Released in 1950 by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Cinderella has just been added to the National Film Registry according to the announcement from D23. The classic is one of 25 films that were determined to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and suggested for preservation.
Cinderella joins such iconic Walt Disney Animation Studios films as Steamboat Willie, Snow White, and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Fantasia, to name just a few, in receiving this honor that has now been given to only 750 film titles.
Cinderella began production after World War II and got its inspiration from a fairy tale by Charles Perrault. The Disney Studio hadn’t had a successful feature in quite a while and needed one to get back on their feet.
Legendary animator Mark Henn, who joined Disney in 1980 working alongside many of Cinderella’s filmmakers, recalls, “The first time I saw Cinderella was in a little theater in the town where my dad grew up. I was just mesmerized—I loved to draw all the time as a kid and this was just amazing to me.”
Henn also said of the film,
There’s a simplicity to it, but within that simplicity there’s an elegance. The movie was a gamble—made faster than the typical Disney feature of its era—and it was to be made for a price. But at the same time, Cinderella had to maintain the standard that Walt expected for Disney animated films, and from the character designs and the animation style to the film’s memorable music—which includes songs such as A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, and So This Is Love. Everything just came together.
“Renowned animator, Disney Legend, and The Walt Disney Company’s longest-serving employee, Burny Mattinson, began his career at Disney in 1953, just three years after Cinderella was released. Mattinson first saw the film in its initial run at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre and from the beginning, he loved the film’s simple message and story of a poor girl who was downtrodden by her stepmother and sisters. ‘But goodness overcame all of that. She got her wish, what she wanted to be—more than she wanted to be, really,’ Mattinson shares.”
Ron Clements who worked alongside John Musker to present The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Moana told D23 that Cinderella is the first Disney movie he ever saw. Later on, he was mentored by Frank Thomas, who was the creator of the film’s ominous stepmother. “She’s a really effective villain. No magic, no power—just attitude, really. Frank was such a great actor and there’s a very sculptural quality to the animation, so you can really see there’s a way he handled the stepmother that’s very strong and pretty scary and frightening.”
Ollie Johnston created Anastasia and Drizella, Cinderella’s stepsisters, with a humorous take while Marc Davis and Eric Larson worked together to “envision a title character that audiences—and a prince—would fall in love with.”
Ward Kimball created the mischievous cat Lucifer as a comical cartoon counterpart for Cinderella’s mouse friends, Jaque and Gus.
Each artist who worked on the film brought their own distinctions, though it was Marc Davis who animated what is said to be Walt’s favorite scene in the movie: “the moment when Cinderella is given her ball gown by the Fairy Godmother and transforms into the princess she is truly meant to be.”