Friday, March 5, 2010

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

So by now you’re probably wondering, “Is he ever going to review the actual film?” Well, rest easy, because today is the day. The capper to Snow White Week is the review of Walt Disney’s classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

What did I think? Obviously, I have seen it before, so I wasn’t coming into this cold. But as I remarked to my wife while watching it, watching all the films leading up to Snow White makes a HUGE difference in your appreciation of the first animated feature. The jump in production value, character design, music, storytelling and more is so evident, that it astounds me that this film came from the same studio as some of the earlier shorts.



In the past, I had always thought that Snow White was a film full of fluff and padding in the story. I don’t know where that impression came from, but sitting down and watching the film from beginning to end with no interruptions, I was struck by how tight the story was. There is not much if any wasted time in this movie. Everything propels the story forward. Think about the fact that in the first 15-20 minutes of the movie, you find out the relationship between Snow White and the Queen, have Prince Charming and Snow White fall in love, learn the characters of the Queen and Snow White, have her nearly killed by the Huntsman, flee through the forest and end up in the Dwarfs’ cottage. Whew!



Also, I noticed so many things this time around that I have never seen before. For instance, in the opening shots of Snow White, she is wearing wooden shoes, like a Dutch girl. But isn’t she German? Another thing is the scenes of Snow White in the dwarfs’ cottage during the party scenes. I had never noticed how obvious it was that Snow White was rotoscoped. For those unfamiliar, live action footage of an actress was shot and used as reference for Snow White’s movement, to get the most realistic animation possible.



But in the scenes where Snow White is dancing with the dwarfs, it is obvious that she is limited by this, not helped. The dwarfs move in crazy, unrealistic and more fanciful ways, while Snow White is a bit more stiff and unwieldy. It’s not something you would notice the first time through, but after seeing previous human figures in earlier shorts, it was obvious.

That’s one minor complaint, though, because for most of the film, Snow White’s figure is animated perfectly. She seems to glide through the film, in a way that makes perfect sense when paired with her pleasant, airy demeanor. The voice work by Adriana Caselotti is superb, and fits with the character. Not to mention the fabulous work of the voices behind the dwarfs.



The music is something that gets overlooked in the discussion of how beautiful this film is, but it shouldn’t. A point that gets made multiple times on the Blu Ray extras is that Snow White was the first musical, film or stage, that made the songs part of the story. Plus, think of iconic songs from a musical – how many musicals have as many recognizable songs as Snow White? At first blush, you might think, “Lots of them,” but really think about what you and your kids and siblings know – Snow White has the most iconic songs.



That’s the thing that I really took away from viewing this film. It is iconic. I told my wife while watching that Snow White’s yellow, red and blue dress is as much of an icon as Batman or Spider-Man’s costume, if not more so. This film and its characters are part of the cultural lexicon, in a way that most films, even other Disney films, are not. It’s well deserved, as this is an artistic masterpiece. The leap from the shorts to this film should not have been possible – it’s that dramatic. The fact that it was made and it was done well is a testament to Walt Disney, his animators and the persistence and vision they carried forth. I can’t state how impressed I am by Snow White.

All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.


4 comments:

  1. Excellent review!

    The tight story, the extraordinary quality of the animation, the moving and memorable songs, and for me, the astoundingly realistic portrayal in the young princess of the true essence of innocence. This I am sure is what Walt wanted to achieve...and he did!

    I too can't state just how impressed I am by Snow White...although that doesn't stop me from trying on my blog.

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  2. I'm trying to keep watching in chronological order, but it's taken me a while to find the time finally re-watch this film so I've fallen behind a bit. It was a real treat to re-visit this film today. Snow white has long been one of my favourite films, but it's been a good few years since I actually watched the whole thing. Today the experience was a little different since I watched it after watching nearly all the preceding Disney cartoons before it.

    This certainly packs in a lot of my favourite things I've seen in the previous Disney works, but at the same time it is a very different beast. It truly is a film quite unlike any before it and doesn't feel like an extra long Silly Symphony.

    I like the points you made about the music and songs in this film, Ryan. The Sillies had already incorporated songs which helped tell the stories (think of the songs used in '3 Little Pigs', 'The Pied Piper' and 'The Flying Mouse'), but these kinds of cartoons have become rarer from 1936 onwards. I suppose this may have because of the work that was being put into Snow White, which uses the same technique, but over the course of a whole feature. In fact I don't even think of Snow White as a musical, because the songs just fit so well into the story and world of the film. This may explain why I prefer this film to many Hollywood musicals (many of which I find pretty unbearable), but then of course it also helps that all the songs are so excellent.

    It's difficult to say things about this film that haven't been said about this film already. It high quality, the fantastic achievement etc. have been mentioned so many times before. It is worth pointing out, however, that this film isn't quite like any of the other Disney films. The humans and backgrounds for example don't look quite like they do in other Disney films. A couple of particularly visually striking moments that stood out to me watching it this time around include the scene where Snow White is first scene picking flowers in the meadow (as elsewhere in the film the use of 'light' is beautiful) and the moment the lightning strikes the cliff that the Queen is standing on (worth freeze framing and stepping to check out the different ways the witch is painted here).

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  3. // she is wearing wooden shoes, like a Dutch girl. But isn’t she German?//

    On wiki, it states she is Dutch in the Walt Disney version of the story. Hence the dutch shoes.

    Nationality Dutch ( in Disney Version )
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_White_(Disney)

    I was wondering that also when I saw the shoes while watching it with my 4yr old son.

    Kevin

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    Replies
    1. most times people see wooden shoes, they think of Holland and not the Westphalia area of Germany. found info at this sight http://our-kin.com/Nieland/History/History/WoodenShoes.htm

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