Media

Movie Renter's Guide - October, 2009

ARTICLE INDEX

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by John Johnson

Snow White and the Seven DwarfsSynopsis

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom ruled by an evil queen (La Verne) who was vain about her beauty. Each day she would go to her magic mirror and ask the mirror who is the fairest in the land. The mirror (Olsen) would answer that the queen is the fairest.

But, her stepdaughter, Snow White (Caselotti), becomes very beautiful as she grows into a young woman, and one day, the mirror says that Snow White is the fairest in the land.

Meanwhile, Snow White meets a young prince in her garden, and they fall in love instantly.

The queen orders her huntsman to take Snow White into the forest and kill her, and bring back her heart as proof of her death. The huntsman cannot bring himself to kill Snow White, and tells her to run into the forest and never return.

Snow White discovers a quaint cottage, where seven dwarfs live. She tells them she will keep house and cook for them if they let her stay.

Everything is fine for awhile, until the queen asks the mirror about her beauty, and the mirror says that Snow White still lives. So, the queen uses her own magic spell to turn herself into an old woman. She finds the cottage, with Snow White there alone while the dwarfs are off working in their diamond mine, and coaxes her to bite a poisoned apple. Snow White falls into a deep sleeping death, with the only antidote being the kiss of true love.

The dwarfs come home to discover the queen in her disguise, who runs away, and they chase her to the top of a mountain, where the queen falls to her death. When the dwarfs return to their cottage, they find Snow White apparently dead. They don't know that she is just in a deep sleep. They put her in a glass coffin and stand watch over it constantly.

The prince happens by, and gives Snow White a kiss, she awakens, they ride off into the sunset, and live happily ever after.

 

Specifications

  • Walt Disney
  • 1937, Color, Rated G, 1 Hr 24 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring (Voices of) Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Billy Gilbert, Harry Stockwell, Moroni Olsen
  • Directed by David Hand
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

OK, so you already know every detail of the story in this movie. But did you know it was Disney's first animated full length feature? In fact, it was the first full length animated feature that had ever been produced, at any studio.

At the time, Walt Disney owned Hyperion Studios, where he made cartoon shorts. The problem was, the cartoons didn't really make much money. He realized that the only way to get the big bucks was to make a full length animated film. So, he started putting it all together. He hired 300 people (before that, there were only a handful of employees at his studio), borrowed money from the bank, and went to work.

The trade papers said it was a ridiculous idea to make a full length cartoon, and that no one would pay to see it. Well, it turned out to be a smash hit, and others, such as Laurel and Hardy, who also were making shorts, decided to go into full length features. Charlie Chaplin realized the value of full length features over shorts a bit earlier, with Modern Times (1936).

It was a good thing that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was successful, because it cost a staggering 1.5 million dollars. Disney originally estimated it at $250,000 and had to go back to the bank and convince them to lend his studio more money. So, Disney brought the bankers to his studio and showed them the film in an uncompleted form, with some of it in color, and other parts in penciled sketches. The bankers told Disney he was going to make a fortune on the movie, and sent him the check.

Also, something I did not know is that Snow White had been made into a movie with actors in the silent era, before this animated version was produced. Snow White is actually one of the original Grimms Fairy Tales, entitled Little Snow White. (There is also a tale called Snow White and Rose Red.)

Like movies with live people, animated features have flubs. I noticed that in one scene, Doc was playing the guitar right handed, but in the next scene, he was playing it left handed. Also, notice the glass coffin has Snow White resting on a platform covered by the glass case. But, when the prince arrives, the glass case is gone and she is just resting on the platform. I suppose the studio realized that (1) Snow White would run out of air if the glass case covered her, and (2) the prince would have to have the dwarfs help him remove the glass case in order for him to kiss her.

I gave the disc a five star entertainment rating mostly for historical reasons. But, it does have its laughs (the rule for making cartoons in those days was to deliver a laugh each minute), and sorrowful moments. It will entertain your young children, and is certainly one for your permanent collection.

Technical

The image is quite sharp, and I can imagine the difficulty in restoring the film from the original three-strip Technicolor negatives. Technicians scanned more than 350,000 frames, removing all dust and scratches. There is not much detail in the animation because each frame was hand painted, and in 1937, cartoons didn't have much detail in them, because it wasn't needed. Nevertheless, there is a life to the images that I don't sense in modern films that use state of the art CG to produce characters and scenery that have an enormous amount of detail.

The sound is remarkable for having been dug out of the 1937 vault, but it's mono, and the jacket states that the soundtrack is 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. I barely got a sense of sound coming from the left and right front speakers, let alone side and rear surrounds.

Extras

These include the SD DVD version, a Music Video, Deleted Scenes, What do You See?, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Newly Discovered Storyboards, The One that Started it All, Dopey's Wild Mine Ride, Disney Through the Decades, and other things.