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Cleaning Up 'Cinderella'

27 Sep, 2005 By: Holly J. Wagner

A dream may be a wish your heart makes, but the platinum edition of Cinderella is a dream born from arduous work.

“It's not just another digital transfer or restoration,” said John Lowry, founder and CEO of DTS Digital Images. “You usually return the film to the same level of quality as the original. It is a pristine digital presentation not of the film, not of the animation cells, but of the original artwork.”

Restorers worked from the original nitrate negatives of the 1950 film, which was shot in black-and-white three times before a different color was added to each one.

“We did a ground-up restoration of the original from the Library of Congress,” said Disney animation director Dave Bossert. “There was something like 10 million pieces of dirt [that had to be removed].”

Part of the magic is owed to the “nine old men” Disney animation team of yore, some of whom have since passed on. Ollie Johnston, who with his best friend, the late Frank Thomas, helped pioneer the emotional expressions on the faces of dozens of Disney characters, said the team was immersed in its work.

“We studied girls, and we studied them, and they had certain feelings,” Johnston quipped.

But the work was much more than just ogling and clowning with pals. “We had to feel, deep in our hearts, what was this character really feeling?” he said.

To get those feelings, the artists referred to expressive photos of some of the voice actors. Disney animator Andreas Deja got to meet Eleanor Audley, the voice of the wicked stepmother, 30 years after the film was made. “She was really scary,” he said.

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