The Disney Marathon: ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’
Quite often in the past I’ve gotten it into my head to watch a series of movies one after the other for a marathon review session. At most they’d be seven or eight entries in the series. Well, in a moment I stupid and the arrival of Disney+ in Australia, we’ve decided to watch all of the Disney animated features. And by ‘we’, I mean my kids are joining me!
Joshua is aged 9 and enjoys Mario games and drawing. Amelia is 7 and loves Pokemon and Disney Princesses. We’re each going to build a ‘master list’ to rank the Disney animated movies as we watch them. I’m genuinely curious as to how our rankings are going to differ over time.
Although we’re starting at the beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we’ll be randomising the order moving forward. Otherwise the late 90s-00s period would get real miserable. So let’s start this ridiculous endeavour!
Title: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Director: David Hand, William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen
Cast: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Harry Stockwell, Roy Atwell, Pinto Colvig, Otis Harlan
Plot: The evil Queen becomes jealous of her step-daughter’s beauty, so arranges for her murder. Instead, Snow White flees into the forest and meets a household of peculiar miners.
Review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is more than the first Disney animated feature, it’s the first full length animated film to receive a wide cinematic release. As a result it does a lot of heavy lifting in establishing the language of the genre for the decades to follow. It also provides a template for the Disney Princess formula which has become a multi-billion dollar empire and cemented Walt Disney’s reputation as an innovator. Ol’ Walt was considered to be chasing dreams and the film was considered a terrible idea before it was released to huge success and acclaim.
That said, there’s some real cracks in this iconic, ground breaking achievement. For one thing, they forgot to name some of the major characters. The evil step-mother Queen villain may be a recognisable figure 80 years on, but she’s only known as ‘Queen’. Likewise, the love interest in simply ‘Prince’ and he has as much personality. It makes the dwarves, each named for their one defining trait, look well well rounded characters. That said, I do love the Queen for her straight-up unhinged evil. Everything from her motivation down to her schemes are batshit insane and it’s amazing. There are many questions raised by the Queen having a special box to store her step-daughter’s dismembered heart on hand.
The more realistic characters – namely the Prince and Snow White, come across a little eerie with the still developing rotoscope style. In spite of this the animation is beautiful all the way through. The animators knew this wasn’t an area they could skimp on, giving us plenty of memorable sequences. Some of the direction from the SIX directors is very clever, including an early shot of Snow White from inside the wishing well. The fairy tale logic of the film provides plenty of opportunities for this kind of creativity.
When Snow White meets the dwarves the movie relied heavily on dragged out montage sequences that are kept afloat by the more memorable songs in the film. There are some strangely unanswered questions about the dwarves though. Why do they need this haul of gemstones? They don’t seem to spend them, just load them up in a vault. Their interest in Snow White is downright weird, and even Joshua commented on this, as they’re a bunch of old men fawning over a very, very young girl. They really should be listening to Grumpy on this one.
We don’t know if they ran out of money, time or ideas but it’s crazy jarring when the final act suddenly jumps forward to the end with a couple of screens of text to explain what happened. That would not fly these days, not even a little. Then the nameless, personality-less Prince rolls in and brings her to life. It’s kinda hard to be emotionally invested in a movie where some of the characters are unnamed and the lead’s motivation boils down to pining for some dude she saw one time.
As phenomenal as this movie is as an achievement, Disney Studios still had to refine their craft.
Best Song: Although ‘Hi-Ho’ is the song most heavily associated with this film, ‘One Day My Prince Will Come’ is a serious ear-worm that became one of the tracks that would define the company moving forward.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN
Yeah, we’ve only done one movie. Come back next time.