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Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that producer Walt Disney had registered the title Cinderella with the MPPA by 1930, and a modern "making of" documentary about the film, which accompanied its 1995 video release, notes that Disney, who had previously made a 1922 silent short of the story, intended to produce a Silly Symphony based on the fairy tale. The PCA file also contains a letter revealing that the organization had granted a tentative certificate number to the studio for a feature-length Cinderella cartoon in March 1940, and that the studio had to request a more current number when the picture was finished in 1949. According to a December 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item, Sergei Prokofiev's symphonic ballet of Cinderella had been submitted to Disney for consideration by agent Lou Levy. In February 1947, Disney notified Monogram producers the King Brothers that his version of the story had been "in work" for seven years, and that they should "take proper heed" in proceeding with their announced version of the fairy tale, which they were developing from an idea suggested to them by Leo McCarey. Ultimately, Monogram's planned film of Cinderella was not produced.
Although an earlier Hollywood Reporter news item had announced that Ilene Woods was recording the voice of "Cinderella," a March 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that singer Jeannie McKeon had been "signed to be the voice" of the character. McKeon did not contribute to the completed picture, however. According to a December 24, 1962 Newsweek article, 392 actresses were "turned down" before Woods was selected for the role.
As noted by contemporary sources, Helene Stanley was the live model used by the artists drawing "Cinderella." She acted out many of the sequences for the animators, who studied her movements and translated them into drawings. According to the studio's video documentary, recording of the characters' voices and songs was completed by the time Stanley and others had acted out the complete story, which was the first time that the studio had filmed an entire story in live action before animating it. The live-action film and photostat frame blowups, with layout designs drawn directly onto them, were then used as guides for the animators responsible for the human figures. Stanley also acted as the model for "Anastasia," according to a July 1950 Chicago Herald American article, while the modern documentary notes that Rhoda Williams was the model for "Drizella" and Eleanor Audley provided the live-action guide for "Lady Tremaine." An October 1949 New York News item reported that one of gangster Mickey Cohen's bodyguards provided the model for "Prince Charming." Modern sources credit the following actors with supplying character voices: June Foray (Lucifer); and Helen Seibert, Lucille Williams, June Sullivan and Clint McCauley (Mice). Cinderella marked the first motion picture work of singer Mike Douglas, who later became a popular television talk show host.
In late August 1949, Hollywood Reporter stated that Disney had his production staff "on a six-day night-and-day schedule rushing" the film toward completion for "the holiday trade." By late September 1949, Hollywood Reporter noted that background work on the picture had been completed, and that the producer had "laid off forty animation workers who had been brought in to augment the regular crew." According to pressbooks for the picture's re-releases, approximately a million drawings were made during its production.
According to a program contained in the Walt Disney Archives, the film received its "world preview" on February 13, 1950 during The Cinderella Ball (at which Woods was "Queen"). The ball was held to raise money for The New York Heart Association. The Disney organization experienced some conflict with RKO, its distributor, in Chicago, where RKO wanted to limit Cinderella's run at a prominent theater to two weeks in order to exhibit their Italian-American co-production Stromboli, starring Ingrid Bergman and directed by Roberto Rossellini, for a longer period of time. When the matter was taken to court, a Chicago federal district court judge decreed that Cinderella be allowed the longer exhibition time. Numerous contemporary news items noted that the Disney picture either replaced the controversial Stromboli in particular theaters or exceeded it at the box office. According to a August 28, 1950 Daily Variety article, the picture was dubbed into French, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian for an unusually extensive, sixteen-country foreign premiere to be held on December 25, 1950. In January 1950, Daily Variety reported that Disney was also considering dubbing prints in Japanese and Hindustani.
Cinderella was the first Disney animated feature film to use a single storyline since the studio's 1942 picture Bambi. In a June 5, 1949 Los Angeles Times article, Disney commented that the production was the "first really postwar picture reflecting our present organization." As reported in a February 13, 1950 Newsweek cover story, the Disney Studio desperately needed Cinderella to be a box office success. Despite attempts to gain capital through "package features" such as Make Mine Music and live action pictures such as Song of the South (see entries below), the studio was still seriously in debt. Cinderella was enormously successful at the box office, and the modern documentary estimates its initial earnings as $7,000,000, making it the sixth highest grossing film of 1950. The studio then recovered financially and was able to return to producing single-story, feature-length animation on a more regular basis as well as expanding its production of live-action subjects. According to modern sources, the sequence in which "Cinderella's" rags are magically transformed into a ball gown by the "Fairy Godmother" was Disney's personal favorite of all the animation done by his studio.
Cinderella received Academy Award nominations for Best Song for "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound. The picture won prizes at the 1950 Venice International Film Festival and the 1951 Berlin Film Festival, and was also named one of the ten best of 1950 by Time. On April 7, 1950, Woods, Audley and Verna Felton recreated their roles for a radio broadcast of the story on the Screen Directors' Playhouse, which was repeated on June 30, 1950. As with many of the Disney animated features, Cinderella has been theatrically re-issued multiple times, and has been a best seller during its releases on home video. In late December 1990, Woods filed a lawsuit against the Disney Studio, claiming that it had violated her original contract by selling Cinderella on home video. Woods, who was paid $2,500 for her services, according to a January 1991 Daily Variety article, sought $20,000,000 in damages and based her suit on a similar action previously filed by Peggy Lee, who contended that her contract for the studio's 1955 animated film The Lady and the Tramp had been violated by video sales. The outcome of Woods's suit is not known.
Among the many other filmed versions of the fairy tale are Georges Melies' 1899 short Cendrillon (see AFI Catalog. Film Beginnings, 1893-10; A.02670); the 1914 Famous Players' release directed by James Kirkwood and starring Mary Pickford (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.0690); the 1955 M-G-M musical The Glass Slipper, starring Leslie Caron and directed by Charles Walters; and the 1960 Paramount production Cinderfella, starring Jerry Lewis and directed by Frank Tashlin. Televised versions of the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical version of the story are the 1957 CBS broadcast, which starred Julie Andrews, Howard Lindsay and Dorothy Stickney; the 1965 CBS broadcast, which starred Lesley Ann Warren, Stuart Damon and Ginger Rogers; and the 1997 ABC broadcast, part of the Wonderful World of Disney series, which starred Brandy, Whitney Houston and Whoopi Goldberg. In 2002, Disney released Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, which was a sequel to the 1949 version. The sequel, directed by John Kafka, was released directly to video and DVD.