on Bambi will enjoy the original soundtrack presentation on Cinderella as well.
Both mixes do about as good a job presenting the soundtrack for Cinderella that is possible given the obvious limitations of the source recordings (or what remains of them today). Most artifacts you may find distracting are likely inherent to the source. I encourage you to enjoy the historical character of the sound for exactly what it is and not get caught up on any age-related deficiencies. Folks at Disney: job well done.
Note: if I get time, I’ll compare the LCPM stereo soundtrack on the previous laserdisc. However, as with Bambi (yes, that title keeps coming up for good reason) the LPCM audio on the laserdisc was a pseudo-stereo processed mix that neither reflected Cinderella’s original mono presentation nor this new DVD’s careful 5.1 mix, so bear that in mind.
Sound Quality: 4 / 5
Lots and lots of bonus material here, though I honestly had expected a little more on Disc 1 (like perhaps a “commentary” track similar to what we enjoyed with Sleeping Beauty) but if decisions were made to keep the material on Disc 1 short to maximize video quality I’m all over it. A few special features deserve special mention…mostly because you might be tempted to skip them and I want to encourage you to take the time to check them out…like “The Art of Mary Blair” and the radio programs (under Music and More) which feature comments/singing from Ilene Woods who performed Cinderella’s voice…or the excerpt from the Mickey Mouse Club episode that featured Helene Stanley (who acted Cinderella’s movements for the animators). Though personally I didn’t feel that the (2) bonus items on Disc 1 were worth the time for film enthusiasts, I urge you to take the time and dig deep with all the bonus material on Disc 2 and don’t skip anything…you’ll be thankful you did.
NOTE: Play-times where mentioned are approximate and based on the playtime listed on the menu itself.
[*]Music Videos:Naturally since an old-fashioned movie like Cinderella is too boring for kids today to be interested in it we need to slap on some cool new up-beat music videos for them to watch instead. And what better idea than to take some of the lullaby-esque songs from the movie like “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and turn it into a cool new rock song with a bunch of 12-something kids lip-synching to their own pitch-corrected overdubbed vocals! Can’t think of anything better myself…can you? Wait a minute…I *can* think of something better (duh!)…a “Making Of” short *about* the music video! But why be forced to choose...on this DVD you can have BOTH!?! What's great is that years from now when the "Cinderella hype" is gone and nobody even remembers the movie...you can still watch these world-famous pop-star singers over and over again so the DVD will maintain some value in your collection.
[*]“Cinderella Stories” presented by ESPN Classics:Ok. I’m still scratching my head on this one. Now I’m sure someone out there will say after they see it that this is their favorite special feature…and bless you…you have the right to that opinion. Personally, I find the semantic link between the sports-phrase “Cinderella Story” and the Disney animated feature “Cinderella” to be specious at best, and a bizarre out-of-character intrusion into a “fairy tale” DVD at worst. I just don’t get it…on it’s own it’s a great feature which sports fans are sure to enjoy…but it still feels strange to see it here…and to find it the only other special feature on Disc 1 (next to the Dream-is-a-wish-your-heart-makes MTV jamboree) is just plain weird to me. I’ll bet the guys over at the mouse have bets on this one…someone’s who probably pushed for this feature is all wrapped up in it hoping it’s a hit while someone else is rolling their eyes but was unable to exert enough pressure to get it taken off the disc. In any case…it’s here…and I’m curious to see what you have to think. Oh…it’s narrated by NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath (good) and is presented entirely in 4x3 letterbox (bad). HELLO…since the whole thing was 1.78:1 letterboxed couldn’t we at *least* have had it presented in 16x9?
Moving on to the second disc, we start to encounter the kind of bonus material that most film enthusiasts were hoping to find…
[*]Deleted Scenes:Really deleted story board concepts…beautifully presented with intros and with musical accompaniment so you can also hear the deleted song that the storyboarding was designed to visualize: “The Cinderella Work Song” (not the one the mice sing in the finished movie) and “Dancing on a Cloud”. Wonderful.
[*]From Walt’s Table: A Tribute to the 9 Old Men: (22 min)Really something special. Take the time. Don’t be fooled…at first I got the feeling that this was going to just be “guys sitting around a table talking about the good old days” but it ended up being much more, and well worth the time. Lots of photos and video clips are edited in when germane to the table conversation (very nice touch) and the comments that these modern day animators have to share about their former animation Mentors at Disney studios are really wonderful to hear. Watch it.
[*]The Making Of Cinderella: (39 min)Divided into four sections/main topics (which you can skip between using your remote), this feature is not to be missed. This is a quality making-of documentary that covers a wealth of information about the history behind Disney’s Cinderella and both fans and casual viewers will easily find that this feature holds their interest. A must-watch.
[*]The Cinderella that Almost Was: (14 min)Similar to the deleted scenes, this featurette covers some of the larger story concepts that were at one time created but then later abandoned. It’s interesting to see how some concepts would have created a very different-feeling finished film…such as if the barn-yard animals had also talked (notice in the movie that only the mice are given the human-gift of speech). Well worth the time. Don’t miss this (or any other feature on Disc 2).
[*]The Art of Mary Blair: (15 min)This special feature was my first introduction to the person behind this amazing artwork that I instantly recognized. Her more abstract-influence can be seen in many of the backgrounds of Cinderella and her often brazen use of color shows up time and time again. A thumbs up to this gem of a bonus item.
[*]Story Board to Film Comparison: (7 min)See how closely the finished product follows the original storyboard artwork for the opening scene. Nicely done.
[*]1922 Cinderella Laugh-O-Grams: (7.5 min)Oh this is cool. Check out Walt Disney’s early silent animation…we’re talking Nickelodeon-era here. This 1922 silent short features an adaptation of the Cinderella story set in the early 1920’s, and it’s a real hoot. Historical buffs will be showing this off to friends again and again…
[*]Excerpt from the Mickey Mouse Club: (4 min)This is a very welcome and unexpected tidbit from the episode airing on January 24, 1956, which features the actress Helene Stanley who performed for the animators who studied and animated her filmed movements to create the character of Cinderella. Nice touch. She starts out this snippet wearing a *fabulous* dress, I might add.
[*]Theatrical Trailers:Notice the “s” on the end of “Trailers”. Sheesh! When it rains it pours…and just like the Mary Poppins DVD you’ve got the original (1950) release trailer along with all the subsequent re-release trailers. All are presented in 16x9 encoded 2.35:1 OAR. Just kidding, wanted see if you were paying attention. Just check out those horridly out-of-balance colors and that duplication-film-grain. Didn’t Lowry Digital do a nice job on the feature film?
[*]Image Galleries:Nice…you have a choice between “slide show” and thumbnail-gallery menus. Great stuff…too much to detail here…but my only gripe is the usual “why waste all that screen real estate with images surrounded by unused border area on all 4 sides??? Maybe one day they’ll hear me…
[*]Music and More:GREAT stuff here…including seven (yes, seven) unused songs (original demo recordings…not new recordings) and 3 snippets from radio broadcasts featuring Ilene Woods—singing and speaking voice for Cinderella. The demo recordings are expectedly full of age-related artifacts like noise and tape-drop outs and sound just marvelous exactly as they are. What a wonderful treasure for historical buffs to enjoy. Nicely rendered still-frame menus accompany each song so you can see the title of what you’re hearing. And don’t miss the 3 radio broadcasts with Ilene Woods…nice stuff and it really rounds out your appreciation for the film when you start to connect the voice of the on-screen characters with real people who loved and cared about what they were doing.
[*]Perry Como TV segment: Ilene Woods appears on Perry Como’s show along with the Fontane Sisters who sing the mice-parts and backup. WAAAY COOL. Don’t miss this one!.
[*]The Games for the Kids:
Another great Disney Classic animated feature film gets the royal treatment on the DVD format. Bonus features abound, and picture and sound are mastered with utmost care. Lowry Digital and Disney have teamed up to give you a reference-worthy image on this Platinum Edition…I can’t imagine Cinderella looking any better than it does on this DVD outside of hi-definition—and I don’t say that lightly. Audio is superbly mastered to provide both a tasteful new 5.1 DEHT mix along with the historic mono soundtrack…both sounding very fine on this DVD presentation.
Titles like Disney’s Cinderella have shaped the imaginations of movie-goers for generations, and they deserve the very best treatment when being brought to DVD. Disney has done right by Walt’s “Cinderella” and by the millions of families who can now own and enjoy it in their homes on DVD. I’m well pleased. I’m sure Walt is too.