4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Cinderella (voiced by Ilene Woods) arrives at the ball in a carriage transformed from a pumpkin. Prince Charming rejects every woman until he sees Cinderella, as the two dance throughout the royal palace.
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“CINDERELLA: ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITION”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital copy; 1950; G for everyone; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (iTunes), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “From Rags to Riches” featurette (2005)
WHEN DISNEY Animation announced the timeless fairy tale “Cinderella” would get a 4K Ultra HD release on physical disc – no one was sure what to expect. Especially since it would be available first to its Disney Movie Club members months before the general public.
To our shock, Disney has gone back to the original Technicolor 35mm camera negative (1.37:1 aspect ratio) and given this family favorite, whose origins date back to the first century B.C. and 17th-century France, a striking 4K restoration. Natural film grain is fully structured and visible – flowing over the screen within highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. Plus, colors are natural and dialed correctly through HDR10 grading on the disc and Dolby Vision on digital platforms. For more than a decade, Disney’s reputation for handling film grain on their animated classics has been unacceptable. They would notoriously digitally scrub away the grain, eliminating fine detail within the image. It seemed they wanted to mimic the look of Pixar’s digitally animated films unveiled in 1995 with “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo” and other classics.
(1) “Cinderella” premiered in Boston on February 15, 1950, with RKO Radio Pictures handling distribution. (2) In the tiny kingdom lived a widowed gentleman and his little daughter Cinderella. (3) He married again, Lady Tremaine (voiced by Eleanor Audley) of a good family, with daughters Drizella (voiced by Rhonda Williams) and Anastasia (Lucille Bliss). (4&5) With the untimely death of Cinderella’s father, she was forced to become a servant within her own home. “For with each dawn, she found new hope that someday her dreams of happiness would come true,” says the narrator. Two chirping birds wake Cinderella and she starts to sing, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”
2012 Blu-ray vs. 2023 4K Ultra HD
(1) The previous 2012 “Cinderella” was a disaster with wrong color grading and the film grain was zapped. (2) The 2023 4K Ultra HD edition is a major upgrade with TRUE 4K mastering and for the first time the film grain was kept intact.
We sampled most of Disney’s animated films on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD, captured on 35mm film stock to see if the film grain was visible. Well, the results weren’t good.
No film grain: “Bambi” (1942), “Peter Pan” (1952), “Lady and the Tramp” (1955), “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1961), “The Jungle Book” (1967), “The Aristocats” (1970), “The Rescuers” (1977), “Oliver & Company” (1988), “Beauty and the Beast” 4K (1991), “Aladdin” 4K (1992), “The Lion King” 4K (1994) and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996).
A small amount of grain: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), “Pinocchio” (1940), “Dumbo” (1941), “Mulan” 4K (1998).
A perfect dose of film grain: Only “Cinderella” 4K (1950). While “The Little Mermaid” 4K (1989) isn’t ideal, it’s much better than the rest.
First off, Disney has given “Cinderella” an incredible level of video bitrate numbers – hitting the upper stratosphere varying from 75 Megabits per second to over 125 Mbps. More likely with its short running time of 74 minutes, it was encoded onto a 66-gigabit disc. Disney still hasn’t released a film on the supersized 100-gigabit 4K disc, which has become the industry standard.
The previous 2012 restoration of “Cinderella” was a disaster. The colors were dialed wrong, and the film grain was completely zapped by what must have been a bad fairy godmother. This gave the overall picture a soft look from start to finish. Now the 2023 edition in 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD have all been sourced from the new 4K master.
Even though the 4K disc has Dolby Atmos stamped onto the disc, it only includes the carryover six-channel DTS-HD Master soundtrack. Sadly, the original two-track Mono was not restored or provided. The majority of the music cues and tunes are front and center including the opening title sung by Marni Nixon, known for subbing Deborah Kerr’s vocals in “The King and I,” Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” and Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.” Brief effects are pushed to the rear speakers.
Fan favorites “Bibbidi-bobbidi-Boo” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” were both nominated along with 15 other Disney classics for the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Song’s list. Only six made the final AFI 100 including No. 7 “When You Wish Upon a Star,” No. 19 “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” No. 36 “Supercalifragilisticeexpialidocious,” No. 47 “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” No. 62 Beauty and the Beast” and No. 99 “Makuna Matata.”
EXTRAS All of the bonus features are on the new Blu-ray including the nearly 20-year-old “From Rags to Riches” featurette. Disney had considered the fairy tale as a possible feature film since the 1930s, but by the end of World War II, the studio was $4 million in debt after the financial failures of “Pinocchio” and Fantasia.” His first “Cinderella” film was a seven-minute Laugh-O-Gram animated short (1933), but he finally green-lit the feature-length in 1948 with its “girl in trouble” storyline, a common Disney theme. Many considered it a huge risk. If “Cinderella” had not been a success, “I think it would’ve been the end of Disney animation,” says author/film historian Christopher Finch. The late Joel Siegel, film critic for “Good Morning America,” said Disney could relate to the story, since he started off as a poor kid, and “became Walt Disney.”
The transformation of Cinderella into her gorgeous, evening gown was one of Disney’s favorite animated moments. “It was something that hit the heart, and it stuck to Walt,” says “Cinderella’s” supervising animator Marc Davis. Known for his own Cinderella-like stories, director Garry Marshall (“Pretty Woman,” “The Princess Diaries”) says there are 90,000 variations, and “Walt knew the power of it. ‘Cinderella’ had all of the great elements.”
For the production, Disney assigned his core artists – “The Nine Old Men” and 10 animation directors. Nearly 90 percent of the story was first captured on black and white film with live actors to aid the animators. It took over two years to develop the complete storyline/script, and the creation of new characters such as the delightful mice Jacques and Gus, devious Lucifer the cat, and Bruno the dog.
“Cinderella” premiered in Boston on February 15, 1950, with RKO Radio Pictures handling distribution, and receiving a wider release on March 4. It quickly became a smash hit and finished in the Top 10 box office of the year. “Cinderella” was rereleased in 1957, 1965, 1973, 1981, and 1987, and then onto home video.
Additional extras include the excellent “In Walt’s Words: Envisioning Cinderella” a pop-up trivia track, with a voiceover narration that also includes Disney himself and others, with production images, while the movie itself falls to a smaller window. Plus, Disney’s daughter Diane Disney Miller briefly introduces us to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, recalling how the success of “Cinderella” propelled her father to expand into television with the “Mickey Mouse Club” and the live-action classic “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (1954). And, “The Real Fairy Godmother” Mary Alice O’Connor, wife of layout artist Ken O’Connor was the inspiration. “The Magic of the Glass Slipper: A Cinderella Story” as shoe designer Christian Louboutin creates an exclusive ‘Glass Slipper.” And, Disney Channel stars from “Sydney to the Max,” Ruth Righi, and Ava Kolker take a Cinderella trivia test.
We hope, going forward, all future animated Disney restorations and live-action films will get the same white glove treatment.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer