Walt Disney desperately needed a hit when he plunged into “Cinderella,” having taken his licks during the war years, and today’s embattled Mouse House could also stand a boost from the DVD debut of its 1950 classic. Disney restored the toon, last released on VHS 10 years ago, and has piled on a mixed bag of extras. Initial sales look promising, but it’s hard not to wince at the more craven promotional plugs on this platinum edition, available for a limited time before it goes back into the vaults.
The best of the bonus features can be found under the Backstage Disney header on the bonus disc. “From Rags to Riches” outlines the financial pressures on Disney after World War II, when the studio was $4 million in debt (an almost quaint sum for today’s congloms) and struggling to diversify into live-action features and television. More than once we’re told the studio could have gone under if “Cinderella” hadn’t succeeded.
Vocal talents Ilene Woods (Cinderella) and Mike Douglas (who sang for Prince Charming), meanwhile, sound slightly dazzled at the pic’s lasting impact even today. “That’s when the butterflies really started batting around in my stomach like crazy — when I went to see Mr. Disney,” Woods says at one point.
“I remember how badly I needed that money,” Douglas recalls. “I had no idea how important that would be.
“Even after 20 years of being on television in a show that was seen across the country, people say, ‘Were you the voice in Cinderella?’ ” he says. Then they ask, “Aren’t you thrilled?”
“The Cinderella That Almost Was” uses photos and storyboards from the studio archives, while another featurette pays tribute to Disney’s Nine Old Men, whose reminiscences about animating the toon bring the creative process to life.
As is often the case, certain extras overlap, with deleted scenes popping up more than once. Games designed for younger viewers tie into corporate siblings like the Disney Channel; “Princess Diaries” helmer Garry Marshall is also on hand to talk up “Cinderella,” while a “Dreams Come True” “extra” highlights the Mouse House’s charitable efforts. Biggest stretch of all: Cinderella sports stories from ESPN Classic.
It’s too bad Disney felt the need to clutter up a classic — which it guards so carefully from others — with ham-handed stabs at synergy when there was plenty of other worthy material in its own archives. Even the excerpt from “The Mickey Mouse Club” and trailers for the toon’s 1950, ’65, ’73, ’81 and ’87 theatrical releases make more sense than some of these misbegotten extras.