Snow White (voiced by Adriana Caselotti) is a princess that lives with her vain and heartless stepmother, the queen (voiced by Lucille La Verne). Because of Snow White’s beauty, and fearing that it may someday surpass her own, the queen forces Snow White to work as a scullery maid. Every day, the queen asks the Magic Mirror (voiced by Moroni Olsen) who the fairest of all the land is. Typically, for years before, the mirror would respond that she is, but when he informs her that Snow White is now the fairest in the land – well, it doesn’t sit well with her.
Enraged at the thought of being second best, the queen orders her huntsman (voiced by Stuart Buchanan) to take Snow White into the woods and not only kill her, but also have her heart removed and placed in a jeweled box in order to ensure the task’s completed. However, moved by the innocent nature of Snow White, the huntsman lets her escape into the woods where she finds refuge in a nearby cottage. Later on, she finds out the cottage is owned by seven unique dwarfs who let her stay so that she can remain protected from the queen.
Whether it’s this film, or the many others that have been made, or the original story written by German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, everyone knows Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, not everyone knows the painstaking efforts Walt Disney had to go through to make his first animated feature a reality.
Animation was nothing new by the time development for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs began in 1934; in fact, Disney’s greatest animated staple, Mickey Mouse, was already well known. Animated features at the time, though, were only shorts, and what Disney was proposing was an idea unheard of – putting together a full-length animated feature film. No one believed it could be done, many had little faith that Disney could pull it off, and the film nearly bankrupted him. The project would soon be dubbed “Disney’s folly”.
Disney got the last laugh, though.
It’s now been almost 80 years since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and obviously since then we’ve come a long, long way in terms of animation. Today, Pixar is the champion of animated greatness and deservedly so. When you look at the vivid detail and the colorful richness that each of Disney’s animators brought to every single frame here, though, even Pixar will admit they’re breaking animated ground in this era ’cause of the revolutionary steps this film paved for them. Animated films throughout the following decades owe everything they’ve been able to accomplish to the success of this film.
The beauty of the animation here isn’t so much in the characters, although the dwarfs and the queen are drawn quite well. Snow White’s appearance is rather plain in comparison to later Disney princesses, which to be honest, fit her innocent and pure nature in contrast to the flashy arrogance and vanity of her evil stepmother. The beauty of what Disney was able to create was in the world that surrounded Snow White: the movement of a nearby creek next to the dwarfs’ cottage, the ripples in the water from the echo of Snow White singing “I’m Wishing” down a well (a beautifully drawn point of view shift), the details created within the forest and a thrilling transformation of the queen into the old hag.
Disney’s most revolutionary contribution to not only this film, but to animation in general was his innovative multiplane camera, which created the illusion of a three-dimensional world by placing individual drawings one behind another and moving them past the camera at various distances and speeds. One of the best examples of this can be found in the opening scene where we approach the queen’s castle from the woods.
This was all accomplished through a painstaking frame-by-frame process. Think about that next time you watch this movie, or any other animated film for that matter.
SPOILER ALERTS: When it comes to the character development, the most developed characters are the dwarfs, in particular Doc, Dopey (Who keeps begging for a kiss on the lips from Snow White, so is he really that stupid?), and Grumpy. Grumpy by far has the most developed character arc. When we first meet him he’s pissed off at the sight of Snow White and there’s no way he can trust a woman like her (to be fair, she did commit breaking and entering). As the film progresses, he not only begins to warm up to her, he appears to be the one that takes her “death” the hardest. Even for a cynic like me, it’s hard not to crack a smile when she kisses that cranky old bastard goodbye, and he walks away grinning like a blubbering fool, or be moved when he quietly lays flowers by her casket.
Some have complained about the lack of a developed prince here, and there’s a reason for that. If you notice also in Cinderella, the prince has very little screen time as well. Drawing animated “cartoonish” looking characters such as the seven dwarfs or the hag wasn’t a problem for the animation crew. Ironically, drawing an ordinary straight-faced male character gave them fits. That’s the main reason we really didn’t see a developed prince character until Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty (1959). Originally, the animators intended to have a sequence where the prince defeats the queen and saves Snow White. The difficulty in animating him, combined with Disney’s wise decision to let the dwarfs defeat the queen, considering how much their relationship with Snow White developed over time, is why we have what we see in the final result.
Why would something as simple as that give them fits? I’m not sure, but it might be something relative to what a Calculus teacher of mine once said in that for some reason, the more advanced a problem is, the more the student overthinks it and simple things such as subtraction and addition slip their mind.
By the way, if you own this movie or rent it, there’s a making-of featurette about the development of this film that really goes into detail about what Disney had to go through to get this made. I highly recommend the watch.
Animation has advanced over the years, but when you look at the marvelous world Disney and his team have created here and what they went through to get this made, there’s no comparison. What was at first known as Disney’s folly, eventually became his crowning achievement. The lively characters, the charming story, the terrifying villain and some of the most memorable songs (Does anyone really not know of “Someday My Prince Will Come” or “Heigh-Ho”?) of not just animated film, but in film overall, to this day, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs stands above the rest. Cinderella, Aurora, Belle and Ariel all have earned their rightful place in the Pantheon of great Disney princesses, but Snow White is still the fairest of them all.
Review source: http://silverscreenfanatic.com/2014/01/21/benjamins-stash-3/