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Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)


His first feature production!
His first feature production!

Genre: Animated Family Fantasy

Starring: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne (Orphans of the Storm)

Produced By: Walt Disney (Dumbo Fantasia)

Overview: When an evil queen learns that princess Snow White has grown to be fairer than she, she orders her loyal huntsman to cut out the young princess’ heart. The huntsman finds himself unable to do so and urges her to flee, where she takes refuge in the home of seven dwarfs.

The premise of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is an extremely simple three-act story, probably a wise idea for the first feature film by an animation company who’d been making exclusively short films since its creation 14 years earlier. Snow White was expected to fail, though it ended up being a massive success at the time, still today holding the #10 spot for all time box office grossing films. The incredibly drawn and wonderfully voiced evil queen gazes into her magic mirror, asking who the fairest in the land is. The ominous mirror’s response is the long-ago cloistered princess Snow White. Cloistering is no longer enough for the queen. She decides that now the princess must die. Summoning her loyal huntsman, the queen tasks him with bringing Snow White’s heart back in a box. Shocked, he goes out to do his mistress’ bidding, but when he stalks upon the young girl with his shimmering blade - quite an intense scene indeed, if ruined a little by the princess’ typical shrieking reaction – he cannot bring himself to do the deed. He warns her and begs her to flee to safety. She does so, taking refuge in a woodland house, a four minute’s jog away. There, she cooks and cleans while its diminutive inhabitants come back from working the gem mines. When they return, she requests that they take her in, in exchange for her domestic services. Meanwhile, naturally, the evil mirror tells the queen that the princess still lives. The queen then goes to great and wonderfully-animated lengths to do the dirty deed herself. No more spoilers.

Of the 50 names that were considered for the 7 dwarfs, my favourite was 'Deafy' - This is NOT a joke.
Of the 50 names that were considered for the 7 dwarfs, my favourite was 'Deafy' - This is NOT a joke.

There’s something epic about Walt Disney’s presence, his empire. Look at the DVD collection of any 12 year-old and you’ll see how completely he's reached audiences of millions. I saw Pinocchio in theaters as a child and I only have a vague recollection of bits of films like Dumbo, Cinderella and Peter Pan. After that, I grew out of the age of innocence having somehow evaded in childhood the crushing force of the Walt Disney nostalgia-paradigm war-wagon. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed many Disney films, most notably the why-didn’t-it-make-it-to-the-list Aladdin, and the impressive The Little Mermaid. What I mean is that I feel like I’m able to see Disney films without the rose-coloured eye of glorious remembrance of youth. At the same time, I have a rather dark penchant and am not easily moved or impressed by children’s films, especially ones with musical segments, which Snow White sports luckily few. That being said, the more Disney productions I watch, the less impressed I am by them. Fantasia hurt me, Pinocchio did little to impress and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs left me wishing for both more nuance and more drama.

The chiseled, over-exalted almost-wordless, two-dimensional, uncute caricature named Prince Charming made me shudder. The Huntsman, the incredible broodingly malignant queen, witch and mirror, these were my favoured characters that were sadly shuffled aside in preference of extended scenes of washing up for dinner, of gags with stumble-voiced dwarves, of too-long moments cleaning house, or of little people fearfully searching for the formidable interloper that is the young princess. I had to keep the mantra flowing constantly, “It’s for kids, It’s for KIDS, IT’S FOR KIDS.” The incredible potential unfulfilled made my heart sink when I saw the minutes chipped away with housemaid minutia over the epic grandeur that we had such a small taste of. I can’t repeat enough praise for the dark elements of Snow White and for silent film actress Lucille La Verne who voiced the imposing queen. Adriana Caselotti who voiced the eponymous Snow White was so shrill that I eagerly awaited the apple to do its work. When compared to the frightening, moody moments of the queen and her pure hatred, dancing oafs and tittering princesses made me mourn serious atmosphere-laden opportunities that were missed.

Tack on an abrupt ending that felt, well, tacked on and I’m left thinking of the first Disney feature the same as I was with most of his other traditionally animated productions: like I was a little too old and a little too let down.

Admittedly, a colour production that included scenes which had Snow White - and Ponce Charming *shudder* - in rotoscope, does instill a mild timeless modernity that means Snow White will be around long after I will.


Thi is the scene where she runs for 4 minutes then weeps for - I don't know - Breaking a sweat
This is the scene where she runs for 4 minutes then weeps because she - I don't know - broke a sweat

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 8 Script: 4 Plot: 5 Mood: 6

Overall Rating: 60% (White Noise)

With all these other versions of Snow White out there (including the dark Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)) and all those coming out in 2012 (Snow WhiteGrimm’s Snow WhiteSnow White and The HuntsmanMirror, Mirror) this is the year where we should at LEAST give credit where credit is due, with the original first Walt Disney Studio feature film: the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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Yes, it drags on and yes, the story is incredibly thin and yes, the singing and all this speaking in rhymes can get really annoying but overall it is really charming and innocent and really really beautiful. It does not really need anything else.

The REAL downer is watching the DVD extra material with close to an hour of self-congratulary praise of the Disney empire and you learn how this movie was rereleased basically once a decade simply to milk the cow for every drop. The cynical background of the movie does a better job at killing Snowwhite than the witch does. 

hahha, well said!

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