Blu-ray Review: Cinderella [Walt Disney Signature Collection] | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, July 10th, 2020  

Cinderella [Walt Disney Signature Collection]

Studio: Disney

Jul 29, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The Cinderella story dates as far back as Ancient Greece and has been told with variations across continents and throughout many diverse cultures: it’s one of the most traveled folk tales in all of history. Now, the most famous version is clearly Walt Disney’s 1950 animated feature, which picked elements from several retellings but stuck closest to the one made famous in Charles Perrault’s 17th Century collection of fairy tales. It’s a simple, rags to riches tale that’s outlasted the ages – and in the hands of a team of the world’s top animators at the height of their game, it was simply magical.

Cinderella works in all of the familiar tale’s essential ingredients: the orphaned maiden, the wicked stepfamily, the fairy godmother, and the slipper. Really, the story doesn’t give a lot more than that to work with. (Walt Disney’s earlier, 1922 silent take on Cinderella managed to tell the whole thing in under seven-and-a-half minutes.) To stretch it out into feature-length, the Disney team had to come up with their own side-stories to fill runtime. The creation they came up with was the mice, namely Jaq and Gus, and their nemesis cat, Lucifer. The cat-and-mouse sequences occupy nearly as much of the film as Cinderella’s story, but they add not only a goofy dose of comedy to the proceedings, but a lot of exciting action. There’s a section toward the end in which Cinderella’s animal friends race to free her from the tower where she was imprisoned by her stepmother, and it’s honest-to-goodness thrilling. Watching it as an adult who already knew the outcome, I was still on the edge of my seat; looking at my four-year-old daughter frozen, eyes-wide, it was clear that this was one of those cinematic moments capable of enrapturing anyone who watched it.

This film came at a time when Disney’s animation unit was in real danger. A string of box office flops knocked them from high throne they sat upon in the Golden Age which brought the classics Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi, and Dumbo. Essentially kept afloat by propaganda films, Disney slowly developed several projects which would re-appear as the tent poles of their lauded Silver Age. But, the first of these films needed to be a hit for any of the following to appear. The fate of the world’s most famous animation studio truly hinged on Cinderella’s success.

Of course, Cinderella was a major success for Disney, and for many reasons. It’s one of the Disney films which has everything going for it. The music came straight from Tin Pan Alley; the infectious “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” helped its soundtrack album rise to the top of the Billboard charts. The film’s dreamy setting bears the heavy influence of concept artist Mary Blair and her unmistakable use of color. Animated by the studio’s legendary Nine Old Men, Cinderella marked a tightening of their belt by relying more closely on live-action references, yet the human character design and movements are distinctive enough to show a skill level much higher than what’s seen in most rotoscoped works. This is a superb animated fairy tale.

Walt Disney’s Signature Collection Blu-ray looks stunning, as expected, with the colors popping more than ever before in high definition. Where the disc really exceeds expectations is in its extra features, which measure in hours and deliver the sort of in-depth, multi-approached dive into the film and its history you rarely see outside of boutique labels such as Criterion and Arrow. Yes, most of the materials are pre-existing works from older releases, but it’s wonderful to see all of it gathered into a single location for once. Many of the most exciting bonus features deal with the movie’s history, including several documentaries that detail the individual contributions of the various players, or show concept work that hints at alternate creative paths which ultimately were not taken. A few of these interviews appear to have been shot in the 1990s, featuring anecdotes from people who died decades ago—it’s compelling to hear these old legends talk about making these classic movies in the first person. This Cinderella edition overflows with astounding archival materials which are shared with a scope and scholarly tone that you don’t find in many releases of older animation. This Anniversary release comes highly recommended not only for Disney fans and their children, but anyone with a devouring interest in animation history.


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