Gene Kelly's original intention was to make a film that would educate mainstream audiences about professional dancing in the world. To this end, he wanted to cast the greatest dancers in Europe for the four segments in leading roles. He himself would only appear in one - the Popular Song sequence, which ended up being cut. But MGM refused to allow the picture unless he appeared in all of them. Many of the professionals who worked in the film agreed that this was one of the film's great weaknesses.
Filmed between late August 1952 and early February 1953 at MGM's British studio in Boreham Wood, Elstree, with shooting continuing at Metro's Culver City, California studio between the third and thirteenth of October 1953, the movie's box-office appeal was doubted by MGM executives, who held back the film until a national release on May 15, 1956, followed on May 22 by a Manhattan opening at the Plaza Theatre. Indeed, this innovative, all-dancing project failed to make money.
Production on the film continued into mid-June 1954, with animation for the "Sinbad the Sailor" segment under the guidance of William Hanna, Joseph Barbera and Fred Quimby. During the live-action shooting, Carol Haney had "stood in" for the animated Scheherazade.