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CINDERELLA
Platinum Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Ilene Woods, William Phipps, Verna Felton
Directors:  Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  76 Minutes
Release Date:  October 4, 2005

"No matter how your heart is grieving,

If you keep on believing,

The dream that you wish will come true."

Film ****

Cinderella was my earliest movie going memory, and the experience that showed me at a tender age just how magical and musical a motion picture can be.  (For the record, no, I was NOT around for the original 1950 theatrical release, thank you.)

It was on a double bill with One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, one of the very WORST of Disney pictures.  I can remember deciding to sleep until Cinderella finally flickered on the screen.

My first memory of it was the incredible song "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes".  Absolutely beautiful, with a melody both lilting and haunting, it captivated my seven year old ears, and remains one of my all time favorite songs to this date.  It's also a tune I frequently consider when I think about what got me into the field of music.

It was the perfect opener to one of Walt Disney's grandest fairy tales...like so many before, a classic story that instantly became his as soon as his vision of colors, characters and compositions became life.  We all know the scenario...a lovely girl forced into virtual slavery by her cruel stepmother and stepsisters who, through the help of a grand fairy godmother, attends the royal ball, wins the heart of the prince, and lives happily ever after when he finally finds her thanks to a piece of carelessly discarded footwear.

But Walt's art often imitated life, and the story behind Cinderella was, quite literally, a Cinderella story in its own right.  At the end of the second World War, the Disney studios were practically broke.  So much so that had Cinderella flopped, it might have taken Walt Disney Pictures down with her.  But the master had the keenest of intuitions when it came to judging what the public would flock to, and with this movie, he was right again.  If Snow White was the film that put Walt Disney on the map, Cinderella was the one that assured he'd never be off it again.

It was a story we all grew up with, but in Disney's hands, it became more magical than ever.  Cinderella was his greatest heroine to date; beautifully rendered by his talented artists and given an angelic voice by Ilene Woods.  I think it's fair to say that Cinderella was my first real crush.  Hey, at seven years, you don't have a lot of experience to go by.  ;-)

But the supporting cast was equally wonderful, particularly the plucky mice with their chirpy voices and high spirits, and their drive to always be there for their Cinderella.  The two lead mice, Jaq and Gus, are a pair of the best comic sidekicks ever.  Jaq's bravery and gusto mixed with Gus' good nature and simple mindedness were instantly heartwarming and rib-tickling...and they also boasted two of the most memorable voices in animation history.

The stepmother was icily frightening, and remains probably my most hated of all the great Disney villains.  I wouldn't have minded seeing Cinderella plant a glass slipper where her sun didn't shine, but that's why Disney made the movies and I review them.  The stepsisters Drizilla and Anastasia are nasty but hopelessly inept buffoons.  And of course, there's the far-too-enthusiastic king, the stammering grand duke, and the bland prince, par for the course in a Disney fairy tale.  What's with those cream cheese carved leading men, anyway?  MY Cinderella would have held out for much better.  At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Cinderella plays out like a colorful, sensual dream, filled with incredible detail, wonderful backdrops, and gorgeous music.  It's no wonder it remains a fan favorite after more than 50 years.  Whether you're a wide-eyed child or a seasoned adult, this is the kind of film with a spell no heart can resist.

BONUS TRIVIA I:  Former hit TV show host Mike Douglas was the singing voice of the prince.

BONUS TRIVIA II:  Verna Felton, the voice of the fairy godmother, died on the same day as Walt Disney.

Video ****

My expectations were high, but even so, I was blown away by the quality of this Platinum Edition release.  Cinderella hasn't aged a bit...or at least, that's how it appears thanks to this incredible restoration job.  There's not a flaw to be found...no scratches, spots or marks to belie the age.  The colors are more vibrant and beautiful than I've ever seen them before (and believe me, I've watched this movie MANY times), and detail level is crisper and sharper than ever.  One of the all time best restoration jobs hands down...it simply defies description.

Audio ****

Disney's Enhanced Home Theatre mixes are becoming a benchmark standard with me...it's amazing how they can take a half century old film and make it an awe-inspiring listening experience.  The lush orchestral arrangements sound livelier and more full than you could imagine.  Spoken words are clean and clear, the sound effects and songs lend for good dynamic range, and even the subwoofer stays busy throughout the running time.  For purists, the original restored mono track is included, but trust me...once you sample the 5.1 offering, you'll never go back.

Features ****

This loaded double disc set includes the bibbity, the bobbity, and the boo.  Disc One features a pair of new music videos including the classic "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and the brand new "Every Girl Can Be a Princess".  There are a slew of previews, a sneak peek at the second disc's treasures, and a very cool feature from ESPN Classic, "Cinderella Stories".  Hosted by Joe "I Want To Kiss You" Namath, it's a collection of some of the great underdog-makes-good stories in sports history.  My favorite was Kirk Gibson's legendary home run for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series...doesn’t get much better than that if you're a fan.

Disc Two has a great new documentary "From Rags to Riches" that explores the making of the film, the voices, the animators and more.  The vintage footage of Disney's classic nine artists is a real treat, as are the new interviews with Ilene Woods and others.  There are a pair of deleted scenes, a tribute to Disney's "nine old men" as well as a look at animator Mary Blair, storyboard comparisons, and an interesting look at the "Cinderella That Almost Was", which considers how different the film could have been based on early sketches and planning notes!

There is a very cool silent era animated "Cinderella" short, an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club with actress Helene Stanley (who modeled for Cinderella), and six trailers ranging from 1950 to 1987.  You can hear vintage radio programs,  sample demos of seven unused songs, and check out a pre-release appearance of Ilene Woods with the late great Perry Como.

Rounding out is some fun stuff for the kids, including  "House of Royalty" where a little girl can learn to be a princess, learn to dance with the princesses of Disney, and enjoy some DVD ROM activities.  The animated menus for both discs are quite nice, too!

Summary:

Cinderella became my all time favorite Disney film when I was just seven years old.  Nearly thirty years later, it's never been dethroned.  I'm happy beyond words to have this lovely, magical, musical piece of animated enchantment on DVD, and with this Platinum Edition, it looks and sounds better than ever, with a terrific plethora of extras to boot.  An absolute must-own for any movie fan.

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