The fantasy musical film based on the folk tale finally hit theaters in the winter of 1950. Although thousands of variants of the ancient story have perpetuated western society dating back many centuries, this visual update was a huge step forward for 20th century film-making and a big step for Disney.
Cinderella, which originated as The Little Glass Slipper, has gone through a series of renditions in both opera and ballet form. Cendrillon was the first, created by Jean-Louis Laruette in 1749; the most recent was composed by 10-year old prodigy Alma Deutscher. In 1904, Cinderelladebuted as a pantomime on stage at the Drury Lane Theatre in London, then at the Adelphi Theatre the following year.
Technically, the first Cinderella film came out in 1899 in France followed by the American version released 11 years later, starring big-time actress of the era Florence La Badie. But these were silent and obviously of a different quality.
The thing people loved so much about the Disney version was its ability to bring the animation to life. Disney had already produced a splash hit with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, and Cinderella was another film to include the entirety of the company's core animators. "Disney's Nine Old Men" as they were called, were the Walt Disney Company's core group of animators who collaborated on a number of the brand's most famous animated cartoons and early films.
The group also helped to create Disney theme park attractions and many would go on to produce and direct their own projects. All nine have since passed, the last one being Ollie Johnston in 2008.
Remarkably, the Walt Disney Company was on the edge of bankruptcy at the time of the movie's release. World War II didn't do anyone any favors, especially the movie studios. Disney's biggest issues came from the European film markets who handed them box office bombs like Fantasia, Bambi, and Pinocchio—all of which would become monumental successes upon re-release. Going into Cinderella, the studio was $4 million in debt and sinking fast. This was the boost they needed.
Another rarity, Cinderella was the first Disney film to enlist the musical talents of tin pan alley, the thriving musical community in the heart of New York City. These pieces would be the first songs published under the brand new Walt Disney Music Company.
So on this day, let's celebrate the beauty and innocence that is Cinderella. During these trying times, it should be required viewing.