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Ilene Woods, voice of Disney's Cinderella, dead at 81

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Woods performed with Bing Crosby, Al Jolson and others
  • She beat out about 400 others hopefuls to win "Cinderella" role
  • Walt Disney told her Cinderella was his favorite heroine, her bio says

(CNN) -- Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella in the 1950 Disney classic "Cinderella," has died, Disney Studios announced Friday.

The news was announced on the Twitter feed of Disney23, the company's official fan community.

Woods was 81.

As a child, Woods wanted to be a teacher, but her mother steered her toward a singing and radio career, according to a Disney biography. She had a weekly radio show in 1944 in New York and had worked with Bing Crosby and Al Jolson, among others, by the time she turned 18, Disney says.

She was chosen from among 400 hopefuls to voice Cinderella.

Walt Disney told Woods that Cinderella was his favorite Disney heroine, the Disney biography says.

"Once I went into his office and he said to me, 'You're my favorite heroine, you know,'" the bio quotes her as saying. "I said, 'You mean Cinderella?' 'Yes,' he said. 'There's something about that story I associate with.'"

"I think it was the rags-to-riches tale," Woods says in the bio. "Of course, then I didn't know how many times Walt had risked it all to realize his dreams."

In addition to her work on Cinderella, Woods appeared on television on "The Steve Allen Show" and "The Garry Moore Show," among other programs.

She met her husband, Ed Shaughnessy -- a drummer on "The Tonight Show" hosted by Johnny Carson -- during "The Garry Moore Show," Disney says. They raised two sons together.

"Those were the happiest years of my life," the bio quotes her as saying.