The Cinderella story is one that’s been around for ages, going as far back as the 1st century B.C.
We bet you didn’t know that.
In fact, there’s probably a lot of things you might not know about the servant girl turned Disney princess, and with a new live-action Cinderella movie about to drop – starring Lily James as the blue-dressed beauty -- here are a bunch of fun facts to take with you to the theater.
1. Yes, the Cinderella story does in fact date back to the 1st century BC.
An ancient Greek geographer is said to have spun a tale about a slave girl from Ancient Egypt whose sandal was snatched by an eagle. When the sandal is recovered by a king who admires its beautiful shape, he seeks out the shoe’s owner and eventually makes the woman his wife.
The more popular published versions arrived in 1634, 1697 and 1812, with the latter two – Cendrillon, by Perrault (pictured above) and Aschenputtel, by the Brothers Grimm – truly giving shape to the character most associate with the 1950 animated Disney classic.
One More Thing: The name Cinderella comes from the French word Cendrillon, which in English translates to “little ash girl.”
2. Cinderella hasn’t always worn a glass slipper or had a fairy godmother.
It was Charles Perrault who first introduced the glass slipper and fairy godmother to the Cinderella story in 1697’s Cendrillon. Other versions have found the heroine wearing a magic ring or magic gold, silver or fur slippers. Similarly, the spirit of Cinderella’s deceased mother has at times portrayed the fairy godmother-type character.
One More Thing: According to the third Cinderella movie, her shoe size is a women’s 4 1/2. Do they still make glass slippers in a 4 1/2?
3. Cinderella helped save Walt Disney
When Walt Disney decided to make an animated feature starring Cinderella in 1948, in some ways it was the biggest risk of his career. The studio wasn’t doing well at the time, with their last hit being Snow White in 1937. At the end of World War II, Disney was $4 million in debt, and Cinderella was considered to be a big ole’ roll of the dice for Disney Animation. If the movie lost money, Walt may have had to cease making feature films and shut down Disney Animation.
Luckily for us (and Disney), the film was a major hit.
One More Thing: During the war years, Disney was kept afloat by making training videos for the United States government. It was during this time that the company also began dabbling in live-action films simply to get by. Watch one below starring Donald Duck.
4. Disney’s animated Cinderella was also its first live-action Cinderella, too.
Due to the company’s economic hardships at the time, Walt Disney couldn’t afford to pour funds into Cinderella like he had done for Fantasia and Pinnochio. So instead he shot the entire movie in live action first (see an image above), then used the footage in a number of ways – from designing the sets to assisting the animators, who weren’t thrilled with the fact that it limited them creatively.
One More Thing: The entire production took about two years to complete.
5. Cinderella is mad old… for a Disney princess, that is.
At around 19 or 20 years old, Cinderella is considered to be the oldest of all the Disney princesses, with 19-year-old Tiana right there behind her. At 14 years old, Snow White is the youngest princess, while Frozen’s Anna – Disney’s newest princess – is 18 years old.
One More Thing: Cinderella may soon lose her status as the oldest of her princess bunch once Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters this December and Princess Leia becomes an official Disney princess. Well, that's if she's still a princess...
6. Cinderella (1950) features Walt Disney’s favorite piece of animation
The scene where Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother transforms her torn dress into a beautiful ballgown is said to be Walt Disney’s favorite piece of animation ever.
One More Thing: Watch this Cinderella fan recreate that moment in live action, minus any special effects.
7. The Cinderella song you’ve probably never heard
As far back as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Walt Disney wanted a scene where a princess and a prince dance among the clouds. The scene was briefly outlined for Snow White, but it was cut because Disney felt it slowed the film’s pace. Then, when it came time for Cinderella, not only was an entire scene storyboarded, but a song – called “Dancing on a Cloud,” performed by Ilene Woods – was also recorded. Again the scene was scrapped, but you can an image from it above and listen to the song below.
One More Thing: Oh, Walt finally got his dancing-on-a-cloud scene into the Sleeping Beauty finale, which you can watch here.
8. Those poor stepsisters
Cinderella’s dear old stepsisters got off pretty easy in the 1950 animated movie, but not so in earlier versions of the tale. Like the Grimm interpretation, in which birds pecked out the sisters’ eyes. And then Perrault – Perrault! – went so far as having the stepsisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit them into a tiny slipper, prior to making a revision. How do you say “ouch!” in French?
One More Thing: In the 2015 Cinderella, the stepsisters are played by Sophie McShera (Drizella) and Holliday Grainger (Anastasia).
9. Mickey Mouse’s secret Cinderella cameo
For decades, Disney animators have hidden Mickey Mouse ears – and sometimes Mickey himself – inside their movies, as well as the theme parks. Cinderella (1950) is no exception. If you look real closely you can spot Mickey’s head among the bubbles while Cinderella sings “Sweet Nightingale.” Watch the scene here. (And for those who can’t find it, we’ve inserted the image above.)
One More Thing: These days, Disney hides all sorts of characters in their movies. For example, you can find shout-outs to both Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph in Big Hero 6. And, instead of a hidden Mickey Mouse, you’ll find a hidden Oswald sticker stuck to Hiro’s ceiling. See his big black ears sticking out?
10. Emma Watson almost played Cinderella
When it came time to cast the 2015 live-action version of Cinderella, Disney looked at a number of actresses, including Saoirse Ronan, Alicia Vikander, Imogen Poots, Lily James and Margot Robbie. Harry Potter’s Emma Watson was offered the part, but she turned it down, later deciding to play Belle in an upcoming live-action version of Beauty and the Beast instead. Once Watson stepped aside, Lily James was cast.
One More Thing: James has said her favorite part of playing Cinderella is getting to wear the big blue ball gown.