Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Release Date: December 21st, 1937 (released nationwide February 4th, 1938)
Inspiration: “Snow White” by the Brothers Grimm
Budget: $1.49 million
Domestic Gross: $184,925,486
Worldwide Gross: $184,925,486
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
IMDB Score: 7.6/10
Storyline (per IMDB): The beautiful and kindhearted princess Snow White charms every creature in the kingdom except one – her jealous stepmother, the Queen. When the Magic Mirror proclaims Snow White the fairest one of all, she must flee into the forest, where she befriends the lovable seven dwarfs – Doc, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, and Dopey. But when the Queen tricks Snow White with an enchanted apple, only the magic of true love’s kiss can save her.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: So my watching of the entire Disney Animated film canon begins with the one that started it all in Snow White. To be perfectly honest, this is one of the films that fit into the category of that I have seen it, but not all the time and I can’t honestly remember the last time I watched it in full. It is going to be interesting seeing this film with relatively fresh eyes especially for this project, because you do have to decide how to rank this film amongst the rest since it was the first and without it, we wouldn’t have what we have today. But that will come in due time when I put together the lists at the end of this, so all I can do is just sit back and begin the journey of watching these films.
Voice Cast: The first thing I noticed and it will be interesting to see how long this lasts is that the actors providing the voices for the characters went uncredited in the film. I don’t know if this was an intentional move by Walt Disney or if he simply wanted those who worked on the film to be focused on, but it is weird not seeing the list of people who voiced these characters. Another note is that most of these films would feature people that weren’t completely well-known in terms of their careers, and I will be interested to see when that trend turns as well. The first one to talk about here is Adriana Caselotti who voiced Snow White and this was in essence her debut, and ultimately it would be the peak of her career aside from a few uncredited roles but she was a perfect fit for Snow White as she brought a pure innocence to the princess and set the standard for future princesses. Up next we have Lucille La Verne who voiced the Evil Queen as she had previously been a star on stage and also in various silent films, and while this role would be her final role ever you could say that this was her greatest performance. The voice of the Prince was provided by Harry Stockwell as this would be his most famous role aside from a few other films and he would have a career on Broadway after this, and it is interesting that we are seeing a trend of this film being the high point for most of these stars. The voice of the Magic Mirror was provided by Moroni Olsen who would have a long career after this movie, and while he was not on screen very long he made the most of his appearances with his sinister voice. The Huntsman was voiced by Stuart Buchanan who would make a few future appearances in other Disney films including Pinocchio and Saludos Amigos, though those roles would be far minor compared to this role. Finally, we have the group of Roy Atwell, Pinto Colvig, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw, Billy Gilbert, and Eddie Collins who provided the voices of the seven dwarfs with Colvig doing the voices of both Grumpy and Sleepy, and all these men would have varying careers though this would be the high point for them. Even though many of these actors didn’t achieve much success after this or this was the high point of them, they can still take solace in that they were part of one of the historical movies of all time.
Hero/Prince: We have our first of many firsts with this film and that is the Prince who doesn’t officially have a name, but he would come to unofficially be known as Prince Charming mainly thanks to it being mentioned when Snow White sings about him. What’s interesting about him is that he is on screen for a very limited amount of time, as we mainly see him in the beginning when he hears Snow White sing and he sings in kind which causes them to fall in love. But then we don’t see him again until the very end when he revives Snow White with “love’s first kiss” and they head off to his kingdom which we never see until the final scene. Because he is the first one, he is credited as the blueprint for future princes in the Disney film canon and they would build off of this one, but because he was the first one he will be seen as a memorable character from now until the end.
Princess: Speaking of the first one, we have our first of what would become known as the Disney Princesses and that is Snow White, the innocent and pure princess of the kingdom which we don’t know the name of. The stepdaughter of the Evil Queen who is forced to work as a scullery maid so her beauty can’t rival the Queen, Snow White is about as typical a princess as you could get. She is beautiful, pure of mind and of heart, and a caring person as she quickly befriends various animals, but being so young and naïve she can be too trusting as she falls for the Queen’s evil plot and is put to sleep by the poisoned apple. However, she is brought back to life by the Prince who had fallen in love with her after their first meeting and it is assumed she eventually becomes Queen of his kingdom. To this day, Snow White remains one of the most recognized characters in animated film history and she is still considered one of the most popular princesses in Disney history.
Villain: We have our next “first” character here and that is the first major villain in the Disney film canon, and that honor belongs to the Evil Queen who is actually named Queen Grimhilde though I wonder how many people still don’t know that. She is the embodiment of what a villain should be as she is arrogant, vain, and jealous of her young stepdaughter Snow White, first forcing her to work as a scullery maid before trying to have a huntsman kill her in cold blood and bring back her heart in a box. She even goes as far as to turn herself into an old hag and give Snow White a poisoned apple to force her into a death-like sleep, but she meets a gruesome end when she tries to kill the dwarfs when the ground collapses under her and she falls to her death with a giant rock crushing her for good measure. She would become the prototype of what the future Disney villains would be and she will go down in history as one of the greatest villains in film history.
Other Characters: There were plenty of other characters in the film that helped move the film along at a nice pace, and at the top of the list is the seven dwarfs who we meet in the middle of the film. Obviously, the most popular one of the dwarfs is usually Dopey as he would provide plenty of comic relief, but the other dwarfs were an important part of the film and it was pretty touching seeing Grumpy break down when he thought Snow White was dead. We also had the huntsman who was in very briefly as he was brought in to kill Snow White, but he can’t do it and in essence keeps her alive by telling her to flee from the castle and the Queen. Finally, we have another minor character in the magic mirror as he leads the Queen to do what she does when he declares Snow White as the fairest in the land. While not on screen for a ton of time, the mirror leaves a mark on this film due to the sheer creepiness of the face in the mirror.
Songs: One thing we will come to know throughout the Disney film canon is that not only did Walt Disney like animation, he loved music too as his early cartoons would be filled with memorable music. Here he takes it up a notch by making his films basically into musicals with each one featuring at least one or two memorable songs that would be remembered to this day. We start off with a solid pair of songs as Snow White sings “I’m Wishing” by her wishing well for her true love, and she is overheard by the Prince who responds in kind with “One Song” as he professes his love for her. One thing to mention is that all the actors did their own singing which adds to the song in the long run, and that is something to track as we hit the later films when they had someone in a speaking role and then someone else in a singing role. We then get a pair of songs from Snow White as she sings “With a Smile and a Song” to her new animal friends, and then she sings “Whistle While You Work” as they clean the dwarfs’ cottage in a memorable scene. We then get the dwarfs’ first song which is one of the most memorable in the films which is of course “Heigh-Ho”, which they sing coming home from work before singing it again when they leave for work. They then sing a song about washing themselves to appease Snow White and then the party sing “The Silly Song” which is another fun song, and finally Snow White sings the centerpiece song of the film which is “Someday My Prince Will Come” and Adriana Caselotti nails it perfectly. The songs did a good job of complimenting the film and were definitely a memorable part of this film.
Plot: This film begins the basic plot themes of this type of story that have been introduced through various written stories about “Love’s First Kiss”, “Love at First Sight”, and “Happily Ever After”, and we also have the evil stepmother in the Queen as she is clearly envious of Snow White’s beauty and wants to be the fairest in the land herself. Tropes like these may be some of the most basic elements of storytelling when it comes to fairy tales, but sometimes the simplest elements work the best and that is shown to perfection here. It is easy to sympathize with someone like Snow White who is also very likeable because she is so pure and innocent, and the Queen has all the qualities of someone who can be easily despised. Throw him some comedic aspects from the dwarfs and some catchy songs on top, and what you have is a film that can be enjoyed by people of all ages even though it was mainly marketed towards children.
Random Watching Thoughts: “My sincere appreciation to the members of my staff whose loyalty and creative endeavor made possible this production.” – Walt Disney; It was interesting to see the credits at the start of the film and not the end; I love the storybook at the beginning as it makes it seem like a story actually come to life; So the magic mirror has basically been a “yes man” for all these years before finally deciding to declare Snow White fairest in the land; Early Mandela affect in place as the quote is actually “Magic Mirror on the Wall” and not “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” as most assume it to be; Does the Queen not know that her beauty would eventually fade as she gets older, or another besides Snow White would be declared more fairer?; So we never do understand realistically how all the animals can completely understand Snow White; We never do see what kingdom the Prince came from and what the maidens look like there to make him come to the Queen’s kingdom and court Snow White; Does the Prince know Snow White is a princess considering she was dressed in rags when he first met her?; The scene where the Prince sings to Snow White was clearly inspired by “Romeo and Juliet”; What is this penalty if the huntsman fails to kill Snow White?; You can’t blame the huntsman for not wanting to kill Snow White, who would want to?; Considering these films were made for kids, there is some scary stuff in here as the scene where Snow White is running through the forest is legitimately terrifying; Disney Animations, the originator of the jumpscare; Disney showing everyone that no matter how bad things are going, they can easily be fixed by singing; I just realized that most of Snow White’s dialogue is in rhyme; I’m sure the dwarfs can take pride in that their cottage looks like a doll’s house according to Snow White; Given the state of the cottage, it’s no surprise that the dwarfs were all bachelors; Could you imagine walking into your house and seeing a bunch of wild animals cleaning it?; Why would those squirrels think it was ok to sweep the dust into the mousehole, do they not know a mouse lives there?; So do the dwarfs actually work for the kingdom and supply them with diamonds or is it like their song says in that they just dig for the hell of it?; It’s probably good that Dopey doesn’t have a beard like the rest of the dwarfs because he would look so weird with one; The dwarfs’ voices must be very sore if they sing the whole way from work to their cottage; That poor turtle is always a day late when it comes to getting somewhere; You do wonder what the dwarfs’ parents were thinking if they actually named them Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sneezy, and Sleepy unless they were nicknames; The dwarfs clearly have gotten used to living in a dirty cottage because when they find it clean, they are immediately suspicious if someone is there; A fun fact is the actor that voiced Doc was a stutterer in real life and became famous for playing characters that stammer; So when they don’t see the sink full of dirty dishes, they assume they’ve been stolen though you wonder who would want dirty dishes; Sneezy has some very powerful sneezes; Dopey can take a beating and keep on ticking; Funny how Snow White is able to name them correctly on the first try without having met them prior; They must work for the kingdom since they knew Snow White was the princess when she introduced herself; Typical men when they quickly decide to let Snow White stay after she says she’ll keep house for them, especially cook for them; The dwarfs just got back from a long day at work, of course their hands are going to be dirty; Only in a Disney film can you have a group of characters sing a song about washing their faces and hands; Does Sleepy have something in his beard which is why that fly follows him around everywhere?; Grumpy didn’t stand a chance when they surrounded him and forced him to wash up; Only in an animated film can Dopey swallow a whole bar of soap and not die from poisoning; If the slave has been in the mirror for so long, how does he immediately know that there’s a pig’s heart in the box and not Snow White’s?; The real irony of the Queen’s plan would’ve been if she could never change back from an old hag and back to her old self, therefore she could never be the fairest in the land; The Queen turning into an old hag is yet another terrifying moment from this movie; Considering we never really know what part of the world this takes place, it obviously has to take place in a part of the world where yodeling is popular since the dwarfs know it; If the song is truly too silly for anyone to sing, then why are they singing it?; An interesting oversight is that we see Dopey’s arms playing the drums despite dancing with Snow White the previous scene; Even though I’ve made some pretty interesting comments to this point, I will say that Adriana Caselotti had a very beautiful voice and fit Snow White perfectly; How long did that night go if it was only 11:00PM?; Considering that Snow White only took up three beds, they could’ve shared the remaining beds and not had to have made makeshift beds in their various spots; That poor pillow never stood a chance when they all were tearing at it and good for Dopey to still get a feather to use as a pillow; So the Queen believes there is no way that love’s first kiss will save Snow White yet earlier she clearly saw the Prince and Snow White seemingly show some affection to each other, so she didn’t have all her bases covered; I feel bad for the poor sap that was in the dungeon reaching for the jug only to die and become a skeleton, but how long was he there for that he completely degraded into a skeleton?; Poor Dopey really wants a kiss on the lips only to get two on the head and then she pushes him away on the third attempt; It is funny seeing Grumpy start to shed his demeanor after Snow White kisses him only to try and keep the act up; So the Queen has been walking all night without any rest or food, that is real determination; The dwarfs tell Snow White to be weary of any strangers and she completely throws that out the window when the Queen visits her; What would’ve happened if the Queen lost the apple after the animals attacked her?; I wonder how apple sales were affected by this film by those who thought wishing apples were real or those that refused to eat apples out of fear that they were poisoned; They clearly dragged out Snow White biting the apple and falling to the sleeping death since they cut back to the dwarfs rushing back to the house twice; Those vultures are so ready for someone to die because they know their dinner is coming; That cliff must’ve been real weak if a single bolt of lightning can cause it to fall apart and send the Queen to her death; It is pretty sad seeing Grumpy finally break down and cry showing that he truly cared for Snow White; Where did the dwarfs find the materials to make that gold coffin?; How much time passed from when she ate the apple to when the Prince found her and kissed her, and how did he even know where she was?; This also was the debut of the Disney chorus that we would hear in future movies, I wonder how much they got paid for doing these films; Sleepy never got a kiss from Snow White when she leaves with the Prince; We started with the storybook and we end with the storybook, a fitting end to a legendary movie.
Overall Thoughts: So overall, this film was a great watch and has definitely held up very well over the years. It was amazing that when it was being made, a lot of people told Walt Disney that the film was going to be a failure and the risk he was making was not going to pay off in the end. Fortunately for Disney, it was a major success and would lead to a whole new genre of film as animation went from being restricted to shorts and could now be made into a full-length film that would entertain the masses. The film has just enough of everything to make it a good film from comedy to romance, thrills and sappiness, a princess to sympathize with and a villain who you want to see get their come-uppance. At the time of its release, it was hailed by many as “The Greatest Animated Film of All Time” and earned Disney an honorary Academy Award the previous year, and to this day it still remains as one of the standard bearers in terms of animation. Now as for that standing of being the greatest of all time, that is certainly up for debate as you could argue that many films released since then are worthy enough to have that same honor. But at the end of the day, there is no question that Snow White is still one of the greatest animated films of all time and a solid way to kick off Disney’s film canon as it will be interesting to see how things go from here.
Final Grade: 8/10