DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Savant
HD Talk
Horror DVDs
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

Columns



Ilene Woods - The Voice of Cinderella
A dream is a wish your heart makes. Or so they say. When an ordinary pumpkin grew into a sparkling carriage of dust and dreams took your breath away, you knew it was going to be a carriage ride to remember. A gown of diamonds glittered blue promises like snowflakes sprinkle the ground was a miracle only given by royal command. But, every eligible maiden can't fit into the glass slipper and not everyone has Walt Disney as their fairy godmother. Unless, of course, your Ilene Woods. Her Cinderella story came true after doing - or should I say singing - a favor for friends. Little did she know that harmonizing "Sing Sweet Nightingale" and crooning "So This Is Love" in a small studio as a favor would turn into a person casting call from Mr. Disney himself asking Ilene to be his Cinderella.

Working on a Disney film was certainly a far cry from Ilene's days as host of her own radio show, "The Ilene Woods Show" that played three nights a week for fifteen minutes each run. Then President Roosevelt and President Truman came calling for her voice to soothe their audience and government politics. Our Cinderella sang spirit when the war claimed every voice left and shared love with every heart thought lost. So this is love.

What sort of reactions do you get when it comes up in conversation that you were the voice of Cinderella?

First thing most people ask is did I work directly with Walt Disney because everyone is interested in Walt Disney. And I did. He came in every single day we recorded. He came in at the end of the day to check everything out. He really made changes that were, once in a while, major, beautiful changes and he always had such an imagination going on. He was the only true visionary, I think, I ever worked with. It was wonderful and people were interested in knowing about him, mostly.

Can you tell me what is it like to come back to something like this after having been away from it for so long? Have you seen the film at all recently or is this the first time you've come back to it?

No, I have not seen the film recently and seeing it, in its new form was breathtaking for me, it really was. It's so beautiful; I mean the color is magnificent and it took my breath away it was so wonderful. I sort of forget when I'm watching the movie that I had anything to do with it, I really do. And yet it brings back so many beautiful memories of working with a wonderful artist and working with Walt, mostly. It brings back wonderful, wonderful memories.

I can imagine most of your experience would be very positive.

Walt was in the control room when we were recording every single day and even though I didn't do the actual dancing part in the filming of it for the artist, he would sit there everyday and watch my expressions and hand movements. My father, when he first saw the movie said, ‘I knew I was watching an animated character up there, but it was like looking at my daughter' because of all the facial expressions and movements from Walt having sat in the control room for so many days.

When you first started this project, did you realize how long lasting it would be in that so many years later children and even adults of all ages would still enjoy the film?

That is one of the biggest thrills of all because I just love children. Knowing that so many years from now, when I'm gone, that children will still be hearing my voice and enjoying the movie is the biggest thrill to come out of this altogether. It was wonderful and wonderful working with Walt and all of the beautiful artists. It was just a thrill. I have never done anything like it. I'm not a voiceover person so I had never done any before and I worked a lot in radio and television, but never did another voiceover. I thought I could never top Cinderella!

You have an interesting story about how you became the voice of Cinderella. It was quite by accident. Can you talk about that?

Yes, I'm always happy to talk about that because it was actually doing a favor for two friends. These songwriters were in town to present songs to Walt for a movie - I didn't know which one. And I had known them in New York when I worked in radio there as a youngster. They came and asked me if I would record some songs for a movie and I went into the studio with them and we did "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," and "So This Is Love." And I said ‘We hope to see you in New York and have lots of luck together' and went home. Two days later I received a call saying that Mr. Disney would like an audience with me at Disney studios. I went over and he said ‘I've listened to the songs. Now that we've met and we've talked, how would you like to be the voice of Cinderella?' And that's really the way I got the part. I didn't even know they were auditioning and by that time I understand, or was told, that they had auditioned over 300 girls. Needless to say, it was one of the biggest thrills of my life. When I started working on the movie I knew I would never meet anybody like him again.

That's amazing. That's sort of akin to a Cinderella story for the voice of Cinderella.

Yes, I never hesitate to do a favor for friends now!

What is your favorite song of the movie?

I love them all, but I think "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" maybe was my favorite. But, since "Sing Sweet Nightingale" worked out so beautifully with my doing harmony with myself, I love the sound of that.

Were you nervous when you took the role or when you talked to Walt?

No, not really. I had known he was a wonderful person and I had admired him so much. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Snow White was one of my favorite movies so I admired him so much I was looking forward to meeting him. But I didn't have any idea it was for the part of Cinderella.

Are you a romantic at heart and a believer in fairy tales so that it wasn't a stretch to project yourself into the role? If it that's the case could you talk about specific things that may have touched you as you were doing the voice of Cinderella? If that's not the case then boy do we need an explanation.

Yes I do believe dreams come true. I think that the making of Cinderella was a dream come true for me. It was fun, enlightening and wonderful. I loved all of the songs. It was magic. I saw magic happen before me. In "Sing Sweet Nightingale," it was Walt's idea to sing harmony with myself. It had never been done on film before, at the time, and he never took credit for it because to make his visions happen was all that was important to him. He didn't want a lot of praise; he didn't want the publicity that he had been the first to do that. The fact that he had done that was enough to satisfy him. It was a beautiful scene when the soap bubbles came up and one voice sang the second part harmony and the next voice sang the third part harmony and so on and so on until we had five or six part harmonies. Walt turned around when we first heard the playback and said, ‘You know all these years I've been hanging onto a few salaries when I could have had you for one.' So that was a magical time when that happened because I had never heard one voice singing harmony with herself.

Do you identify with Cinderella in any way?

Yes, I think I did. I think all girls identify with her in a certain way. She was kind of spunky. She accepted life as it was and went after things she wanted. I think she was a spirited girl. I don't think she needed the prince. I think she wanted to go to the ball and that was it at the moment. Then the prince wanted her and vice versa.

I know that you won the Disney Legend Award in 2003. What did that honor mean to you?

Oh, I treasure it so. As I say, when I go over to the studio I can close my eyes and see so many wonderful pictures. Every time I look at that Legend Award, I think of the time I spent there making Cinderella. It was a happy, wonderful, magical time.

And I know that you have grandchildren of your own. How do you let them know that you were Cinderella?

Well, they're very proud of me of course and that makes me feel ten feet tall. They've seen the film so many times and they never seem to tire of it which makes me very happy. It humbles me and that means everything in the world to me because I love children. And I love the fact that after I'm long gone children are still going to be hearing my voice and that's the biggest thrill to come out of the picture of all.

I'm curious as to what you have done between the years of today and Cinderella?

Well, I left the business thirty some years ago because I married a wonderful man and raised two wonderful boys and that was my life. I loved every minute of it. I was very happy though when Disney found me again and wanted me to go on tour for the release of the video so that was sort of when I came back to them. Before I did Cinderella and shortly after, I worked a lot in radio and television. During the war I did many, many tours for the servicemen and sang at army camps, army hospitals, navy and different affairs. I did a lot for the soldiers and sailors during the war by performing. Isn't that funny? It really gets to me because it was a time I felt really important doing those things because it meant everything to me. But I must say my work has been in radio and television many years ago and you are probably too young to remember any of the things I did, but this was the only voiceover I ever did and I certainly picked a good one I think. I was the happiest girl in the world, at least out of three hundred fifty girls, and I was the luckiest I think.

What kind of image does Cinderella create for little girls and other Disney animated cartoon characters?

I think Cinderella had a lot of spunk. She was a happy girl and made the most of anything that she had. You know, she was going to get to that ball somehow and of course she had her little friends to help her if things went wrong. I loved the character and I loved playing the character because she accepted life as it was and made the most of it. She was a happy girl I think.

Absolutely. How does Cinderella influence other Disney films and other Disney princesses?

I love the fact that so many young women will come up to me and say that they had a Cinderella wedding, or just loved Cinderella, or that they loved her spirit and how they loved the movie so much. Other girls will come up to me and say that they had their whole bedroom decorated in Cinderella! And it just thrills me that the women, mostly, will come up to me and say how much they loved the character.

Can you talk about the process of laying down your voice tracks? Were there any other actors there to react to?

No, there weren't any other actors there. When Walt would come in at the end of recording everyday the other three directors would have been arguing over and over. Walt would come in and sit down and play the tape. He would make one suggestion and we'd do it his way and it would always be right. Always. And it was so funny because I said to him one day, ‘You should come in at the beginning of the day, Mr. Disney. You'd save the studio a lot of money.' He never looked up when he was listening. He always sat with his head in his hand listening.

How long did it take you to make this movie compared to the running time of movies today?

It took a lot longer. I worked off and on the movie for two and a half years. They make movies much faster today, but we spent a lot of time working on Cinderella.

Have different generations perceived the movie differently throughout the years or has it always been along the same line?

I think it's always been along the same line. I think children, particularly, believe what they saw. They believe in Cinderella. They believe in the little characters. The questions they ask me are hilarious. They're looking at an older person and talking to me like I'm still Cinderella to them. It's the biggest thrill in the world. They ask me about Bruno and tell me how much they hate Lucifer. I've heard these stories so many times and I still sit and wonder about these little faces looking at me, believing that I'm really Cinderella and I'm going to answer the questions for them. Cinderella never lost her spirit. She always knew, I think deep down inside and this was the way I always played her, there was always a chance. There was always something wonderful going to happen and that's what kept her spirit up. And that's what young women loved about her so much because in the face of all that tragedy she was a happy, spirited girl.

How does Cinderella compare to the other Disney princesses?

Well, I think some of the other Disney princesses were princesses and they were very lucky. I think that the reason why some women seem to like Cinderella so much is her spirit, that she never lost her spirit. She was born into royalty and she was wealthy as a child, but she lost all of that. I think she was a very spirited person. I don't like to compare her to any of the others because I liked playing her so much. I loved her so much that I'd rather not make comparisons.

Earlier you talked about working during the war, doing the radio shows and singing, and started getting a little emotional about your experiences performing at that time. I know that entertainment was used as an escape from what was going on in the world at that time. How did that influence you in your role as Cinderella?

That's a difficult one to answer. I think that you take things from your life. I had a very stern mother and I think at times there was a comparison. I lived most of my young life her way when actually I was interested in being a teacher. I was not interested in going into show business, but I'm very happy because of all the wonderful things I did. I sang for President Roosevelt at his Hyde Park home. I sang for President Truman at the White House because of the work I had done for the soldiers and sailors during the war. I had a wonderful life in the business, but it was not difficult for me to leave it when I was married and had my two boys because that was a very happy time in my life. I had a wonderful, wonderful career as a very young girl. I started at 15 years old in New York with my own show three nights a week on NBC so I had been in the business a long time. I was ready to leave it.

I noticed on your resume that you actually did get to teach school in the Florida Keys for two years.

Yes I did.

What did you teach?

I taught third grade and I learned with them! It was a wonderful time. I was only down there for two years. Then, I came back to do the Arthur Godfrey show on radio. It was a wonderful two years. My dreams had finally come true in that area.

Do you plan on doing anymore radio appearances or singing for the public anytime soon?

Not anytime soon. I'm a very, very happy lady with my life. I have a wonderful husband and a wonderful life and I'm a very happy person.

What's your favorite scene in Cinderella?

I think maybe like Mr. Disney. His favorite scene of all the movies he's ever done was Cinderella getting her dress. I think that was my favorite scene, too because it was a happy time. Cinderella had finally come through out of her troubles and was going to the ball in a beautiful gown. I think that was the happiest time in the movie. That scene was my favorite.

- Danielle Henbest

Archives

Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise