Screen Reviews

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Directed by Walt Disney

Starring a princess, an evil queen, and a whole lot of dwarfs, dwarves, whatever.


Why are people always playa-hating on Walt Disney? The man was a god of animation; a flawed god, perhaps, but what other kind is there? By 1934, just a few years after arriving in Hollywood, he had pioneered the sound cartoon and multiplane camera technique; he had invented Mickey Mouse and (the infinitely more interesting) Donald Duck; and he was just getting started.

He took all his money and all his animators and sunk them into a feature-length sound cartoon in full color. They called it “Disney’s Folly,” and predicted that it would sink like a stone. They wuz wrong. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs went on to take in millions of dollars (this is still during the Depression, mind you) and enter the public consciousness like no other animated film in history.

So here it is on DVD, finally. And not just on DVD–this is the finest and most complete examination of a single movie I have ever seen in my life. Ye gods! We’ll start with the interface: your guide to the whole thing is the Magic Mirror, who now apparently is a good guy but still with the creepy voice. He’s also kind of a wisenheimer, saying that his former boss the Queen “has issues.” Hardy har har when you read it, but it’s pretty funny when he says it.

The first disc contains the movie itself, in a stunning transfer that makes it pop off your screen like it was an original print. A word about Snow White as a movie: ass-kicking. Don’t front unless you’ve seen it. Yeah, it’s a little boring in parts, and the stuff with Dopey is pretty damned un-PC. (Try explaining to your kids why it’s okay for the other dwarfs to smack him around; and the “Chinese” impression is just evil.) But it’s a great and beautifully made movie, with humor and sad parts and funny parts and hand-painted scenes that really put computer animation to shame. Don’t be too cool for Snow White, people.

This first disc also features a full-length commentary track stitched together from actual private recordings of Walt himself, a great little documentary, an interactive trivia-focused game that my kids totally loved (it was pretty easy for my six-year-old, but my three-year-old just wants to watch it over and over again), and (horror of horrors) a special version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” sung by Barbra Streisand. (Just don’t select this feature and you’ll be okay.)

And then there’s Disc Two, which is pretty much just like a huge how-to lesson about the way Snow White was made. You see actual archival footage of animators, test subjects, filming techniques, and stuff that would be worth it by itself–but then there’s more! Deleted scenes, storyboards, storyboards for deleted scenes. The way they moved the cameras, the way they recorded the voices, the evolution of the characters from initial sketches to choosing the dwarf’s vest colors. Trailers, newsreels, guides to all the merch they moved. A fascinating feature on how they restored the original movie for the DVD.

This is a heroic piece of DVD work and needs to be in your collection. This is a reason to go out and actually buy a DVD player if you don’t have one. This is a reason to fall in love with movies all over again.

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