Well, here is the film that started an empire. Not only was it Walt Disney's first foray into feature length animated films, it was also the first full length cell animated film ever attempted. I suppose it's needless to say that the gamble paid off for him. Especially when you take into account the fact that Disney, after just buying 20th Century Fox entertainment, now technically owns about a third of the entertainment industry.
Walt Disney first came across the tale of Snow White when he was about fifteen years of age after reading The Brothers Grimm tale of the same name. He later stated that he couldn't get the story out of his head and he would be constantly playing the story over in his mind. After the success of his Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies series, Walt pooled everyone together and started work on Snow White in early 1934. The film was finally released in December 1937, and received a standing ovation from an audience containing that of Judy Garland. Snow White went on to do exceptionally well at the box office, and in 1939 became the top grossing sound film of all-time.
Snow White at the start of the tale has been forced into the life of a scullery maid. This is being enforced by her incredibly jealous and equally vain stepmother, the Queen. This obstinately vain monarch is particularly fixated with being the fairest in the land and believes her beautiful stepdaughter, Snow White, to be a growing threat to her. However the Queens fears are eventually realised when her magic mirror declares Snow White to be the fairest in the land. Overcome with jealousy, the Queen hires a huntsman to take Snow White into the forest and kill her. The huntsman however is struck by Snow White's innocence and beauty, and tells her to flee into the forest in order to escape the Queens wrath. There she bumps into a company of dwarves, all with distinctive personalities and lovable quirks. The dwarves allow her to stay after learning she's on the run and especially after learning that she can cook and clean (I don't think sexism was a big thing in the 1930's unfortunately). Meanwhile, the Queen is hatching more maniacal schemes to find and kill Snow White.
Snow White as a lead serves her purpose well enough. These days however she pales in comparison with Disney's latest and more stronger and self-sufficient movie heroines, such as: Moana and Frozen's Anna and Elsa. Since Snow White's only noticeable qualities is her uncommonly kind nature, naivety, and Betty Boop esc singing voice (which is also a little dated). She tends to come off a bit bland, but fortunately the dwarves more than make up for the leads short comings, and outright steal the show. The dwarves themselves all have different personalities, which are reflected in their names, in their timeless designs and exquisitely differing animations. The stand out has to be Dopey, his animation and musical cues made me chuckle a good few times. The dwarves serve as the charm and heart of the film, of which I am sure, has played a big part in this films continued success amongst children even today. I've heard a few people say in their reviews that they didn't think the Queen was a very effective villain. I can understand that point of view, especially since some of her schemes are not the cleverest. However when I watched the film as a kid I found the Queen to be absolutely terrifying, especially when she disguises herself as the old crone. I am pretty sure that I had nightmares over that old crone, and that for me has to show a definite level of effectiveness to a villain. The first thing for me that stands out is the terrific design. She looks menacing and intimidating as the queen, with her tall slender frame and pointed features. While her truly frightening design, as the old crone, allows the character to reveal her evil and deceitful ways. There is one character who gets cast aside and receives basically no development at all, and that would be the prince. He shows up a bit at the beginning and then again for the finale at the end. The problem with this is they have no interaction with each other in-between these events. This makes the relationship between the two characters very unbelievable by modern standards. Perhaps if he was given some more scenes to expand his personality a bit, or maybe even a name, his appearance at the end would not have been so jarring.
The musical numbers for the most part are brilliant and truly timeless; such as "Heigh-Ho". This particular tune is extremely hard to get out of your head once it's ingrained itself in there. However the "I'm Wishing / One Song" and most others sung by Snow White herself have a tendency to sound a little dated, and as I mentioned before, a bit Betty Boop like.
When I re-watched the film for this review, I couldn't help but be amazed by the extraordinarily lifelike animation that Disney and his incredible animation team had achieved. I hadn't watched the movie for a very long time and for some reason expected the animation to be, not bad, but dated compared to the more recent animated movies. Boy was I wrong. Eighty years on and it still looks practically flawless. There's nothing better than watching true masters of their craft and Disney's animators are in top form here.
Apart from occasionally showing its age and having some key characters shockingly underdeveloped. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is an enduring classic that will most likely be passed down for generations to come. If you're looking to entertain your nostalgic side a bit. Or perhaps looking into the origins of modern day animation and cinema, or maybe even trying to entertain your children for a couple of hours, there is not many finer options out there than this Disney classic.