Close to six decades back, Walt Disney Productions released Cinderella, the first full-length animated feature since Bambi. The company had released plenty of toonage in the interim, but none that told an eighty-five minute story with a beginning, middle and end.
"I visited the lot in the late forties. I was writing Bing Crosby's radio show then, and Bing came to the studio to record Ichabod, and I drove over to visit old friends I hadn't seen since leaving in '41.
"And the reaction of the guys in the story department, guys I'd known, was 'Gee, you're working for Bing Crosby on network radio. Must be great. And here we are, stuck in Burbank.'
"Back then, after the war, the studio was seen as a sleepy little place that made kids' cartoons, far away from the Hollywood action. A couple of the story writers wondered if the studio would even be around that much longer." ...
In the late forties, it was pretty common knowledge that Walt Disney Prods. was living hand to mouth. It was going through a lean and mean period, working to conserve cash, releasing cost-efficient "compilation" features that, while less expensive too produce, we're not bringing in huge amounts of cash at the box office. The company was also using bottled-up profits in Great Britain to make low-rent live-action films, using relatively unknown actors in the leads.
Somewhere along in here, Cinderella was greenlit, Peter Pan was reactivated, and Alice in Wonderland moved into development. Because Walt had big plans, and to make them happen he needed to take bigger swings at the plate, aiming for the fences.
And Cinderella, the first animated feature out of the on-deck circle, turned out to be a hit, giving the studio financial breathing room. While Alice in Wonderland the following year misfired, Peter Pan did not, and Disney suddenly had the economic muscle to make an amusement park down in Anaheim happen. Which gave the company a whole lot of leverage and cash flow.
The rest, as they say, is the corporate collosus we know and love today.
Oversimplification? No doubt. But the point is that Walt Disney, starting with Cinderella in 1950, drove down the right roads at the right intersections and thereby set his smallish cartoon studio on a route to ginormous prosperity ... instead of say, the historical deadend (and footnote) occupied by U.P.A.
So. Happy Birthday, Cindy! You made a difference!