Once Upon A Review : Snow White

My friends, one of the things I wanted this site to become was a place for people to come and post their own writings and thoughts. This segment is the first part of that. Megan King came to me a while ago with the idea of covering more of the Disney films. I love everything Disney but from a news/journalistic perspective I typically lean more towards the Marvel and Star Wars side of that spectrum. Megan, being my stubborn and resilient friend sent me an email with an entire article on Snow White and an entire plan for a series of reviews. Thus, Once Upon A Review was born. She plans on taking us on a trip through Disney history and that begins with Snow White. So, without further ado, I present: Once Upon A Review

-Vance

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)

  • The first Disney princess
  • Walt Disney company’s first full-length cel animated feature film, meaning each frame was hand-drawn
  • Cast-
    • Adriana Caselotti (Snow White)
      • Only ever notably played Snow White
      • First woman to be named a Disney Legend for her voice acting, awarded in 1994.
    • Lucille La Verne (Evil Queen Grimhilde)
    • Harry Stockwell (Prince Ferdinand)
    • Roy Atwell (Doc)
    • Pinto Colvig (Grumpy & Sleepy)
    • Otis Harlan (Happy)
    • Scotty Mattraw (Bashful)
    • Billy Gilbert (Sneezy)
    • Eddie Collins (Dopey)
    • Moroni Olsen (The Magic Mirror)
    • Stuart Buchanan (Humbert the Huntsman)

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the first full-length feature film from the Walt Disney Company, and was the first-ever cel animated film ever in motion picture history. Prior productions had been limited to Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony shorts. Snow White had a budget of $250,000 – ten times the budget that a Disney short required. Compare that to Walt Disney’s latest Disney Princess movie, The Princess and the Frog, which had a budget of $105 million.

Coming into this movie, I try to keep an open mind and let all my old prejudices fall behind- like how I’ve always thought Snow White’s voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard. The basic elements between Walt Disney’s version and the Brother’s Grimm remain intact- the princess & the queen with her magic mirror, the huntsman and the dwarves, and the queen’s jealousy and disguise, the apple, the glass casket, and the prince who loves her.

However, there are notable differences. The Walt Disney version involves much more magic and superstitions. The Queen in the movie involves herself in black magic, which is not mentioned in the original story, and rather than use many disguises she only needs one. The Prince appears in the beginning of the movie while Snow White is cleaning the castle rather than appearing in the end to carry away the glass coffin, setting the cinematic tone for princess stories and love at first sight.

While watching this movie, I can’t help but think about how, despite Snow White being a classic Disney movie, there are many things within the movie that are outdated and certainly can’t be a good influence for children today. The Queen being preoccupied with her vanity to the point of being more than willing to murder her stepdaughter in order to secure her attractive supremacy isn’t a message that is healthy to today’s children, specifically those who idolize princesses. Snow White intrudes into an unknown house, making herself at home without regard for the owners’ wishes, despite her good intentions. Then there are the comments, observations and general nonsense that comes from Grumpy that are drenched in male chauvinism. And perhaps it’s just me, but I also felt that Snow White’s face was remarkably inexpressive. She seemed to wear one facial expression almost the entire movie, due to the lack of detailing on her face. There is only so much one can do with the basics and some rather overwhelming spots of blush, I suppose.

Midway through the movie we get a deeper look into the dwarves’ lives, and we learn more about how their dynamic works. We see the group singing and dancing and generally having a grand old time before coming to blows over a solitary pillow. Honestly, I’d probably come to blows over a pillow, too. About the same time, the Queen discovers the huntsman’s betrayal, and we see her jealousy and hate transform her into an ugly old woman, and see how the pursuit of her need to be the fairest in the land ultimately leads to her demise. I have to say, I find the Queen as the old woman much more entertaining than her Queenly self. She seems to really get into the character of being someone else, and a certain ghastly joy comes over her as she sets out to kill off the competition.

Overall, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves deserves it’s place among the Disney classics, and Snow White herself her spot among the official Disney princess lineup. It’s a classic that every kid should see at least once in their lifetime, if nothing else but for the experience of it.

 

Now let me tell you how I really feel, now that I’m done being objective. This movie has fantastic scenery. You don’t get this kind of detail work in today’s animation. It really is a lost art, something that is simplified today, which is a crying shame. As far as the characters goes- the Evil Queen and Snow White herself have about as much character development as glass, meaning it’s really transparent and not a lot to it. The Evil Queen is a crazy jealous witch (literally), and Snow White is a teenage ninny who thinks that the world will be okay as long as she has her Prince. The huntsman and the dwarves have way more character development to them. The huntsman is a conflicted individual, having love for the princess but filial duty to his Queen. The dwarves, as well, are a more complicated sort, showing a broad range of emotions as they deal with Her Royal Highness, Princess Home Intruder. Seriously, who just barges into a home because a bunch of animals tells them it’s okay? Yes, I realize I’m talking about a fairy tale character here, but it’s no wonder the Evil Queen got to her in the end if she’s taking advice from woodland creatures.

Moving on. I loathe Snow White’s voice. It’s something that canines have absolutely no problem hearing, and in fact- maybe that’s why the animals could understand her; because she was speaking at a decibel that no actual human speaks at. The idea that one can meet her True Love and it be love at first sight, and have that seamlessly be a “and they lived happily ever after” ending is ridiculous. It’s also a topic that has been touched on several times in the last decade by Disney movies- Enchanted, Brave, and Frozen all discussing these subjects. I also want to note that the Queen’s name is Grimhilde and the Huntsman’s name is Humbert. I just want you to let that sink in for a minute.

Snow White does have some catchy songs, however. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung “Hi ho, Hi ho” while en route to work. I also enjoyed how well the Disney crew dedicated themselves to giving the movie a distinctly Germanic look for the dwarves’ house, from the style of the house itself, to the furnishings and décor to the objects used inside the house during the duration of the movie. And while I think Snow White is overall a big wuss, she did have the gumption to boss the dwarves around a few times. I did have a “you go girl, you give those dwarves some rules” moment. I also think her Prince Ferdinand is probably the weakest among the Disney princes, and he seems to be more of an afterthought to this movie than anything… as if the crew went, “oh yeah, how are we supposed to end this… it has to have an ending… true loves’ kiss sounds great. Let’s throw in Prince Ferdinand for that. Oh, and let’s never say his name in the movie.” Good job. *insert sarcasm here*

Overall, I’m not a huge fan of this movie. I’d give this a 6/10 rating. I found the art of it to be better than most of the actual movie itself, and Grumpy to be irritatingly chauvinistic. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put a fiery little female-hating man into a kids’ movie? Someone who evidently thinks that the definition of gender roles and what is accepted behavior for men and women (and between the sexes) would change. The first half of this movie could hardly hold my attention, and the second half was only held by a dwarf dance party and the Evil Queen letting her evil glee out as she trotted her merry way along to go whack her stepdaughter. This is definitely one of those movies that I could only watch maybe once a year. Tops. And if my kids beg to watch it.

-Happily ever yours, Megan King

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