Top positive review
92 people found this helpful
Walt Disney's Best Movie
on July 21, 2006
Disney made its mark as a major studio in 1937 with its first full-length feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Ironically, given this early success, Snow White was their only hit movie for the next 13 years. World War II kicked the hell out of Disney's overseas markets. Even movies today regarded as classic Disney - Pinnochio, Bambi, Fantasia - lost money on initial release. Disney eked through by diversifying into training films for the US government, and the South American films that were part of FDR's Good Neighbor policy, etc. - stuff that made back its costs but not much more. By 1948, Disney was in dire financial straits. They had just enough money for one more movie. Walt Disney realized he needed a hit or his studio probably wouldn't survive, and it would have to be what they did best: a full-length animated feature film. Walt said to himself, "What we need is a movie about a girl in trouble. Audiences love that. They loved Snow White." That's what he wanted: a movie like Snow White, but even more so - more comedy, more drama, more magic, more music, more lovable characters. He chose as the basis of his company's Hail Mary pass arguably the most famous fairy tale in the world: Cinderella.
Disney didn't have the money, as they had on earlier films, to lavishly storyboard every scene. Thus they hit upon the wonderfully clever idea of shooting the entire movie in live action, then the animators used stills from that as storyboards. The photos used survive to this day, and many are provided as a Special Edition "extra." In some cases these photos have the animator's drawings over them, turning for instance an almost bare stage into a hall in Cinderella's family chateau.
In 1950, Cinderella was released and was everything Disney so desperately needed. Even today, Cinderella is arguably the best movie Disney's ever made. It's just awfully hard to argue with any aspect of this film. The animation artwork was a product of Disney's famous "Nine Old Men" - at that time not yet old. Cinderella pulls off, superbly, something not particularly easy to do: it integrates believable human characters with funny cartoon animals and makes it work. From Eric Larson and Marc Davis' beautiful and graceful Cinderella to Ward Kimball's wonderful Jaq and Gus-Gus the mice and over-the-top Lucifer the cat, everything flows together so well it all seems perfectly natural.
Part of Walt Disney's plan to out-Snow White Snow White with Cinderella involved its music. He very consciously wanted Cinderella to be a source of hit songs. There had been hit songs from Disney films before ("Heigh Ho" and "Whistle While You Work" from Snow White, "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinnochio, etc.) but they'd been almost accidental. "Oh, we have a hit song, well, that's nice." For Cinderella, Disney for the first time went to Tin Pan Alley (28th Street in New York City where the professional songwriters could be found). Disney wanted his girl's music done by the very best craftsmen, the guys who wrote hit songs for a living. The Cinderella soundtrack hit big (a #1 album with 3/4 million units sold) with songs even today considered quintessential Disney, most notably "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" from the movie's opening scene, "The Work Song" while the animals help Cinderella clean the house and simultaneously build her ball gown, and "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (nominated for an Academy Award as best movie song of the year) from the Fairy Godmother transformation scene.
For their best movie, Disney apparently spared no expense producing the DVD. Not only has the picture quality been digitally restored, but the audio has also been cleaned up with a new 5.1 surround sound mix. Totally gone is the background hiss associated with so many old movies. (Cinderella has the distinction of being "the noisiest movie ever restored" according to its audio crew.) The original mono soundtrack has also been spruced and is provided as an option for purists.
A word about the movie's aspect ratio (i.e. how wide the picture is compared to its height). The DVD cover says Cinderella is presented in its "Original Full-Screen Aspect Ratio (1.33:1)". This is untrue. Virtually all sound films until 1953, including Cinderella, were 1.37:1. Since a TV screen is 1.33:1, you don't lose a lot when the original is "formatted to fit your television." I just wish they hadn't lied about it.
Cinderella ends at breakneck pace: we go straight from her foot sliding into the glass slipper to the wedding to Happily Ever After, bing, bang, boom. Walt Disney believed "Audiences like a happy ending, but they don't like a happy ending that goes on too long." Hey, who am I to argue? Well, maybe I'll argue. A DVD extra addresses scenes originally planned for the movie but not actually used. One of these would have occurred after the fitting of the glass slipper and before the wedding: Cinderella is taken by the Grand Duke to the castle in her normal everyday clothes; the first time Prince Charming sees her since the ball she's not wearing a lovely gown, she's wearing her scullery maid outfit. Cinderella is frightened, how will he react when he realizes she's not a fine lady but a poor servant girl? And of course he doesn't care how she's dressed, he loves her anyway. I can **see** that scene in my mind, it would have worked beautifully. This is the one way in which an almost perfect movie could have been even a tiny bit better.