CINDERELLA: State of the Art, Then and Now

Before I get to the CINDERELLA Blu-ray, I just want to note: I received this neat post card in the mail the other day, from the town of Cold Rock, Washington – where the film THE TALL MAN takes place. This Jessica Biel thriller is new to Blu-ray. We’ll likely discuss it on our next episode of Extra Features.

One of the big Blu-ray releases this week is Disney’s CINDERELLA (1950), the movie that saved Disney’s animation studio; and, a fact I think many fail to note, the film that’s perhaps directly responsible for the studio being able to make their first live-action feature 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. I know  this is a bit of a tangent, but Disney spent great time and effort restoring 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, which they premiered at the TCM Fest earlier this year. My hope is that this restored version of the film will find its way to Blu-ray very very soon.

Back to CINDERELLA… Sarah and I watched the Diamond Edition Blu-ray last night; or actually, in parts over the past two nights – the film and ALL of the extra features.

You’ve really got to hand it to Disney. They REALLY know how to take pristine care of their properties; because, let’s face it: That’s where the money is. Rolling out their classic films every couple of years is like printing money; maybe not exactly, but almost. The effort Disney put into restoring virtually every aspect of CINDERELLA, it’s production history and its marketing, is vital stuff. I wish more production companies would care for their films like Disney does. I suppose Lucasfilm (they always have), Universal and 20th Century Fox have, at least more recently, showed they care about truly taking care of their assets. Universal’s new restorations of their classic films shows this, but you know, I wish they’d extend the same care and effort to something like EARTHQUAKE, CAT PEOPLE, TWO-MINUTE WARNING and ZOOT SUIT (yes!). Maybe they don’t see the profit potential in those. But the optimist in me says it’s there.

Anyway, when it comes to asset management, Disney is at the top of the game, and always has been.

The film CINDERELLA obviously needs no critical assessment here. You know that, so I won’t waste your time. Now the disc set, however, that’s something. The image is astonishing. Beautiful and vibrant. Certainly in the restoration process, the mastering of a film is going to tweak the colors. It’s unavoidable that some elements of the image will be different than the original projected film. But I must say, I found this Amazon.com review for CINDERELLA’S 2005 DVD release intriguing.

Comparing the VHS and DVD release, William T. Clegg writes – “True, the picture on the DVD was much sharper and the sound was crystal clear, but Cinderella’s hair was NEVER that color of yellow, and lines that were part of the original animators drawings, faithfully inked and painted onto the original cells, are no longer visible.”

I’m all for keeping things original, but if you’re so into CINDERELLA that a color variance in her hair is going to be a problem for you, ask yourself: Is it really the film?

The set itself is available in three versions, the 2-Disc (Blu-ray and DVD), 3-Disc (Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy), and the mother load: The CINDERELLA TRILOGY with Limited Edition Jewelry Box packaging.

What’s great about the Blu-ray isn’t simply the new extras – the TANGLES EVER AFTER six-minute short is amusing, the behind-the-scenes look at the Disney theme parks’ expansion of Fantasyland is fascinating (I LOVE that “making of” theme parks stuff), and the short film THE MAGIC OF THE GLASS SLIPPER: A CINDERELLA STORY is… eh… sappy. What loved on this disc is the animator’s roundtable discussion with producer Don Hahn, director Brad Bird and others moderated by Joel Siegel.

And I’ll say, among the many things I didn’t know about CINDERELLA’s production, I was surprised to learn that Mike Douglas (you know, the talk show host) was the uncredited singing voice of Prince Charming. Also, CINDERELLA was one of the first films, or I suppose more directly, amongst the early audio recordings to use the over-dubbing sound process (wherein a singer’s voice is mixed over itself to create harmony) pioneered by guitarist Les Paul. This was accomplished in the “Sing, Sweet Nightingale” musical sequence, in which Cinderella watches multiple images of herself singing in soap bubbles.

With CINDERELLA, as with other Disney titles on Blu-ray, it’s the extra features detailing the history of these artistic and technological advances that make the whole experience of the film so darn fascinating.

About Stephen Slaughter Head

Stephen Slaughter Head co-founded the much-loved movie news website IGN FilmForce. He has more than 2,000 published articles at IGN.com. His filmmaking interviews, reviews and features have been published at AOL, Script magazine, Esquire magazine and the Boston Phoenix. He is also the host of the Diabolique Webcast at DiaboliqueMagazine.com. You can contact him directly on Twitter at twitter.com/stevehead.

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