A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
“Cinderella: Diamond Edition”
Disney polishes one of the crown jewels of its animated feature library to a high gloss with its new “Cinderella: Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack.”
Released Tuesday from the fabled “Disney vault,” one of the Mouse House’s most beloved princess stories makes a stunning debut in Blu-ray. The superb high-definition transfer spotlights the fairy-tale magic of the whimsically drawn characters and especially of Oklahoma-born artist Mary Blair’s gorgeously stylized, vividly hued landscapes, and the Oscar-nominated music is just as enchanting as grownups may recall.
While the 1950 film about a placid, once-aristocratic maiden whose evil stepmother and ugly stepsisters demote her to servant status may seem as timeworn as a scullery maid’s wardrobe to adults, if you have young children, don’t assume the glass-slipper tale is familiar to them. At last month’s “Disney on Ice” show at the Oklahoma State Fair, I was shocked to realize my 5-year-old was unacquainted with Cinderella, and the venerable animated royal proved that her tale still can mesmerize audiences after all these years. “Cinderella” was last released on DVD back in 2005, so tiny tots, who are the best audience for the simple story, may not have seen it before.
In Disney’s version of the folk tale, a widowed aristocrat marries proud Lady Tremaine (voice of Eleanor Audley) so that his adored daughter Cinderella (Ilene Woods) will have a mother. After her husband’s death, the wicked stepmother reveals her true manipulative nature, spending Cinderella’s inheritance to advance the interests of her awkward, selfish and envious daughters, Drizella and Anastasia (Rhoda Williams and Lucille Bliss, respectively). Cinderella is relegated to a serving girl in her own home, but she remains gentle and kind, even befriending birds and talking mice, which are constantly engaged in epic battle with her stepmother’s nasty cat, Lucifer.
When the kingdom’s hot-headed monarch (Luis Van Rooten), impatient for grandchildren, decrees that every eligible maiden should attend a ball in honor of his son, Prince Charming (Mike Douglas), Cinderella desperately wants to go. Her stepfamily cruelly conspires to keep her home, but the girl’s kindly Fairy Godmother (Verna Felton) steps in and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”s Cinderella into a fine coach, beautiful ball gown and elegant glass slippers.
But the spell will be broken at midnight, turning the magical riches back into rags.
It’s become somewhat fashionable to disdain “Cinderella,” which famously saved Disney animation after the financial hardships of the 1940s, as anti-feminist. Undoubtedly, the storytelling style and characters — the prince is just as passive as the princess about his fate — are dated, but that shouldn’t be surprising with a 62-year-old movie. Part of the reason fairy tales are so enduring is that they are simple, universal stories than can be adapted to today’s values and customs, so it’s hardly fair play to compare Cinderella to modern Disney heroines like “Tangled’s” Rapunzel or “Brave’s” Merida. And in these cynical and snarky times, there’s something to be said for a girl who remains upbeat and compassionate even in the face of adversity and injustice.
The “Diamond Edition” combo pack handily features all the bonus material from the previous DVD releases, including a mini-documentary about Blair, a McAlester native who worked on several famed Disney animated films. Several other making-of featurettes, two unused songs and a storyboard-to-film comparison of the opening sequence are part of the “classic” features.
The new Blu-ray bonus material includes an alternate opening sequence, a charming featurette on the real-life woman who was the inspiration for the Fairy Godmother, a couple of dolled-up infomercials and, best of all, the hilarious short “Tangled Ever After.”
As part of the royal rerelease, Disney has upgraded its Second Screen interactive option to allow children and adults to turn the Blu-ray into a “Personalized Digital Storybook” called “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-You.” The much-ballyhooed bonus feature is supposed to work with an iPad or iPhone app or through Disney’s website for laptop users. Although I’ve used Second Screen online before, I couldn’t get the “Cinderella” web version to work on my laptop, even after more than an hour of troubleshooting by my IT professional husband.
Presuming it works better for the iPad and iPhone users it is obviously aimed for, it would be nice if Disney would make its Second Screen compatible for Android tablets and smartphones, rather than treating non-Apple users like peasants and paupers.