Disney’s Cinderella was released on February 15, 1950, becoming one of Disney’s most popular animated films and inspiring concepts for Disney theme parks.
If you missed the premiere of this film 71 years ago, you might just have turned into a pumpkin. Cinderella was released on this date and has been re-released many times since. On the blog, we’ll be showing off some of the newspaper ads from the original release.
Laugh-O-Grams and Silly Symphonies
Walt Disney first told the story of “Cinderella” as a Laugh-O-Gram cartoon in 1922. He had originally planned to create a new version of the story in a Silly Symphony short just over 10 years later, however while in early conceptual phases Walt realized the story would be too long and as a result was not well suited for a short format.
Work went ahead on Cinderella, for years before progress was made on the version we know and love today, and the first full length Disney animated film eventually became Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs instead, released in 1937.
During World War II, the Disney Studios had to balance a dwindling budget in creative ways to ensure they’d be able to create memorable family films while still taking in a profit.
As a result, most of the films in the years immediately prior to Cinderella’s release were package films, like Make Mine Music and Fun and Fancy Free.
The last full length feature released prior to Cinderella in 1950, was Bambi in 1942, so the studio was essentially taking a gamble on whether or not the film would gain the public reception needed to make the $2.9 million budget worthwhile.
Many believed that if the film failed, Disney Studios would have faced a possible closure given the debt the company had already incurred during the War Years.
Thankfully, Cinderella was a success– the most successful animated feature film since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Dumbo. In terms of a box office success, Cinderella surpassed Snow White in popularity, grossing $8 million.
Critics at the time of the film’s release praised Cinderella for its storytelling and artistic details, often describing it as an experience fit for the whole family that allows adults to feel like kids again.
Positive reviews continue to the present, with renowned film critic Robert Ebert giving the film three out of four stars, and its score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Cinderella received Academy Award nominations for best song, for “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” and for best scoring in a musical picture.
Crediting the Cast
The leading princess in the film was voiced by Ilene Woods, an actress and singer appearing on network TV shows of the time who beat out about 300 other girls auditioning for the role. Woods was named a Disney Legend in 2003 for her voice work as Cinderella.
The Stepmother was voiced by Eleanor Audley, who also voiced Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. Most of her acting work prior to Disney’s animated films focused on the fact that her voice was well suited for sinister matron characters of TV and film.
Another iconic character, the Fairy Godmother, was voiced by Verna Felton, who also worked on Sleeping Beauty providing the voices for Flora and Queen Leah, among an array of other Disney animated films and TV hits like The Flintstones in which she voiced Pearl Slaghoople.
The role of Prince Charming was done by William Phipps, a young character actor at the time who auditioned and was selected directly by Walt, however the singing voice for Prince Charming was performed by Mike Douglas who was uncredited in the film’s initial release but went on to run his own talk show in the 1960s.
Legacy in Disney Parks
Many of the film’s animators were part of Walt’s Nine Old Men, and some went on to become Imagineers or work in other roles for Disneyland and eventually the Walt Disney World Resort.
Some names you may recognize from their work as Disney animators and as Imagineers within the parks include Marc Davis and Ward Kimball.
As one of the most popular Disney princesses, references to Cinderella can be found all over Disney theme parks, most notably within the aptly named Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.
Inside Cinderella Castle, Guests can dine with Cinderella herself at Cinderella’s Royal Table, or stroll through the castle’s breezeway to take in large scale mosaics telling the story from the film.
Behind Cinderella Castle in Fantasyland, Guests can ride Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, the park’s classic carousel adorned with nods to the classic 1950 film.
Fun fact: Prince Charming Regal Carrousel is actually the oldest attraction in Walt Disney World– It was constructed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1917 and was operated under a patriotic theme as the Liberty Carrousel in smaller parks along the east coast until it was purchased by the Walt Disney Company for the opening of the Magic Kingdom in 1971.
If you look above the rotating pulleys while on the carousel, you may be able to catch glimpses of the ride’s original Americana-themed design.
Cinderella’s 1950 release certainly paved the way for the Disney Princess franchise, and helped to cement the Walt Disney Company as a family storyteller for years to come, both in films released in theaters and for home viewing, and in theme parks around the world.
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