Today Walt Disney’s Cinderella is regarded as one of the most beloved Disney films; however, the production of this film was considered a huge gamble at the time. World War II had left The Walt Disney Company struggling, as few films released during the war were considered to be financial successes. Production of Cinderella began in 1948. By the time the film was completed in 1950 Disney had spent nearly $3 million on the production, driving the company even further in debt. In order for The Walt Disney Company to remain open, Cinderella had to be a huge success.
Walt and the animators had to make changes from the film production ways of the past because the studio was already in debt. In an effort to save money on the film’s production, roughly 90% of the movie was filmed using live actors. The animators would then use this footage as a basis for their animation.
Walt also knew that the film’s soundtrack needed to be great. Instead of using his staff writers, he turned to the songwriters of Tin Pan Alley for the music of Cinderella. These songs were the first songs to be published by The Walt Disney Music Company, allowing Disney to retain the copyrights for the film’s soundtrack. While this is a common practice among film production companies today, this was an innovation in the 1950s.
The choice to employ Tin Pan Alley writers for the soundtrack proved to be successful. Many of the film’s songs went on to become big hits and some were even nominated for awards. “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” has become a Disney anthem. The score of Cinderella received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” was also nominated for Best Song.
When Cinderella premiered on February 15, 1950, the film became a huge box office success. The Walt Disney Company was able to generate additional revenue through the film’s soundtrack and merchandising. With the success of Cinderella, The Walt Disney Company was saved. The cash flow from the film allowed Walt to finance additional productions, enter the world of TV, establish a distribution company, and begin the building of Disneyland. To say Cinderella was simply a successful film is an understatement. The success of this single film saved an entire company and has allowed Disney to become the entertainment brand we all know and love.