The film went massively over budget and the Rank Company (which financed it and was to release it) had little faith in its commercial potential. It tried to bury the film by not giving it a premiere (backer J. Arthur Rank walked out of its first performance) and by just letting it quietly show at late screenings at a cinema in London. Rank wasn't even prepared to strike a print for the American market. Slowly, however, audiences started to pick up on the film and Rank realized that it might have a potential breakout hit after all. Indeed, when an initial print was made for the US, it played at an off-Broadway theater for an unprecedented 110 weeks. That was enough to convince Universal to take up the distribution rights for the US, which it did in 1951.
The title ballet sequence took six weeks to shoot and employed over 120 paintings by Hein Heckroth. The dancing newspaper was achieved through careful cutting and use of wires.
There is a frequent complaint that comes up by viewers as to why, in the final sequence, Vicky is wearing the red ballet shoes *backstage* when the story and ballet opens with her in a different pair of shoes. Vicky's dresser is clearly seen carrying the white/pale pink shoes that she wears in the beginning and is ready to give them to Vicky to change into, when she has her final 'impulse' to run out to the balcony. (She was probably just checking, or breaking in, the shoes in the first place, but the symbolism of the red shoes controlling her life wouldn't translate if she wasn't seen wearing them.)
This film is #9 in the "BFI 100", a list of 100 of "the best British films ever" compiled by the British Film Institute in 1999/2000.
When Ludovic Kennedy saw Moira Shearer in this film, he said that he knew instantly that she was going to be the girl he would marry. He actively sought her out and married her two years later, in February 1950 in the Chapel Royal in London's Hampton Court Palace.
When people complained to Hein Heckroth about the grim ending, he pointed out to them that in Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tale, the ballerina had her feet hacked off by a woodsman to stop her dancing.