Before the days of home video, Walt Disney's animated features were on a theatrical seven-year cycle that is, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Pinocchio," "Dumbo" and all the rest would be reissued to theaters every seven years or so.
And when that happened in the 1970s and '80s, the studio would track down the voice actors and have them do publicity for the films.
Except for Ilene Woods, who did the voice of "Cinderella" in Disney's 1950 animated classic. No one at the studio had been able to track her down.
Until the film's 1995 video release, that is.
Someone at Disney heard that Woods had married Ed Shaughnessy, who was the longtime drummer for the band on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show." So the publicity folks at Disney reached her through her husband, and she agreed to help publicize the film's release on videotape.
And now she's at it again for the film's DVD premiere.
"Cinderella" will be released next Tuesday in what Disney is calling the "Platinum Edition," with two discs and loads of bonus features including three radio programs on which Woods appeared in 1950 to publicize the film's initial release.
There is also a TV appearance with Perry Como and a trio of singers in unfortunate, clunky mouse costumes, complete with big ears. "They hated those costumes," Woods said by phone from her Southern California home. "That was when we were on tour for the film's release in New York.
"I have so many wonderful memories of making the film and then going on tour for the film. I met some wonderful people, such as Perry, and some of the other people whose shows I guested on. It was a happy tour in 1950."
At the time of this interview, Woods had just seen "Cinderella" in its new, vividly colorful restoration at a theatrical screening. "It was a big soiree for the (DVD) release. The color is just magnificent, just gorgeous. I hadn't seen it in many years, and it was lovely."
It's fitting that Woods landed the voice role for "Cinderella," since the way she got the job is also something of a Cinderella story. "They tell me they had auditioned over 300 girls, but I was busy in radio and had not heard about the auditions at all."
She was, however, approached by a couple of friends, Jerry Livingston and Mack David, who were commissioned to write songs for the film. They asked Woods to record the "demo" recording they would be presenting to Walt Disney. "I did the discs for them, in a studio with a piano 'Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo,' 'So This is Love,' 'A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.'
"Two days later, Walt called. He wanted me to come over and have an interview. I gladly said 'Yes, anytime you say.' We met and talked for awhile and he said, 'How would you like to be Cinderella?'
"Ever since then, I never hesitate to do a favor for a friend."
By the time she met him, of course, Walt Disney was a giant in the animated-film industry, so "meeting him was kind of magical. As a young person, I loved all his films, and I loved 'Snow White' and to be Cinderella!"
Woods went into the Disney studios and recorded the voice of Cinderella on and off over the next two years "I didn't work every day, of course. A few weeks would go by, and I'd work for several days.
"It took much longer to make (an animated) movie then, but I think the characters were so much softer and lovelier. The computerized way is wonderful, and they turn out so fast, but they don't have the softness of the hand-drawn characters. That's what I miss. All of the animators over there just had a touch with the human figures."
When she got the "Cinderella" role, Woods was already a radio regular, performing weekly on a program starring comic actors Eve Arden and Jack Carson, and subsequently, as she continued in radio and television, she worked with Garry Moore, Steve Allen and many others. "I was doing as much as I wanted to do at the time. I was a happy camper.
"I don't remember ever doing an audition in my life. Everything I got was through friends. I was not a real show-biz girl. I was there because I was lucky, not because I went after it, because I never knew what the rat race was all about."When she married Shaughnessy, Woods was in her 30s, and she retired from performing to have children. She says she was quite content to let her husband be in show business while she stayed home. "I wouldn't say I left the business; I stopped working in the business. I had walked away from it, and I was so happy."
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