We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be. ~May Sarton

from my bookshelf

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Disney 50: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Release: 1937

Main Characters
The Evil Queen
The Slave in the Magic Mirror
Snow White
Prince Charming
The Huntsman
The Evil Queen as Old Hag

I don't remember exactly when the first time I saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was. I'm sure I saw it at some point during one of it's numerous theatrical releases, but it wasn't until the video release in the early-mid 90s that the film made any lasting impact on me. I was already a fan of Disney animation but all I really knew at that point was The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. I'll admit that I was a late bloomer when it came to my love of Disney. However, as the years have passed, I've gone from just a normal love of all things Disney to it being something that I live and breathe on a daily basis.

I decided to start watching my entire Disney library since I realized how much I missed the animated classics, and naturally, I started at the beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Its interesting to watch the progression of the films over the decades. Released in 1937, I think it is a testament to Walt Disney and his animators that it has stood the test of time. Granted, there are quite a few elements to the film that are dated (Snow White's physical movements and voice being the most obvious) and parts of the film are overly sentimental, but it tells a clearly thought-through story with just the right balance of emotion and action.

I can honestly say that I am always amazed by this film. I remember when it was released on VHS several years ago (I think that was the first time I had ever seen the complete film), and I remember being blown away by the fluid and natural motion of the characters. I think there is a certain amount of realism present in this film that is not found in many animated films today, including those produced by Disney. For never having attempted something on this scale before, the Disney animators certainly made it look like this was all old-hat to them. The watercolor backgrounds and the earth-toned colors throughout give you the impression that you have stepped into a storybook and are watching as the drawings come to life. In some aspects, I don't know that there has been a film since that has created this same technique.

The writers did an extraordinary job of making the story believable and pulling the right emotion at the right time. They make you feel concern for Snow White and you find yourself hoping that everything will be "happily ever after." Each character has a grounded personality that is believable and true. Snow White is impossibly innocent. The Evil Queen is deliciously evil. The Old Hag is appropriately creepy. The Slave in the Magic Mirror is even creepier. Each of the Dwarfs lives up to his name. Every aspect of the film was obviously thought out and carried through in the execution.

Another aspect of the film that has truly stood the test of time is the music. The songs from the film are all immediately recognizable and after giving the movie a watch, you'll catch yourself humming them without even realizing it.

Originally dubbed "Disney's Folly" by other Hollywood studios because they thought that this was going to be Disney's downfall since no one would want to sit through a cartoon, the film did amazingly well and grossed far beyond it's then astronomical budget of $1.4 million. For a time it was the highest grossing movie in America (only to be outdone by Gone with the Wind) and it even garnered Walt Disney an Honorary Oscar, which recognized the film "as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field for the motion picture cartoon." Shirley Temple presented Walt Disney with a normal sized Oscar that was accompanied by seven smaller statues.

The film marks the creation of the Disney legacy, because if it hadn't been successful, there wouldn't have been another made. It may not always be my favorite Disney film, but I do give it the respect that it deserves as being the first and being ahead of its time, and every once in awhile, it's good to go back and see how it all started.

So, there you have it. The one that started it all. The fairest of them all. The one that put Disney feature film animation on the map. Up next? Pinocchio, released in 1940.

"Whistle while you work..."

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