I was just a starry-eyed little kid when I clipped this full page movie ad out of a Hollywood fanzine many years ago. It may not seem like such a big deal now, but it certainly was for this inspired kid. You see, the Walt Disney Studio had not made a feature film in years. The studio had been crippled by a World War and a divisive labor action that weighed heavily on the animation company. In a way, the war kept the studio alive during these troubled times. In spite of the challenges, Walt Disney managed to keep his company going by doing whatever he could to bring animated product to the marketplace. As always, the Disney artists continued to do stellar work although they didn’t always have that much to do. The Disney Studio had to get by producing a series of feature length anthologies and films that could utilize a good portion of live-action. Because of the cost, a feature length animated film was out of the question.
I doubt I’ll ever forget this particular year. Suddenly, it was 1950 and this delinquent kid ditched school to head for the Granada theater in downtown Santa Barbara where I was able to view the Disney masterpiece, “Cinderella” several times. The inspired animation and unforgettable music was a delight and Walt Disney’s artists were at their best. However, the color and styling by Mary Blair and Claude Coates knocked my socks off. I still remember sitting in the theater transfixed by what I saw on the big screen. Did I imagine being a Disney artist one day, and working at that glorious animation studio? My goodness, I could taste it! I left the Granada Theater with pixie dust in my eyes. There was no way I was going to do anything else with my life. “Cinderella” was a big deal for the Walt Disney Studio as well. After slogging through the war years, the animated feature film, “Cinderella” was Walt’s comeback. It proved the Walt Disney Studio had lost none of the magic that propelled the enterprise through the late thirties and early forties. With the beginning of a new decade, the Disney publicity machine announced 1950 as the “Cinderella Year.” Of course, the year was indeed magical as movie audiences flocked to the theaters once again to see what the amazing Disney artists could deliver.
I spoke about “Cinderella’s” inspired style early this morning with a Disney art director. The artist was working on a reboot of the Disney “Cinderella” storybooks and the masterful styling of Mary Blair and Claude Coates informs everything that is being done in the new “Cinderella” iteration. Every frame of the Disney motion picture was studied in an effort to recreate the art styling that remains fresh even though the film saw its completion decades ago. It’s 2015, and today’s digital technology continues to dazzle audiences with all the amazing images computers can put onscreen. However, the old fashioned hand drawn and hand painted imagery of Walt Disney’s “Cinderella” has a unique, magical sensibility and I honestly don’t think anything being done today even comes close.