Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, put 'em together and what have you got? Disney’s animated classic Cinderella on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray! Disney delivers this magical favorite tale of whimsy, chatty critters, wicked stepmother, and romance with a new fully restored HDR10 transfer that easily surpasses the old Blu-ray in grand style. The 5.1 audio is respectable enough but the original mono would have been lovely. Throw in some archival bonus features and you’ve got a great addition to the collection - Highly Recommended
The tall tale of Cinderella is one that travels the millennia. From an Egyptian Pharaoh getting clocked with Grecian sandals to the classic 17th-century French, the story of good things happening to well-deserving people is timeless. Sometimes it’s a scullery maid, sometimes it’s a down-on-his-luck boxer, but it’s a relatable fantastical parable about working through strife towards a better life... with the right shoe size. When it comes to Disney, a straightforward story simply won’t do, it won’t do at all. Add some talking mice, birds, a diabolically delightful cat, and a fairy godmother and you have a delightfully magically wonderful tale for kids (and adults) of all ages.
Now, given the fame of this particular title, I find it a bit pointless to regurgitate any kind of plot rundown. Even if you’ve never seen this film (is that possible even?) you’ve probably absorbed enough through pop-culture osmosis that you know the story intrinsically. It’s a fun little fantasy where the good and righteous are uncomplicatedly wonderful and the evil are just that without any chance for redemption. In between we get some colorful animals, a fairy godmother, and an iconic glass slipper to fill a swift 74 minutes of entertainment.
Growing up when those VHS tapes were going in and out the of the infamous vault, Cinderella was a presence in the house. I never loved or hated it, but being a bigger fan of Winnie-the-Pooh and Robin Hood, Cinderella was my sister’s movie more than my own. And until I became a father I never really revisited all that often. As my boy is much more interested in Doug Days and Tumble Leaf, I’ve been trying to work in the Disney classics to middling success. For Cinderella it doesn’t really grab his attention unless the lovable Gus-Gus, Jaq, and Verna Felton as Fairy Godmother’s iconic “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” are on screen. Grand balls, lovelorn princes, and fragile transparent footwear aren’t really his thing.
While I tried to keep my boy interested in watching Cinderella I was struck at just how nice and uncomplicated the film is. I found myself delighted and entertained for a brief bit one quiet afternoon. Certainly not the most elaborate plot, nor is it the grandest Disney animated accomplishment, but it’s a fine fun film all the same. Enjoying this one for the first time in several years, I was struck by how completely forgettable the live-action movie was. I frivolously mused to my wife “I wonder when they’re going to remake this one” whereupon I was reminded it already happened… eight years ago. Thinking back, I know I saw that in theaters but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you a thing about it.
That of course could lead me onto a rant about how pointless most of these” live-action” remakes are, but then I wouldn’t be adding anything to that chorus of complaints. The classics are still classic and as Disney slowly releases these films to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray looking better than ever, it’s worth reconnecting with them while we can on physical media. I personally hope that Robin Hood and The Sword and the Stone are next on the 4K docket!
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
After enjoying a Disney Club exclusive release, Cinderella gets to go the ball with a wide retail release on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The 4K is pressed on a BD-66 with a BD-50 reserved for the 1080p Blu-ray. Both discs are housed in a standard two-disc black case with slipcover. The discs load to Disney’s typical language selection option with the ability to skip right over to the film and avoid the main menu altogether.
Cinderella cleans up nicely on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an often stunning and cinematic 2160p HDR10 transfer. The previous Blu-rays were pretty good but the principal issue - and one that struck a number of Disney animated classics - was that you could tell the film had been scrubbed of film grain. While this left the image looking sharp and clean, it also removed a lot of fine details in various character animations. Unless you were passionately invested with the film you might not have noticed, but looking at this restored image without the scrubbing and a natural grain structure, it’s lovely to see these little nuances restored. Character lines, clothing details, the accent lines of Cinderella’s ballgown as she moves, there’s a lovely amount of fine line details that are present throughout that were either missing entirely or muted in previous disc releases.
Color grading is a little on the darker side - at least early on - highlighting the dour conditions of Cinderella’s life. Primaries are still lovely with plenty of pop, but they don’t appear overly bright or garish. Whites are still pristine and blacks and shadows are perfectly accented. When the movie gets to the big ball, colors really come to life. It does look like some clean-up work was still done to remove any dirt or speckling that might have been trapped between cels, but it’s not intrusive or inorganic. All around a truly lovely image that bodes well for future classic releases on 4K.
For those wondering, the included 1080p disc does appear to be sourced from the same master as the 4K, but I felt the colors didn’t quite have the same level of impact as the 4K HDR. If you’re not rolling 4K you’ll still have a lovely time but the bigger better format does offer a much more desirable visual experience.
On the audio side we have a respectable enough DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix. The past discs had 7.1 audio and a lossless mono track. I don’t understand the need for the switcheroo there but here we are. As is, this 5.1 mix is fine. It does the job well and for some of the more fantastical action-focused sequences, it’s a lovely mix and keeps those channels working. With that, I felt like the track largely kept to the front/center channels with only minimal plays into the surround speakers. While some of this activity was welcome and worked, it also wasn’t necessary. More than anything I wish Disney offered the original mono track, but this gets the job done. One thing of note, the Dolby Atmos logo was printed on the actual disc, but obviously it's not there.
On the bonus features front, fans can devour a slew of semi-new and archival bonus features. Most of this is the familiar fluff stuff, but some of the pieces about making the film and its importance at that moment for Disney and how we likely wouldn’t have some other classic animated and live-action films had Cinderella flopped is pretty wild. All bonus features are on the included 1080p Blu-ray
While I wouldn’t pull Cinderella as the brightest and best of the Disney archive, it’s still a wonderful animated classic. I have my favorites I’d watch before this one, but it’s a delightful simple film with colorful characters and critters with plenty of magic and whimsy to throw you through the swift 70-minute runtime. As this film is a testament to the format, I do hope we see some more animated classics on 4K soon. This HDR10 transfer positively sparkles. The audio side of the presentation works, but I can’t figure the downgrade from 7.1 nor the absence of the mono track. Dressed up for a couple of hours' worth of extra bonus content and you’ve got a solid disc for the collection. Highly Recommended.