Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was America's first feature-length animated film, as well as the first in
the Disney Animated Canon. It was also the first one in English, and the first in Technicolor. It was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Productions, premiered on December 21, 1937, and was originally released to theaters by RKO Radio Pictures on February 8, 1938. The film is an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, in which an evil queen attempts to have her stepdaughter Snow White murdered in jealousy of her beauty, but the girl escapes and is given shelter by seven dwarfs in their cottage in a forest.
It is generally considered to be Walt Disney's most significant achievement, his first-ever animated feature. Snow White was the first major animated feature made in the United States, the most successful motion picture released in 1938, and, adjusted for inflation, is the tenth highest-grossing film of all time. This historical moment in motion picture history changed the medium of animation. Before 1937, short cartoons took up the majority of American animation.
The movie was adapted by Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears and Webb Smith and was supervised by David Hand, and directed by William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen. Snow White is particularly memorable for songs like "Heigh-Ho" and "Some Day My Prince Will Come", several frightening and intense sequences, and a style influenced by European storybook illustrations.
An ornately decorated book sets the scene: the Evil Queen, who cares only for being "the fairest one of all", is jealous of the beauty of her stepdaughter Snow White. She dresses the princess in rags and forces her to become a scullery maid in her castle. Each morning, she consults her Magic Mirror, asking the spirit within who is the fairest of all. The Mirror tells her that she is the fairest, and for a while, she is content.
The Wishing Well Edit
One morning, the Mirror tells the Queen that there is a maiden fairer than she: Snow White. Meanwhile, Snow White is in the courtyard, singing "I'm Wishing" to herself as she works. The Prince, riding by the castle, hears her voice and is enchanted by it. He climbs over the castle wall, unseen by Snow White, who is singing to her reflection at the bottom of a well. The Prince joins in the singing, which startles and surprises Snow White; she runs indoors, but when he pleads for her to return she comes to the balcony and listens as he sings "One Song" to her. Unseen by both, the Queen watches from her window high above. Infuriated at Snow White's beauty (and perhaps jealous for the Prince's affections), she closes the curtains in anger. The Prince smiles at Snow White before leaving.
The Flight through the Forest Edit
The Queen summons the Huntsman, whom she orders to take Snow White far into the forest, and kill her; she demands the girl's heart as proof. The Huntsman is reluctant to do so, but is bound by his orders; he takes Snow White deep into the forest, where he lets her gather flowers. As Snow White helps a baby bird find its parents, the Huntsman unsheathes his dagger and advances on the princess. When Snow White sees him approaching, she screams; however, he is unable to fulfill his orders and drops his dagger. Taking pity on Snow White, he begs for her forgiveness and, warning her of her stepmother's intentions, pleads for her to run away. As Snow White flees through the forest, her fear manifests itself in what she sees around her; eventually, she falls to the ground in fright. She is befriended by the animals of the forest; she sings "With a Smile and a Song" and asks them if they know of a place where she can stay.
The Cottage of the Seven Dwarfst Edit
The animals lead her to the Cottage of the Seven Dwarfs, which she finds empty and dirty. Thinking that cleaning the house may persuade the owners to let her stay, Snow White and the animals clean the cottage and its contents while singing "Whistle While You Work". The seven dwarfs, meanwhile, are working in their mine, digging for diamonds. When it is time for them to go home for the day, they march through the forest, singing "Heigh-Ho".
After cleaning the house, Snow White falls asleep on several of the dwarfs' beds. When the dwarfs see light coming from the cottage, they approach cautiously, thinking that a monster has taken up residence in their home. They search the ground floor of the house but are afraid to go upstairs. After an unsuccessful attempt by Dopey to chase the 'monster' down, all seven dwarfs venture upstairs to discover Snow White sleeping. She wakes up and befriends each one of them. They allow her to stay (though Grumpy is reluctant). Snow White remembers that she has left soup downstairs and rushes to prepare it, ordering the dwarfs to wash while they wait. The dwarfs proceed outside to a trough, where all but Grumpy wash themselves; the six other dwarfs later wash Grumpy, dumping him into the trough when supper is ready.
The Heart of a Pig Edit
That evening, the Queen once again consults her Magic Mirror, who tells her that Snow White still lives and that the Huntsman had given her a pig's heart. Furious at being tricked and the Huntsman's betrayal, the Queen descends a spiral staircase, entering her dungeon, where she resolves to do away with the princess herself. She uses a potion to transform herself into a witch-like peddler - a disguise to deceive Snow White. She then decides to use a Poisoned Appleto send Snow White into the Sleeping Death (a magically-induced coma). At the cottage, the dwarfs perform "The Silly Song", with Snow White singing and dancing along with them. She then sings "Some Day My Prince Will Come" (referring to her romance with the Prince) before sending them up to bed; however, the dwarfs decide to sleep downstairs, allowing Snow White to sleep in their beds, where she, looking towards the window, says thankful prayers about her and the dwarfs' protection, and wishes for Grumpy to like her more. Meanwhile, the Queen prepares the poisoned apple and, dismissing the possibility that Snow White may be revived by 'love's first kiss' (the only cure for the Sleeping Death), gleefully proclaims that Snow White will appear dead and be 'buried alive'. She leaves the castle and makes her way to the dwarfs' cottage, kicking the skeleton of a long-deceased prisoner on the way out.
The Poisoned Apple Edit
As the dwarfs leave to the mine in the morning, Snow White kisses each dwarf on the forehead, though Grumpy initially resists. He warns her not to let any strangers into the house. After the dwarfs have left the cottage, the Queen in disguise goes to Snow White and offers her the poisoned apple, which Snow White is about to accept until the forest animals, sensing danger from the vultures, try to attack her. This causes Snow White to take pity on the old woman and takes her into the cottage. The animals then rush to the mine and try to tell the dwarfs of the danger. The dwarfs eventually realize what is happening, thanks to Sleepy, and, led by Grumpy, hurry back to the cottage with the animals. The Queen persuades Snow White to take a bite from the apple by telling her that it is a 'wishing apple', which will make any wish of hers come true; after biting the fruit, the princess falls into the Sleeping Death, as the Queen cackles in triumph. The dwarfs arrive and chase the Queen, eventually cornering her up a cliff, where she attempts to crush them with a boulder, but is sent over the cliff by a bolt of lightning, crushed by the boulder herself, and eventually devoured (off-screen) by the vultures that were following her.
Snow White is Revived Edit
The dwarfs and animals mourn a seemingly dead Snow White, and place her into a glass coffin in a peaceful glade in the forest. The Prince arrives and, after singing a reprise of One Song, kisses Snow White, which breaks the spell. Awakened, she bids farewell to the dwarfs and animals, and rides into the sunset with the Prince to live happily ever after.
|Adriana Caselotti||Snow White|
|Lucille La Verne||The Evil Queen|
|Harry Stockwell||The Prince|
|Stuart Buchanan||The Huntsman|
|Moroni Olsen||Magic Mirror|
Non-speaking roles are the Forest Animals, the Raven and the Vultures.
Sterling Holloway recorded dialogue for Sleepy in several test shots before being replaced with Pinto Colvig. Jimmy MacDonald provided additional voiceover work, including the yodeling heard in "The Silly Song".
Walt Disney had been contemplating on making a feature-film since the early 1930s, considering ideas such as Babes in Toyland (Disney was unable to do this because it was earmarked for Laurel and Hardy by RKO), Rip Van Winkle, and an animation/live-action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. It is thought that Walt Disney first felt that an audience could sit through a feature-length cartoon when he and Roy Disney went to receive an award from the League of Nations (for the creation of Mickey Mouse) in Paris in 1935, where a theatre featured a program of six consecutive Disney shorts. Disney later wrote that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was an inevitable and necessary step forward in order to advance the studio; short subjects, even successful ones like Three Little Pigs, still could not provide the studio with a significant profit. Disney may also have realized the potential of an animated feature after the success of Three Little Pigs.
It is thought that Disney was influenced in his decision by his favorite comic actors, including Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin, who had already moved from short subjects to features for similar reasons.
|I saw the handwriting on the wall. My costs kept going up and up, but the short subject was just filler on any program. And so I felt I had to diversify my business. You could only get so much out of a short subject…I don't know why I picked "Snow White." The story is something I remembered as a kid. I once saw Marguerite Clark performing in it in Kansas City when I was a newsboy back in 1917. It was one of the first big pictures I'd ever seen. That was back in 1917…I thought it was the perfect story. It had the sympathetic dwarfs, you see? It had the heavy. It had the prince and the girl. The romance, I just thought it was a perfect story.|
Disney revealed, in a magazine article for Photoplay Studies, that, as a boy, he had saved some of the money from his newspaper round to see a play of Snow White. In fact, Disney was referring not to a play but a film, starring Marguerite Clark, which he saw in a free showing in the theatre Kansas City Convention Centre in 1916; Disney was sitting in one of the top galleries of the theatre. It is unknown whether the film was available for reference during the production of Disney's feature. Disney first revealed his plans for Snow White to his key animators after dinner one evening in 1934, when he gave each of his key animators fifty cents, took them out to dinner, after which he took them to the studio's sound stage, where he told them the entire story, acting out every part.
Despite being impressed with Disney's idea, the animators were still nervous that an animated feature would not sustain an audience's full attention. Many in Hollywood were even more skeptical, christening the project 'Disney's Folly'. Even Roy O. Disney and Lillian Disney attempted to discourage Walt from continuing the film. In 1934 Disney estimated the film's budget at $250,000; he was forced to mortgage his house when this eventually ballooned into an impressive $1.5 million. An article of 3 June 1934 reported (presumably jokingly) that, "If, after it is made, he thinks it will disappoint the public, he will destroy it." Existing evidence suggests that serious preliminary work on the film did not begin until 9 August 1934. That same year, it appears Disney had planned to have the film completed by early 1936.
There have been numerous ideas as to the presence of occult significance or symbolism within the movie, mostly centered around the Dwarves themselves. For example, one theory holds that the seven dwarves correspond to the seven chakras (or cakras), and that Snow White represents consciousness moving through them. Other ideas are less philosophically complex, such as correspondences to the stages inherent in the use of certain drugs. In one theory, Snow White is cocaine, which causes exhaustion (Sleepy), mood swings (Happy, Grumpy), allergies (Sneezy) and alteration of personality (Bashful, Dopey) eventually resulting in a trip to the doctor (Doc). More on this
- The movie's title uses the word "dwarfs" which was the traditional plural of "dwarf". The Lord of the Rings by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, published in three volumes from 29 July, 1954 to 20 October, 1955, instead popularized the spelling "dwarves". Both plural forms have been used interchangeably since then.
- There are only two times the word(s) dwarf(s) has been used. Once by the Magic Mirror, "Over the seven jeweled hills, beyond the seventh fall, in the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs, dwells Snow White, fairest one of all." And again by the Queen in disguise after finding an antidote for the poisoned apple, "No fear of that! The dwarfs will think she's dead! She'll be buried alive!"
- A version with live actors based on the film, made in 2002, was titled Snow White: The Fairest of Them All and starred Kristin Kreuk.
- Upon seeing the film, Russian director Sergei Eisenstein called it the greatest ever made.
- The song "Some Day My Prince Will Come" became a jazz standard, and has been performed by numerous artists, including Buddy Rich, Oscar Peterson and Miles Davis.
- The movie was chosen by the American Film Institute as the number one animated film of all time.
- In 1979 the film inspired a stage musical. It premiered at Radio City Musical Hall and starred Broadway stage veteran Anne Francine as The Queen and then-unknown Mary Jo Salerno as Snow White. It was directed and staged by Frank Wagner, as well as produced by Robert Jani, and it is known for saving Radio City Musical Hall from closing down. In 1980, it was taped and broadcast on HBO as "Snow White Live".
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of the few classic Disney movies to not have a sequel.
- The Seven Dwarfs have only four fingers; one thumb, and three other digits.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney's first animated feature, as well as the first Disney feature overall, to be preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Four other Disney films would later achieve this honor and be preserved in the following future years: Fantasia in 1990, Pinocchio in 1994, Beauty and the Beast in 2002 and Bambi in 2011.
- The 1993 theatrical and VHS releases have restoration credits and the 1990 Walt Disney Pictures logo at the end. The Blu-ray release has the RKO and Disney logos instead.
- At the end of the movie, Snow White only kisses six dwarfs goodbye before leaving with the Prince; the one dwarf she left out was Sleepy.
- In March 2016, Disney announced a new film in development titled, Rose Red; a live-action spin-off film which will be told from the point-of-view of Snow White's sister.
- In 2016 Walt Disney Signature Collection was released, with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs being the first film in that collection.
- This is the third Disney animated classic to have the 2006 Walt Disney Pictures logo at the end of the movie, on current releases.
- At one point, the dwarfs say "Jiminy Crickets", to express their surprise on seeing their house occupied. Since Pinocchio, the phrase has become more synonymous with a voice of reason or conscience.