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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I need to comment on this because it's the first feature length film I
ever saw. This would be in about 1952. Obviously, it had been released
several times over the years. My mom took my sister and me to see it at
our little home town theater. I have to tell you, those things they say
about Disney and little kids are true. I have never seen anything since
that affected me as profoundly. There was the sense of evil. The Queen
with the mirror. The fact that she is sending a child into the woods to
be killed. My gosh. I'm five years old and a child is about to be
murdered. Then there are those little guys, each with a character trait
to match his name. The story is one of vengeance. The queen
transforming herself and then going on the prowl with those apples. The
scene of her death is horrible.
And then there is a death experience. She lies in that crystal coffin. Will she be OK? Everyone was crying in the theater. And then, of course, the prince comes along. It's just a masterful telling of a simple tale with memorable characters, violence, and purification through suffering. When Grumpy cries...well I tell you.
There are things in my life that I am so grateful for. Walt Disney's empire may be the most overwhelming in entertainment. But these seminal animated features will live forever. I'm glad I was alive to experience them.
To call Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a classic goes without saying
that practically everyone has called it such. It is a great film, but
there are certain factors that make it so, and without them the film
could've gone the other way and become important more for its technical
breakthrough(s) than for the content. The fact is a story with the
utmost simplicity like Snow White, the chief characters- Prince
Charming, the wicked Queen/witch, and of course Snow White- are all
very basic, simple, if not one dimensional than basely two-dimensional
characters. It's appropriate, to be sure, as it is based off a Grimm
fairy tale. Despite the beauty and charm of the early scenes, its
really on par entertainment-wise with the Silly Symphonies Walt Disney
produced in the 30's.
This also goes without saying that Snow White's run through the woods is one of the highlights of the film, still bringing a sense of terror and the surreal for the adults in the audience (if you're a little kid it could be one of the scariest things you've ever seen). But then- just as Snow White settles into her little 'hide-out' in a house she thinks occupied by messy, orphaned children- we're introduced to the seven dwarfs, and this is where the film picks up most of its energy, laughs, and complete and total balance. In a way, not to analyze too deep for a filmed fairy tale, they each represent the different sides of men, and so it gives the film the appropriate human dimensions it needs (in this, also setting up practically all the hand-drawn Disney films of the next seventy years or so). It's tempting to say which are my favorite, or whom I got the most enjoyment out of. There would be three, two for more obvious reasons, one for subtle ones.
Dopey, who is almost a perfect re-incarnation (in Disney Dwarf form of course) of Harpo Marx- he's a lovable idiot, with barely two sounds in the course of the film, who (and I hate to sound sappy) brings out the laughing kid in anyone. Grumpy, who I found to be maybe the most complete character in the film, has attitude to spare, and gets comic bit after comic bit happen to him from the animators- and yet, there is heart behind him, and when its revealed in key parts of the film, they act as the most emotional points. There is also Sleepy, who also barely says a word, but who's physical movements are really divine little moments among the big, inspired musical numbers. Indeed, there are little moments throughout the film that help make up the greatness: the mood and atmosphere in the Queen's dungeon of witchcraft; the scene where the dwarfs go to sleep (a fly that rests on Sleepy's nose); the traits given to the animals in the forest (that little turtle is hilarious).
All these parts help to add to the basic structure of the story- Queen wants the good looks, goes after her once the hunter fails, gives her the poison apple, then it goes even more predictable from their (though in a good way). The detail of the animated scenes, the backgrounds, the visual effects, are often mesmerizing. And the songs, which were some of the most standard I heard from the Disney oeuvre as a kid (they were always on those Disney 'Sing-along' videos) are still whimsical most of the time. Then there is also the icing on the cake- the voice of Snow White, Adriana Caselotti (who got contracted into this being her only film role, based of producer/uncredited director Disney's insistence), brings something to the film that's hard to describe, except to say that it's, well, serene.
Even if she's not the strongest character, her main goal of making people around her feel good and inspiring happiness makes her watchable, and in a way lovable. It's a very curious, though important, factor that she (and Prince Charming and the Queen pre-witch) are animated very traditionally, apart from the cartoon-like dwarfs and animals. Its a reminder of the film's, and Disney's, strongest success- that as an imagined and visualized fairy tale, the representation is strong, and touching. In the new century studios move away from hand-drawn animated films, but it's a good idea to look back to the early Disney films, if not for just nostalgia (or to watch with your kids) to get a sense of the experimentation, the purity of it. It remains one of only several animated films, from any country or style, to have the crucial elements come together- music, voice-talent, usage of colors, and cinematography.
The Walt Disney Studios went a long way towards earning its nickname of
The Magic Kingdom with the release of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
There will never be another version of the beloved Grimm Brothers fairy
tale because you couldn't find all the elements that make this one work
I imagine that with today's computer generated graphics you could come up with a more realistic animation. But it would probably frighten the children and in all the wrong places. More than the wicked queen would be frightening folks.
Snow White is a tale of imagination, something that lets the kids work their minds and really get into the characters. The voices selected so perfectly match the animated figures. And with the exception of Billy Gilbert they're not known players. Snow White is first and foremost a character driven story. Today the Disney Studio would probably take from their stable of TV and film personalities for voices, but the emphasis would be on the celebrities not the story. I don't think Disney Studios alone would be guilty of that however.
Much as I like the simple story, the thing I love best about the film is the musical score that Frank Churchill and Larry Morey wrote. This is the Annie Get Your Gun of animated films, so many different and beloved hits come out of it. Even today you can hear people offhandedly humming 'Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho' and they might not realize where it's from, it's so ingrained in our consciousness, almost like Happy Birthday.
A favorite song of mine is the operatic ballad One Song that the prince and Snow White both sing. I have a recording of it that Allan Jones did and it's a gem. It could have come out of a score by Sigmund Romberg or Rudolf Friml, it's that good.
The movie DVD is still a hot seller, it's like White Christmas and the other Christmas songs that Bing Crosby did which still keep his name before the public every Yuletide season and keeps making money for his estate. Why is Snow White so popular? Very simply it's one of the best cartoon features every made.
I have a lot of complaints about Disney; what he made personally and
the lumbering beast his studio has become.
In particular, he murdered one of the most precious literary structures we have in Alice. But in his first big project, he did well enough to change the world. In its day, this was a rule- changer, the Star Wars of its day. Everything that happened afterward was different.
Many people credit the characterizations, which Disney never did as well afterward, creating a vacuum for Pixar to fill. I admit that except for the "swallow the soap" trick, I liked that element.
But I think there is something more fundamental at work.
Movies are basically about visual notation. Its less about what the stories are than how they are told. One of the evolutions that I track is the business of outside awareness. But this, I think is something different, sort of in the opposite direction. We had comics before, where objects were not masses but boundaries. We had cartoons before, where large blobs of grey and then color defined shapes that we assigned identities to. But this has two things. They were revolutionary.
The first is the narrative long form. It isn't complex; it has only one arc. We even know what the arc is and how it will end, the only mystery (for the original viewers) being in the cinematics of the thing. Disney would stumble later, on understanding the nature of long form storytelling but here he does what must have seemed impossible.
The second is more visual. At the time, this seemed more natural and organic than anything that had gone before (except for the Prince Disney always has trouble with men). We focus on the dwarfs, but the girl has mannerisms that are beyond anything we had seen before, the best being Betty Boop before the censors intervened.
But there's something deeper, and to explain it, we need some history. Light is magical. Reflected light isn't very special, light like you see bouncing off a magazine page. The colors you see are dimmer than real world colors because of the strength of the light of course, but what you see is what is not absorbed. You see the leftovers. In stained glass, the light comes through, directly from the source. The colors you see are more vibrant. Ancient glassmasters formulated glass that the moderns do not, so if you have a chance to see one (like the Tree of Jesse in Chartres) you will see millions of facets in each color because of the way that the color was layered on in a "flashing" process, creating refractive crystal boundaries.
These windows are a profound experience because of this scintillation effect that is subliminal. Like these old cartoons, the beings and objects are blobs of shimmering color with outlines that infer identity. Its a deep art that exists no where else, and not even since in stained glass.
Now another fact. Snow is not white. Snow is a collection of ordered microcrystals that refract light in all colors. The combined effect adds to white, but as you move ever so slightly, you will be receiving millions of millions of flashes of pure color. And now a final fact. In 1952, when I saw this on a huge screen, the screen technology involved faceted grains of silica that had this snow-effect of micro-refraction. Today's screens use microspheres, tiny balls with smooth surfaces, so the effect is not the same. And obviously digital screens are another matter. They all preserve this "transmitted light" effect of stained glass, as do all films. (But the new mastering of the cartoon for DVD does increase the purity of the colors, emphasizing the stained glass semiotics.)
I recently saw this on DVD, and was instantly reminded of the viewing 55 years ago, which washed over with a blizzard of snow scintillations with medieval weight, both in the story and the stained glass. I've never lost that thrill, and I wish it for you. This changed me and it changed film.
Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before Snow White, animation was three minutes of motion as chickens
sang, cows and dogs played instruments and all to tinny pre-school
music. For this film, the animators under Walt Disney's supervision had
to create an entirely new process, they had to create not just
well-rounded characters but they had to reinvent an entirely new film
method of language in order to design a film literally from scratch.
It wasn't enough to simply put together a cohesive story. The world inside Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is populated in every inch of the screen with supporting characters: rabbits, birds, turtles, deer, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, etc. They packed the frame so that everything is always in motion and we are never faced with any negative space. Where most films are interested in the two or four characters in the center, the animator's genius was to create a population, a full-rounded world that suggested that space existed just off camera. That, in our minds, creates an orientation of three-dimensional space onto a film that doesn't have any. Live action films always have space off-camera, but in animation, it doesn't exist.
The technological marvel was the multi-plane camera which allowed objects in the foreground and the background to move independently of one another and independently of the central action. It also allowed the objects in the frame to move at various speeds and various distances to create a three-dimensional feel. This was long before computers, when animation was a painstaking practice in which each cell was drawn and painted one-by-one by hand (production on this film actually began in 1934). On the multi-plane camera, pieces of the artwork were lain on various platters on the camera that moved independently of one another so the various cells could move opposite of one another. The result was that a house in the background could have objects moving independently in the foreground.
The animators had the talent to create a palette that was alive. Take, for example, Snow White's nightmare journey through the forest as the branches of the trees reach out and the eyes bear down upon her. It would be enough just to have a girl frightened by the forest but to see it through her eyes to visualize the nightmare is part of the extra step, the further burst of inspiration. It wasn't entirely necessary to give the trees eyes or to draw them in such detail that they have twisted, angry faces, but it adds a level of generosity to the visuals.
But the palette would be nothing without expressive characters to put in front of it. The seven dwarfs have faces that are expressive, with big eyes, wide mouths and soft-round bodies, much like a child. And with the details in character design, they were also infused with emotions. Take for example the scene in which the dwarfs mourn for Snow White, their teary faces hung down in true expression. It would be one thing if the dwarfs simply cried, but note how the light and shadow play across their sad faces. No two characters are alike, no two characters move alike. There's real sadness in that scene. The whole movie is like that. The Dwarfs are seen as individuals, and we can easily tell them apart by more than their names and corresponding tics. The same can be said for the wicked queen, whose face glows with stunning beauty and whose disguise, an old crone, is round and somewhat inviting (we can understand the trap that Snow White falls into).
Ironically, the least impressive characters are Snow White and Prince Charming. They look and act and movie with such realism that they aren't quite as interesting. How would Snow White have lasted in history if the Disney animators had given her more animated dimension, more to the tone of the dwarfs? And despite the title, the dwarfs and the evil Queen actually dominate the picture. They are so exaggerated that they have more room to play. The Queen too has exaggerated movements but only after she is transformed into the old crone.
What Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs offers is the full experience of what the canvas of an animated feature can do. It explores a storytelling medium that would be severely limited in a live-action movie and frees it up to expand imagination. Others have come along and others have done better, but Snow White came first and it's was a major step from what had come before. What genius. What generosity of the visuals. What imagination.
Disney has made many animated feature films, and there are still
animated movies aplenty being made out there in modern times, but very
few can eclipse the very first one of all, which is the story of a
beautiful young princess called Snow White who is under the watch of
the wicked Queen, who forces her as a maid in the house. This movie is
now so highly rated and acclaimed that in 2007, the American Film
Institute named this animated flick the 34th best American film of ALL
Even while watching it as a little kid, watching it again as a grown up teenager still brings back awesome memories, proving that the story, the characters and beautiful music is gripping and makes this a fascinating tale. Snow White herself is drawn so beautifully that you can't help but simply admire her, and the incredibly adorable voicing from Adriana Caselotti is a child's fascination. The Seven Dwarfs are very united and usually do things together- they live together, work together etc. But they are all different in personality and even in appearance. One example is Grumpy, who is for a while reluctant to accept Snow White and cold towards her, but is still one to play a part to rescue her from the Queen when danger arrives. They are the other backbone of the story, and are my personal favourite in this.
This one animated film has received a lot of praise and attention over the years, right up until now 3 quarters of a century later, because by 1937 standards this is just phenomenal. Kudos Walt Disney for having the far-sightedness and innovation to create this stupendous movie in Technicolor back then and making it fun and realistic. Even now, all children should watch this- perhaps even with their parents who will not mind it!
Snow White was Disney's first feature-length cartoon, and it's clear he
wanted something that would wow audiences. The animation is ambitious
and wonderfully detailed. Of particular note is the scene of Snow White
running through the forest and the scenes involving the forest animals.
Those forest animals are the single most impressive thing in the movie,
flowing and swirling like leaves in the air, almost constantly in
motion yet never unpleasantly chaotic.
At the same time, these scenes have been so well parodied in other movies that at times they seem a bit absurd. Even before the parodies, there is something over the top about the dainty, domestic princess with a way with animals.
For me, the movie lost a little momentum with the entry of the dwarfs, whose broad humor interested me less than the more serious earlier animation. This is not to say that the dwarfs weren't funny, in that mild, Disney way (both now and as a child I preferred the sharp, sarcastic style of Warner Brothers cartoons to the genial Disney style), but the focus on comedy meant less of a focus on pure artistry.
The movie is also very much of its time. Snow White is the small-town girl ideal, a sweet and trusting princess who wanders into an empty house and immediately starts cleaning it. She has the girlish voice of Betty Boop without the attitude, and I found her a bit bland (although less so than Sleeping Beauty, many years later.
Overall, this is a very entertaining movie with moments of greatness.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Disney's "Snow White" was the very first full length animated film and
without it, we most likely would have never had the classics that came
Snow White lives in a castle with her stepmother who is jealous of her stepdaughter's beauty and wishes to kill her so she will become "the fairest of them all." Snow White runs away into the forest and comes across the cottage of the seven Dwarfs and they agree to let her stay but the Queen decides to take care of Snow White herself upon discovering that she is still alive and living with the seven dwarfs.
For starters, the animation is fantastic and you can only imagine how long it must have taken the animators to draw out one frame alone. The studio was also used to animating characters in a silly style like Mickey Mouse at the time and the training they went through shows how determined Walt Disney was to make this film happen especially considering he put a mortgage on his house to get the money to make the film and would have ended up homeless if it failed.
The voice cast is also fantastic, especially upon learning that this was Adrianna Caselotti's first role in a motion picture. Most modern Disney fans criticise her voice for Snow White and label it "annoying" but I feel the voice fits the character perfectly since Snow White is 14 years old in the film. Lucille La Verne is also great as the Queen and captures the wicked nature of her cruel intentions perfectly.
Many also complain about the changes from the source material despite the fact that not everything from a book can be adapted into a film. I feel that making Snow White 14 in the film instead of 7 like in the original tale was a better choice as seeing a child go through certain events in the film such as the forest scene may have been traumatising.
Overall, this is one of the studios best animated features with impressive animation, a great cast of voices and is the reason why we have the classics we know and love today.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is often overlooked, for several
reasons, including (but not confined to) "it's sexist", "it's boring",
"Snow White can't sing"...etc. However, in comparison to most Modern
Disney movies, Snow White is brilliant. It was an artistic achievement
in 1937, and it still stands up as a landmark in movie history. The
story is (as most people will know), a princess is orphaned and is
'looked after' by her stepmother, who grows increasingly jealous of the
young princess's growing beauty. The princess, Snow White, is forced to
slave away for her stepmother, the Queen, until the Queen decides to
have her killed. However, the huntsman chosen to do the deed cannot go
through with it, and Snow White is forced to run away into the forest
where she is taken in by seven dwarfs. All is fine, until the Queen
realises that Snow White is not dead. Cue the transformation scene and
the poison apple...and that's as far as I'll go.
Although the heroine is, admittedly, two-dimensional and the movie comes across as bordering sexist...well, it's a product of it's time. I'll leave it at that.
The fact that the beautiful animation can still stand up next to more recent Disney movies is an achievement in itself. And the fact that you can compare the two and probably say that Snow White's animation is superior is an even greater achievement.
The songs are beautiful, Snow White's singing *is* proper singing, she has more talent then many of the recent Broadway princesses put together. Product of the time maybe, but still outstanding. 9/10
Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is arguably the single most endearing film of all time. The story is one that is familiar, yet Walt Disney was able to breathe fresh air into this classic fairy tale through wonderfully lovable characters and witty humor. Every animated film ever made after Snow White owes great debt to it in one way or another. It is simply the most influential animated feature of all time. As visually striking as it is charming, this masterpiece has stood the test of time and proved it's undeniable appeal to audiences and became a classic in the eyes and hearts of millions worldwide. Imagination, both of the filmmakers and the audience let this film live on for generations.
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