Ilene Woods Interview

The actress talks about how she got the role, Walt Disney and the upcoming DVD release of Cinderella

MovieWeb recently sat down with actress Ilene Woods. For those unfamiliar with Mrs. Woods, she was the original voice of Cinderella, the animated movie that was made 55 years ago. This seminal film is finally coming to DVD on October 4th, 2005 in a 2 disc Special Edition. During our talk, Ilene discussed her happiness with the film finally being released on DVD, "working with Walt," and why she eventually left show business to raise a family.

How do you feel about this movie coming to DVD after so many years?

Ilene Woods: I think it's wonderful. We saw it a few a few nights ago and the refurbishing... it's just so beautiful. The color and everything is thrilling. It really is.

Are you fan of DVDs? Do you have a collection?

Ilene Woods: I don't even know how to run the machine, but thank goodness my husband does! I think I would be at a loss if I was left home alone with a DVD machine, and somebody said, "You have to run it, Ilene!" I'm just not a mechanical person.

What was it like voicing this role 55 years ago?

Ilene Woods: Oh, it was wonderful. Working with Walt was the most wonderful part of all, because he was a true visionary in every word. He just knew what he wanted, and knew what he wanted it to sound like, and knew what he wanted it to look like when he walked into the studio control booth and he made it come out that way.

How did you get the role of Cinderella?

Ilene Woods: I was a friend of the two songwriters Jerry Livingston and Mack David, who were out from New York to present some songs to Walt for the movie. They called me and asked if I would go into a studio with them, and they made a couple of discs to take out to him to present the songs for a movie. And I didn't even know what movie it was but I said, "Gladly. Let's get a piano and go in the studio and we'll do the songs and you can give them to Walt." Sure enough, two days later, after I made the recordings I heard from Disney Studios and Walt wanted to see me. I went over and we talked a little while and he said, "How would you like to be Cinderella?" I said, "I don't know. I didn't even know you were auditioning for a Cinderella." And he said, "Yes, we've auditioned many girls but I think you've got the right kind of a sound for Cinderella. Would you like to have the part?" And I said, "Yes." And that's the way it happened.

How did you come up with the voice? Did you have to change yours a lot for when you recorded it? Or did you use your regular voice?

Ilene Woods: No, that was my regular voice at that time. It was my voice and I played the role the way I thought Cinderella would be. I thought she'd be a happy, outgoing girl who could handle the bumps along the way and get through it all. I just saw her as that kind of a heroine and I thought she would have that kind of a voice.

How long did it take you to record your parts?

Ilene Woods: I worked a little over two years on the film. Off and on. We'd work for maybe a couple of weeks, and then have a week and a half off and then we'd work for another week and have two or three weeks off, and then work for two or three weeks, you know? It was off and on over two years that I worked for Disney.

That two years was the duration it took to get the film done?

Ilene Woods: Yes, two and a half years. I was not quite 18 when I started and I was 20 when the film was released.

It must have been interesting working on the same character for two years?

Ilene Woods: It was. Working with Walt there was never one day like the other. Everyday was different and everyday a new magic thing happened as far as he was concerned. He loved young people and he loved working with young people, and I think I just got in under the wire there at 17 starting with him. It was just a magical time. It was a magic place; Disney Studios. Everybody was "into" the movie and we'd eat together, and we'd sit together and talk it over. We worked together as a group. It was wonderful, the camaraderie was wonderful and Walt and his brother were right in the middle of it all the time.

Do you watch any of today's current animated movies?

Ilene Woods: Yes, I see one once in awhile because I take my granddaughter to see them.

What have you been doing since you voiced the seminal role of Cinderella?

Ilene Woods: Shortly after I had done a lot of radio and television. I worked on the Garry Moore Show, The Steve Allen Show. I had a show on NBC that I did with Harry Babbitt. So I was busy in radio and television in New York. I did the Arthur Godfrey Show and the Garry Moore Show there. Then I got married and had my two boys and left the business. I just walked away from it. I thought I had done maybe the best of everything, and worked with the best of people and when I had my boys they were the most important thing in my life. I just enjoyed walking away. I'd been in show business actively since I was 14 years old and I was ready to walk away from it.

If the "right" role were to be offered to you today would you consider doing it?

Ilene Woods: No. No, I wouldn't. I feel that I've had the best of everything. I've been a very lucky person and I've lived a wonderful life. And show business has been such a big part of it, and I've loved every minute of it. But, I'm an older person now and I'm ready to retire and enjoy life with my wonderful husband. He also is a minor celebrity. He was the drummer on "The Tonight Show" for 30 years. Ed Shaughnessy is his name.

The long awaited Cinderella will be enchanting DVD buyers on October 4th, 2005.

Dont't forget to also check out: Cinderella [Special Edition] [2 Discs]