Sunday, May 30, 2010

"A fine bunch of water lilies you turned out to be. I'd like to see anybody make me wash, if I didn't wanna."

Film: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

Release Date: 21 December 1937 (premier), 4 February 1938 (theatrical)

Director: David Hand, William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen

Much has already been said about this film, so there may not be much of significance that could possibly be said to add to what has already been said. But, that said, it's a good reminder for people that have already heard about the big historical significance this film has had and still has even today, and maybe even the first time for some to have heard any of this film illustrious history. Back in 1934, the Disney Studios (who at that time strictly made cartoon shorts) had gained a strong reputation for their Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons. But Walt wanted to push the envelope, he wanted to do more, so he sets his sights on a full-length motion picture.

June 1934, Walt announced his plains officially in the Time magazine and instantly faced dificulties. Makeing "Snow White" would cost ten times what it would cost to make one of his shorts and in fact in order to make the film, he had to mortgage his house to get the money to make it. meaning that if the film was a flop, that would most likely be the end of the Disney Studio and Walt and his family would end up poor and homeless. Adding to that, Walt's wife, Lillian, was against the idea of making the film, as was Walt's brother and business partner Roy, and both of them tried to talk him out of it. As well, the Hollywood community started making fun of Walt's ambitions by calling the film "Disney's Folly."

Still, Walt kept his head up and got to work later in 1934, trying to form ideas for how the story would shape up and look. Ideas for names of the Dwarf's started, which included Jumpy, Deafy, Dizzey, Hickey, Wheezy, Baldy, Gabby, Nifty, Sniffy, Swift, Lazy, Puffy, Stuffy, Tubby, Shorty and Burpy. The final seven names were decided by a process of elimination. Still, Sneezy and Dopey were not yet part of the at that time, final group. They would come a while later. The original story had more gag found throughout the film and even Walt himself offered $5 for every gag that was thought up. But ultimately, Disney was worried that too much of a comical approach would damage the film and was especially worried about the Queen. But by late 1935 and a number of re-writes, the film progressed more in the direction that we know of it today. The biggest change after that was the decision to make the film more about the relationship Snow White has with the Queen, and less about the Dwarfs. This led to a few sequences with the Dwarfs left on the cutting room table, the most famous of these being the soup eating scene that was mostly animated.

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was finally debuted in Hollywood on 21 December 1937 at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, CA and received a standing ovations from a packed crowd that included many of the big Hollywood celebrities of the day. It went on the be the most successful film at the Box Office until 1941 when "Gone With the Wind" came out. Despite that, it still has won all kinds of awards and made many top ten lists. The most prestigious awards though may have been the special Academy Award given to Walt Disney for the making of the film (that included 7 small statues to accompany the main big one) and making the list of films to be included in the United States National Film Registry in 1989. Fun and often little know facts include how legendary voice actor Pinto Colvig, best known to film audiances as the oiginal voice of Goofy, was also the voice for Grumpy and Sleepy. Also, the original Brother's Grimm tale was one of Walt's favorite stories growing up and the biggest reason why it was the story picked for Disney's first animated film. The other of Walt's favorite childhood stories that would later become a Disney Animated film was "Peter Pan."

My Reaction: Like many people, I grew up with the notion that "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was the first animated film in history. And why not with Disney always showcasing the films as such. Turns out though that after learning more about animation history, Argentine film "El Apostol," made in 1917, was the first. But that said, "Snow White" was still a number of firsts, each and everyone came back to me as I was watching this latest time. It was the first to use Cel-Animation, it was the first animated film in the US or English speaking world for that matter, a swell as the first produced in color and the first made by the Walt Disney. It also started off what is known as "The Walt Disney Animated Classic" cannon and was the first film, live action or animated, to have it's soundtrack released and sold commercially.

With all those firsts, I kind of get taken back every time I watch the film, I mean it is a very big piece of not just Disney or animation history, but American history as well! But, once I let all of that slip my mind and watch the film, I find myself not just transported back into the fantasy land of Snow White, but also the 1930's. The last few years I've had the chance to watch more classic films from the 1930's and after watching those, I can say this film very much is a product of it's time period.

I could not help myself wondering if this film had not been made in the 30's and some other story was the first Disney film and instead, "Snow White" was made today, how different would it be? For starters, I don't think any of the reading found in the original film would be used for a more modern make. I think the over all feel would be different, more animated, hip, with as my wife put it, "More potty humor." Snow White would most likely be more of a "modern woman" which basically means less naive, less "damsel in distress" and more confident in her actions. The Dwarfs would be more goofy then they originally are and the Queen would probably be creepier. But thoughts of how it would look had it been made today aside, while I liked it, it just wasn't as enjoy able to me as some of Walt's other films were or a number of the more modern Disney films. That said, I'm very happy I own it and that I can share it with my kids once I stat having them.

My Wife's Reaction: I have never seen my wife make fun of a cartoon as much as she made fun of this one. Specifically, she thought it was funny to mock Snow White's voice and singing. But honestly, I can't say as that I blame her. That said, she mostly seemed to like it and either way, this film hold new personal attachments as it was at the Snow White wishing well at Disneyland that I originally proposed to my wife. So the film has some new meaning for both of us.

My Final Grade:
(B+) Considering how many top ten list this film has made over the years and how many critics consider this the finest animated film ever made, it may seem to some almost blasphemous that I grade this film as low as I do. But these grades are how I feel about these film, not how others see them. While I like the film and will always respect it for the history it has made, it just was not one of my favorites. While the story was ok, I didn't feel it was as strong as other Disney film, and the characters with the most depth and that you care about the most are the dwarfs, NOT Snow White. In fact, I dare say Snow White is the weakest of the Disney Princesses. But, that said, there is a kind of respect that one must show still for this timeless film.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.

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