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Sue Kruse
Cinderella’s Royal 50th Anniversary Celebration
The day after the Cinderella event took place on February 12, 2000, I was asked if I planned on writing a trip report for it as I had for the Toad event. My reply was that I might, but I would have to wait a few days in order to have a much more objective opinion.

You see I didn’t care much for the evening. I wanted to be clear about what I thought and not just trash the night because I didn’t like it. I wanted to be fair about what I said. For me, Mr. Toad’s Enchanted Evening was such a magical night, that it has become a benchmark by which all other Disneyland events will be measured and Cindy just wasn’t measuring up.

Well, as it turns out, I waited more than a few days to write this report. In fact, I had abandoned the idea of writing it altogether until the lovely Fabulous Disney Babe replied “I would” to my question, “Who would want to read about my experience after all this time has passed?” It seems folks never get enough about what goes on at Disneyland. So I shall endeavor to tell you what I thought of the evening and hope that you, like Fab, want to hear my tale. And I am happy to say that time has mellowed my opinion somewhat, although I still think there were a few miscues to the evening.

Way back when… Disneyland first decided to throw these wingdings, no one knew what to expect. I doubt even Disneyland knew what to expect. The Haunted Mansion event, being the first of such productions, was quite a treasure. Since those of us who attended didn’t have a clue what would happen, I imagine they could have thrown just about anything Haunted Mansion at us and we would have been thrilled and delighted. At least I know I would have.

When Madame Leota glided across the stage at the Fantasyland Theatre, ethereally introducing such true Disney treasures as X. Atencio and Marc Davis, one couldn’t help but be pleased as New Orleans Square Mint Julep Punch to be there. But when the cemetery caretaker came down through the crowd and the Grim Grinning Ghosts materialized in the um, flesh, well, I’m sure you can imagine that was icing on an already delicious cake. It was to put it plainly, a delightful surprise and a wonderful evening.

Toad, as aforementioned, was first rate. I wish they all could be like that. Good food, not overly crowded, wonderful interactive story telling, and a dandy surprise at the end of the evening. Read my report here if you don’t know what I’m talking about and you will see what I mean.

The Christmas Collectibles Festival on the other hand was a too expensive, too many days, fête of Hey, pay us money so you can have the privilege of buying more stuff you probably don’t need (most of it over priced), and we’ll feed you dinner (and a cold breakfast) and give you a special seat at that boring Christmas parade (Bring back the Very Merry Christmas Parade, I say!). Although, to be fair, I must say that getting to see Ms. Harriss and Santa Claus make it snow in Festival Arena was close to being worth the price of admission. I did like that part quite a bit. Close only counts in horseshoes though, remember?

And just how does Cindy measure up to the Toad benchmark? Where does she fit in the pantheon of Disneyland events? Well, for each person who attends these events, the view will differ. For me, it goes something like this…

Once upon a time there were four friends. One day each friend received a beautiful white invitation to attend Cinderella’s Royal 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Disneyland Hotel on the evening of February 12, in the year 2000.

“Shall we go,” one friend said to another, “I don’t know. It’s a lot of money and, well, we have to get gussied up.”

“I don’t gussie,” said the one friend to the other, “I doll. And I think that will be fun. I will get all dolled up and I will look good. Besides I have glass slippers”.

“You do?” said the other friends quizzically.

“Yes, I do.”

“That settles it then. We’re going”

And so, the friends searched far and wide for the perfect dress (or suit, as the case may be). They dolled and gussied and arrived at the fêted hour for what was hoped to be a most magical evening. How completely delightful it was to see all other loyal subjects of the land dolled and gussied as well. The men were handsome and dashing (and my, do they clean up well) and the women were beautiful and sparkly.

During a brief interlude of shopping (It is Disney, okay? It always includes shopping), which yielded such treasures as, Main Street Electrical Parade Pumpkin Coach ($135.00), Boxed Embroidered T-shirt with Brass Logo Pin ($25.00), Cinderella Limited Edition Reuge Music Box ($700.00), and oval framed Cinderella Lenticular Rags to Riches ($95.00), hors d’oeuvres were served.

Whilst all this was going on, a sudden clatter rose up.

It appeared that two noisy and rather brash young women accompanied by their mother had arrived. I must say that for my taste, they were a bit over done and gaudily dressed, but to each her own. Perhaps they like the Tammy Faye Baker look in make up. And you know, personality-wise, they were a little too hard to take. I’ve never seen such manners! 

Ladies?
Anastasia and Drizella, um, charmed... I'm sure.

The two young women, whose names were Anastasia and Drizella went about the room accosting every man within striking distance looking for a prince whilst their mother, Lady Tremaine, preened over them. Hard to believe a mother could take pride in creatures such as these. They attacked my friend, “Are you a prince?” Drizella smacked him on the chest with her unfurled fan.

“Of course he is!” I spat out.

Lady Tremaine looked him up and down from head to toe, “Not the one we’re looking for. Move along girls.”

At that point the royal trumpets sounded and we were saved from what I suspect would have been a fate worse than death had my friend and I stayed in the company of those creatures. The Royal announcer decreed all loyal subjects enter the Ballroom.

And we did.

The ballroom was filled with dozens of elegantly arrayed tables set for dinner, each with a floral centerpiece topped off by a miniature version of Cinderella’s coach, and not just any old version of the coach. This one was made by Walt Disney Art Classics. In the far-left corner of the room sat the very coach itself. It was quite a treat to get to see the coach close up. Some of the guests even snuck inside for a picture or two. I am sure his Royal Highness did not know about this, as later in the evening guests were not allowed to climb into the coach for photo opportunities. We all quickly found our seats at table number seven. At each place, the first course of salad and assorted breads had already been set.

While we were all wondering what was going to take place, we began to peruse the place settings and noticed each place had a small envelope. Being curious sorts (and also suspecting that this may have something to do with the lovely centerpieces) we pried them open trying to figure out what the secret to winning would be. Being the clever people they sometimes are, Disney had provided each guest with a card that pictured a small pillow. A small pillow fit for, you guessed it, the resting of a dainty glass slipper. The person with the card featuring a glass slipper upon its pillow was the proud owner of the beautiful pumpkin coach centerpiece. I, alas, was not the winner. After a brief moment of feeling quite sorry for myself, I recovered nicely to see the President of the Disneyland Resort, Cynthia Harriss, take center stage.

Ms. Harriss, as she always does, spoke warmly greeting the guests of the ball and making everyone feel welcome. She introduced Paul Phillips, the Vice President of Walt Disney Art Classics. They chatted a bit and then segued into a wonderful remembrance of a real Walt Disney Classic, animator Marc Davis. Screens on either side of the ballroom showed a video montage dedicated to Mr. Davis’ life. I cannot even begin to do it justice in trying to describe it after all this time has passed. It was a very touching tribute to someone who brought so much magic to the lives of anyone who has ever seen a fairy godmother turn a coach into a pumpkin, believed in pixie dust, sang yo-ho yo-ho, or chilled to the words, “when hinges creak in door-less chambers.” Marc Davis was quite a guy. His passing leaves a big hole in the fabric known as Disney. At the conclusion of the video tribute to this special man, his wife and fellow Imagineer, Alice was introduced to the room.

How do you move on from there?

You show the scene of Cinderella Marc talked about animating in the film montage. In introducing the Fairy Godmother in the film, Marc decided she would materialize with Cinderella crying in her lap. To get to hear about the creation of this scene was nice enough, but suddenly, center stage, it was brought to life. There was Cinderella in her tattered dress sobbing into the lap of the Fairy Godmother. Nice segue, huh? I thought so. The next segue wasn’t all that hot though and this is where some of the magic of the evening tarnished. Cinderella hopped up on what was obviously a turntable, the Fairy Godmother waved her magic wand, the turntable turned (and rather clumsily), and voilà, presto chango, ta da, Cinderella’s rags and tatters were gone. She “magically” changed into her lovely ballgown and coifed hair.

Wow! You know, you would at least think they could have thrown in a puff of smoke or two to help with the “illusion”. Oh well, what is that new saying they have at the start of this years’ fireworks? Believe!

Gong, Gong, Gong…

Recognize that sound? You don’t? Why, that’s the dinner bell, it’s not midnight yet!

Cinderella and crew were whisked off stage, dinner was announced and we were all treated to the most delicious fare. Dinner consisted of a pumpkin bisque en croute, that even to this soup hating, cream hating, fat avoiding, picky eater, was dee lish shush! The pumpkin bisque was followed by filet of beef with mushrooms (yummy), sea bass with red pepper sauce (not so yummy-very, very, fishy), caramelized onion mashed potatoes (can’t comment, I’m allergic to onions so I didn’t partake-and it was brown), and assorted grilled veggies (yummy as well). The service at our table was sterling, but I am told it was not so at other tables. One table had such bad service (i.e., everyone else in the room had been served and they had yet to even see a morsel of food) that they complained vociferously and were then given their own personal waiter for the rest of the evening.

After sufficient time had passed allowing everyone to be fully sated, the festivities resumed. Tim O’Day, Director of Communications and Synergy for Walt Disney Art Classics took center stage with the evenings’ panel guests who consisted of animators, Bill Justice and John Hench, and voice talent, Lucille Bliss, Rhoda Williams, and Ilene Woods.

Panel discussion
Left to right, Bill Justice, John Hench, Lucille Bliss, Rhoda Williams, Tim O'Day, and Ilene Woods

Bill Justice reminded me a bit of the Doormouse at the tea party. He seemed rather dazed, and a bit sleepy, but every once in a while, he’d awaken with a tiny little gem to add to the discussion. My favorite was his delight in the two mice, Gus and Jaq. He spoke of them so lovingly, it was really quite charming.

Lucille Bliss and Rhoda Williams, who respectively voiced Anastasia and Drizella, added their reminiscences to the discussion as well. For my money, Lucille was a hoot. She really enjoyed taking charge of the panel and telling all about her experiences. It would not have surprised me if at some point, she had grabbed the microphone from one of the other panelists and taken over the whole show. This is not to say she was rude, au contraire, she was full of life and full of stories and fun to listen to.

She told the story of how she got the job as the voice of Anastasia and I wish, dear readers, that I had not let so much time pass between the event and this writing so I could pass it all on to you. It was fun to listen to.

Rhoda Williams was quiet in contrast to Lucille. She imparted with a wonderful little anecdote about Walt, which I have not forgotten. She said she never saw him in a suit, like that of the Partners statue. He was always dressed casually and she always felt like family. Isn’t that a nice thing? I liked hearing that. She also spoke about Walt’s eyebrow. If you saw it raised, you knew you were in for some work, because he was coming up with an idea. John Hench added to the Walt’s eyebrow theme by saying that if you saw it raised, you knew questions would follow.

Another anecdote that I loved was one told by both Lucille and Rhoda. When animators are working on a scene, they sometimes film live action to see how to make the animated characters move. Lucille and Rhoda got to film the bit where the stepsisters rip the dress Cinderella is wearing to shreds. They told how much fun they had doing that and how they really got into it.

Then it was Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella, turn to speak. She is such an elegant lady, soft spoken and full of class. She spoke about the scene where Cinderella scrubs the floor to the tune of Sing Sweet Nightingale. The scene was animated with each soap bubble rising from the floor, popping and adding one more voice to the harmony. She wasn’t sure she could sing all those harmonies with herself, but she did, and as we all know, the result is beautiful (unless you are a stepsister).

We were then treated to some footage that was cut from the movie [and was first made available on the deluxe laserdisc box set]. It was a song called Middle of A Muddle. For my money, I thought the song was repetitious, rather boring, and the animation didn’t really fit with the tone of the movie (although it was rough so who knows what the finished product might have been). I could understand why it was cut, but it was interesting to see none the less.

The panel discussion ended with the showing of the original movie trailer and a good deal of applause. I have been to every one of these special events so far and I can say with all honesty that these discussions are really a gift from Disneyland. It’s not often that one can come in contact with these artists. To be allowed into their lives just a little bit, to hear the stories they have to tell that make everything come alive and give new meaning to old movies is quite a wonderful thing. If nothing else, I came away from this evening with terrific stories about Walt and the warm fuzzy feeling I got from hearing a grown man speak lovingly about two celluloid mice. It was a good thing.

The rest of the evening consisted of more live action with the reenactment of the loss of the glass slipper and Cindy finally getting her prince. The Cast Members participating in this all did a stellar job, but I was disappointed that the Disney folks chose not to play up the midnight thing to end the evening. I rather expected the clock to chime 12 and Cinderella would be seen running from the room. ‘Twas not to be however. In my mind, a prime opportunity for a really good show, lost.

The ball!
The ball!

As Cinderella and the Prince happily danced off into the sunset (so to speak), the rest of us were treated to dessert. The corps of waiters appeared like something out of Hello Dolly carrying massive trays of glass slippers cleverly molded in ice and filled with raspberry sorbet. It was about this time that my friend decided to go backstage and congratulate his fellow Cast Members on a job well done. He was gone for quite a while and I was forced to sit there and watch his sorbet begin to melt until I could stand it no longer. I ate his as well as mine. So when you read this (and you know who you are), I confess. I lied when you came back to the table. Your sorbet did not melt. I ate it. It was delicious.

We also had cake. It was delicious too, chocolate, with raspberries and luscious frosting. No, I did not eat my friend’s cake. One cannot have her sorbet and eat cake too. I graciously left that for him to devour.

The evening concluded with a photo opportunity at Cinderella’s glass coach and dancing. This is the part of the evening that I thought was a huge letdown. What do you think of when you hear the words ball? Ballroom dancing, right? That’s what I think of. After all, we were all gussied and dolled like you wouldn’t believe and the theme implied that there would be ballroom dancing. There was an orchestra. Guess what? They packed up and left after the actors finished their bit. What did that leave us with? A deejay. What’s wrong with this picture? You have an entire room of guests of all ages, dressed to the nines, who have paid a huge chunk of money to come to the ball and Disney gives them a deejay and Prince singing Party Like It’s 1999 instead of a real orchestra playing So This Is Love. Disco in stead of ballroom. It was wrong and oh so disappointing.

The photo opportunity was a nice touch, but it was handled somewhat badly. There were quite a lot of guests attending this thing. All evening, the line to have your picture taken was long and it never diminished. Some smart (and I mean that sarcastically) Disney person decided that they would cut the line off and if you hadn’t gotten your picture taken by then, oh well, too bad. Never mind that the guest paid $125.00 to attend. Not in line, buh-bye.

My friends and I scrambled to join the queue so we would not lose out. We had been sitting for well over an hour waiting for the line to go down. You see, I was the friend with the glass slippers (50’s vintage see-through pumps with rhinestone bows). Although they looked good, after a whole evening of wearing those darned things, they hurt my feet like you wouldn’t believe. I was not about to stand in line for a picture for hour in those shoes. Evidently someone raised a stink about the time limit for the pictures though, the Disney folks relented, and everyone who wanted one had their picture taken.

Which is as it should be, too bad it had to be tainted by complaints and retractions of time limits. I don’t think the Disney folks fully understand what’s going on with these events. I know they wanted to go home. When I’m done with work, I want to get out of there too. But when you throw a party and you make your guest pay to be there, you don’t let them hear your grumblings about them leaving because the clock has struck twelve. You smile and stay till every last guest gets their picture.

On the way out, each guest turned in the wristband they were given at the beginning of the evening and in turn received a small green box tied with a gold metallic ribbon. Within the box, to remember the evening at the ball, was found a Galway Irish Crystal clock with the Cinderella 50th Anniversary logo on the clock face.

After that, I do believe we shed our fancy clothes and turned back into pumpkins.

From this point in time, my assessment of the evening is that it wasn’t anywhere near as good as Toad, but was light years better than the Christmas Collectibles event. I thought the disco music was cheap and the lack of real ballroom dancing was a huge let down. In fact, that was my big gripe with the evening. If you are going to throw a ball, throw a ball. Don’t get a deejay and a few Prince records. Be classier than that.

The live reenactments could have been so much better (not the actors fault, they were terrific). It’s such a shame the planners of this event did not let the Cast Members interact with the guests as Brom Bones and Ichabod did at the Toad event. It added another dimension to the evening and made it so much fun. I would have thought they would have Cinderella and the Prince dance amongst the crowd. Wouldn’t that have been nice? And wouldn’t you like to have your picture with the Fairy Godmother and be able to ask her if you bring her a pumpkin, could she possibly do something with it?

From what I hear, the handling of purchases in the morning was a nightmare. I have not reported on that however, as I was not there to witness the carnage. You would think by now though, that the Disney folks would understand that collectors come to these events with MONEY and they want to spend it in a big way. They should have been prepared and they weren’t.

The food was good and beautifully presented with a nice variety even for a picky eater like me. I would have liked it better if the ice slipper was perhaps plastic and I could have taken it home as a souvenir. It nearly killed me that all those beautiful sorbet receptacles were dissolving into puddles.

Disney was not cheap when it came to the centerpieces of the tables. The Walt Disney Art Classics Cinderella’s Pumpkin Coach was a classy addition to each table.

The panel discussion was very interesting. The way the tables were set up though, if you weren’t in the first row, you could see next to nothing. They had two huge screens on either side of the room. It would have been nice if they had a camera there to film the participants a la a rock concert and project that onto the screens so that anyone not in the first row (in other words, most everyone in the room) could actually see Bill justice sleeping while Lucille Bliss seized control and told her stories.

I loved that it was a dressy affair. People I usually see in tee shirts and jeans were dressed to the nines (whatever does that mean?) and we all looked grand. I would jump at the chance to participate in another dress-up event.

Would I go to one of these things again? You bet.

See you at the Pirates Event…

 

 

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