#141) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


#141) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

OR “The Original Magnificent Seven”

Directed by David Hand (But let’s be real: It’s Walt Disney’s show.)

Written by Ted Sears & Richard Creedon & Otto Englander & Dick Rickard & Earl Hurd & Merrill De Maris & Dorothy Ann Blank & Webb Smith (And again, mostly Walt). Based on the Grimm Brothers fairy tale.

Class of 1989

The Plot: Once Upon a Time, the princess Snow White (voiced by Adriana Caselotti) is the fairest in the land, and this does not go over well with her evil stepmother the Queen (voiced by Lucille La Verne). After a botched assassination attempt, Snow White flees into the forest and comes across the home of seven dwarfs (voiced by Roy Atwell, Pinto Colvig, Billy Gilbert, Otis Harlan, & Scotty Mattraw). The kind little men take her in, but the Queen finds out and has one last poisoned apple up her sleeve.

Why It Matters: The NFR calls it “[a] virtual watercolor painting come to life” and says that the animation’s details “never fail to amaze”. There’s also an historical essay by Disney animation expert J.B. Kaufman. “Snow White” is the first animated film to make the National Film Registry.

But Does It Really?: This is about as perfect as animation gets. “Snow White” is an ideal choice for Disney’s first animated feature. A few technical gaffes aside, the film is visually striking as well as having a wonderful story that embellishes and enhances the original fairy tale. A pillar upon which so much filmmaking has been built, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is untouchable in my book, and an obvious choice for the NFR’s first 25 films.

Everybody Gets One: Adriana Caselotti was 20 years old and already a trained opera singer when she recorded “Snow White”. Walt kept her under a strict contract to ensure her unique voice wouldn’t appear in other movies, spoiling the illusion. Caselotti’s film career ended before it started, but she lived to be 80 years old, spending the rest of her life as essentially Disney’s Norma Desmond.

Wow, That’s Dated: Grumpy’s open sexism probably wouldn’t fly today. In addition: jury’s still out on if they are referring to the mythical, Tolkein versions of dwarfs or anyone with dwarfism.

Seriously, Oscars?: Because it received a limited release in December 1937, “Snow White” was eligible for the 1937 Oscars, receiving one nomination: Best Music Score. The film lost to “One Hundred Men and a Girl” (Don’t ask). After the film’s nationwide success in 1938, the Academy chose to give Walt Disney an honorary Oscar the following year. For this special achievement, Walt received one Oscar, and seven miniature ones.

Other notes

  • This film opens with a note from Walt thanking the creative team. I can’t think of any film that has done this before or since.
  • Also note that all the animators get credit, but none of the voice actors. Walt sure didn’t like unions.
  • In true Disney fashion, Snow White’s biological parents are nowhere to be seen. We don’t even get an explanation of what happened to them. And if you’re upset because Disney took some liberties with the film’s source material, you may want to avoid literally every film they’ve ever done.
  • The Magic Mirror is great, but he’s no Hans Conried.
  • Did that dove just kiss the prince’s teeth?
  • This film does not waste any time. 10 minutes in and we’ve already gotten to Snow White running through the forest. This may be the shortest first act of any movie.
  • Ah yes, the native raccoons of Europe.
  • One of my notes simply reads, “God this animation is good”. Kudos to everyone, especially concept artist Gustaf Tenggren. The animation is pure storybook fantasy.
  • So having Snow White be your scullery maid just gave her a good work ethic and taught her cleaning skills she wouldn’t have gotten by simply being royalty. Kinda backfired on you, didn’t it Queenie?
  • The main difference between this and other versions of Snow White is the emphasis on the dwarfs. Every other major adaptation focuses on the Queen, making those versions much darker than this family friendly one.
  • My question every time I watch this film: How did the dwarfs get home before that tree fell over?
  • The development of the dwarfs is what makes this film, but it raises a lot of questions. Are they related to each other? Close friends? And why are they letting a teenage girl boss them around in their own house?
  • Please Grumpy, the correct pronunciation is “witches bwew”.
  • Of all the classic songs this film produced, is there any more memorable than “Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dum”? Forget “Some Day My Prince Will Come”, there’s your jazz standard.
  • The whole scene of the Queen’s transformation is stunning to watch, and it’s filled with great shots that you wouldn’t be able to do in live-action.
  • For the curious, a European polecat is a mammal along the lines of a ferret or a weasel.
  • No thank you, I would not like a pie that has been prepared by birds.
  • The shot of the peddler woman staring directly at the camera always freaked me out as a kid. Oh who am I kidding, it’s still scary.
  • Pinto Colvig is the voice of two dwarfs: Grumpy and Sleepy. He was also the original voice of Goofy. Sleepy’s line “Maybe the old queen’s got Snow White” comes closest to his Goofy voice.
  • The majority of this movie takes place over the course of one day. Snow’s had a more eventful 24 hours than Jack Bauer.
  • I’m glad Snow White and the Prince live happily ever after, but how are they getting to that castle?

Legacy: There’s a lot I want to say about the legacy of “Snow White”, but it’s too much for one post. To Be Continued!

Further Viewing: Walt saw this 1916 silent version of “Snow White” as a young boy and never forgot it. The influence this film had on Walt’s version is pretty astonishing.

22 thoughts on “#141) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)”

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