Legendary movie producer Walt Disney brought three of the world's greatest fairy tales to the screen. They remain among the most popular animated films of all time. The first was his groundbreaking classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" released in 1937. The last was the then-under appreciated "Sleeping Beauty" which made it's debut in 1959. In between these two was perhaps his most satisfying adaptation of a classic fairy tale: "Cinderella" (1950). Of the three films, "Cinderella" is the one most faithful to its origins. Ironically, unlike "Snow White", which for better or worse, became for many the definitive version of the story. "Cinderella" did not follow the same path. Although it was a hit and, like "Snow White", was responsible for restoring the dwindling Disney fortunes, it never achieved the same audience recognition which it certainly deserved. Disney, for once, did himself proud, electing not to tamper with a classic, instead elaborating and adding substance to the tale, rather than rewriting it for the screen. The result was enchanting.
A combination of superb animation (in beautifully soft Technicolor) and the perfect voice talents brought the story to life with a radiance that endures to this day. Ilene Woods, who was a radio performer, recorded demonstration discs of the songs as a favor to the authors of the material, Al Hoffman, Mack David, and Jerry Livingston. When Disney heard them, he knew he had found his Cinderella. And indeed he had. Woods heartfelt renditions of "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes", "So This Is Love" and "Oh Sing Sweet Nightingale" are perfect. Eleanor Audley, who would go on to voice Maleficent in "Sleeping Beauty", masterfully captured the icy cruelty of the stepmother, while Rhoda Williams and Lucille Bliss were convincingly nasty stepsisters. Luis Van Rooten admirably performed as both the King and the Grand Duke, and James Macdonald was endearing as both Jaq and Gus, Cinderella's devoted mice. William Phipps has little dialog as the prince (future talk show host Mike Douglas provided his singing voice) but film (and Disney) veteran, Verna Felton was born to play the fairy godmother, and she made the best number, (the Oscar-nominated "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo") her own show-stopper.
Among the artists responsible for the "look" of the film, was Mary Blair, whose inspired use of color was greatly admired by Disney. Her elegant French-period backgrounds add tremendously to the quality of the movie. But, most important of all' are the believable characters--from Cinderella, right down to Lucifer, the stepmother's deliciously evil cat. They bring both life and vibrancy to the often told story, something very difficult to create in an animated film.
In conjunction with the film's 55-year anniversary, (and, not so coincidentally, the coming holiday season) "Cinderella" has just been released on a special edition DVD. It simply has never looked better. The fully restored film must be seen to be appreciated--suffice it to say, it looks wonderful. An enhanced stereo soundtrack has been added, and serves the music well. The DVD extras, now a standard part of Disney Platinum Editions, are too numerous to list here, but as usual, some are directed towards children, some are slanted to adults, and the rest fall somewhere in between. But real fans will want to get the Deluxe Gift Set, because, along with an actual cell from the film and eight character sketches, it includes a 160-page hardback book, which not only incorporates most of the material found in the book with the 1995 special edition home video release, but much more as well. As usual for Disney, "Cinderella" will only be available for a limited time. So, if like me, you are a "Cinderella" lover, get it NOW! This edition is truly a "Dream Come True."