Swarovski provided 1.7 million crystals. Seventeen ballroom chandeliers were custom-made in Venice. And Philips designed tiny LED lights for whose very special gown?
My childhood memories of watching the original animated Cinderella are still very strong. I often sing Bibbity Bobbity Boo to my daughters for this very reason. So I was relieved to see (and am happy to report) that Disney’s new live-action version is a brilliantly colourful wonderland with plenty of humour and lots of heart.
If that is not enough to get you there, then these AMAZING insider secrets from Disney will. Those sets… and those costumes… just wow. This list even worked on my husband – and he never watches anything with a ballgown! (Unless we count Queen Cersei’s attire?)
Here, in no particular order, are 21 reasons why Cinderella is a magical must-see.
1. Costume designer Sandy Powell designed Cinderella’s glass slipper based on an original shoe from the 1890s.
She found the shoe, complete with five-inch heel, in a Northampton show museum.
2. Swarovski had to develop a special piece of machinery to make it out of solid crystal.
Glass would not sparkle, so it had to be made of crystal. “We only ever see one (shoe) on screen,” says Powell. “No one was even able to wear it because crystal has no movement, so it was used as the shoe that all the women in the Kingdom try on.”
3. Powell began her research on the costumes two years before filming began.
“One of the very first things I did was look at setting it in different periods,” says Powell. “We looked at everything from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and kept coming back to the 19th century, which had a sort of fairy tale look to it. Eventually we decided it would be a lot more interesting if it wasn’t strictly 19th century but more of a 1940s version of it instead.” (Side note: the Brothers Grimm written version of Cinderella was published in 1812 in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.)
4. Unlike the original, this Cinderella never actually wears rags.
Dreadlocks and scrappy headscarves, on the other hand, are perfectly acceptable.
5. What’s more, these ugly stepsisters aren’t actually ugly…
Say what now?
… they just have a thing for matchy-matchy.
If one is in pink with green trim, the other is in green with pink trim. “If we were to succeed in making them ugly, I knew they had to be silly, so I decided to dress them identically as Disney did in the animated film,” says Powell.
6. Philips developed tiny LED lights for Powell to stitch inside Helena Bonham Carter’s fairy godmother gown…
… the lights were timed to turn on whenever she casts a spell.
7. Cate Blanchett was the first person cast in the film.
Even before Cinderella was. (She is played by the mesmerising young British actress Lily James of Downton Abbey.)
8. The look Powell created for Blanchett as the Stepmother was “Joan Crawford or Marlene Dietrich does Victorian”.
“Cate has such incredible poise,” says Powell. “There are only a handful of actors that you can throw anything on and they look fabulous, and she is one of them.”
9. Italy’s grand master of production design, Dante Ferretti, was drawn to the opulent feel of the Baroque period when designing the Cinderella sets.
“The characters live amid locations that were built centuries before the setting in which the film takes place,” says Ferretti, an eight-time Oscar nominee (and two time winner) who has also designed stages at some of the world’s largest opera houses including La Scala in Milan, Opera Bastille in Paris and Theatro Colon in Buenos Aires. “I set out to create a world that is based in historical realism but mixed with fantasy.”
10. The design of the Palace itself was inspired by the Louvre, the Palais Garnier opera house and the Palace of Versailles.
“We started with the stairs and then created everything from there, like the main entrance with its big arch and the fountains inside,” says Ferretti.
11. The ballroom scene was inspired by ballroom dances from films like Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard and Alexander Hall’s Once Upon a Time.
12. More than 450 extras were used for the ballroom scene.
Each one wore an individually designed costume. “Every time we had a dance rehearsal all the dresses had to be hemmed or altered, which kept us working right up to the last minute,” says Powell.
13. The set used 5,000 oil candles which had to be lit by hand.
Set decorator Francesca Lo Schiavo also ordered 17 enormous chandeliers to be custom-made in Venice.
14. As per the original animated version in 1950, Cinderella’s ballgown, sketched by Sandy Powell below, is blue.
Look closely and you will also see butterflies incorporated into the new design.
15. It took many months (and prototypes) to engineer the dress correctly.
In addition to looking amazing, the dress also had to allow Cinderella to dance, and to run down the staircase. “It’s not the most ornate, or the most glittery, or the sparkliest, or the richest looking gown in the ball, but it had to be the most beautiful,” says Powell.
16. The dress used seven petticoats, more than 270 yards of fabric, three miles of stitching and over 10,000 Swarovski crystals…
(In total, Swarovski provided 1.7 MILLION crystals for this movie.)
… and then nine copies of the dress were made.
Girlfriend likes to look good.
17. If you look closely, you’ll notice the Prince is the only one in the ballroom dressed all in white.
Tres chic, monsieur.
18. This is in stark contrast to the stepsisters’ ball gowns. Which are completely mad.
Powell’s words, not mine.
19. Cinderella’s carriage was made piece by piece by a sculptor to resemble a “jewel” instead of a fruit or a vegetable.
It was fully-functioning and sturdy enough to be pulled by four horses.
20. Cinderella marks the 14th film Kenneth Branagh has directed.
The legendary Shakespearean actor’s Oscar tally currently stands at: 2 acting noms, 2 directing noms, 1 writing nom.
21. In conclusion, Sandy Powell is a costuming god.
For real. Who else expertly straddles the line between lavish period dramas like Shakespeare in Love while also being Marty Scorsese’s righthand costumer on hits like Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street? The three-time Oscar winner is one of the best in the world and must surely be close to another win for this. (And while we’re at it, so must Ferretti.)
*Images and quotes courtesy of Disney.
Cinderella is in cinemas now.