Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by David Hand
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 84 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish; 1.0 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Review Date: September 28, 2009
America’s first animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a huge risk for the Walt Disney Company. Though the studio had won the animated short Oscar for five straight years prior to the release of Snow White (and would win three more before being dethroned), there was no assurance in 1937 that there would be a huge demand for a feature length cartoon. Many were sure the risk would sink the studio, and looking at the results now, such a fear of failure seems patently absurd. With a classic fairy tale with easily discernable heroes and villains as its foundation, a group of talented artists to bring these delightful figures to life, and a song score of uncommon melody and magic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs today seems like as certain a success as could possibly have been imagined. (The fears, however, were not unfounded: neither of Disney’s next two animated features – Pinocchio or Fantasia – made a profit the first go-round.)
Jealous to the point of madness over anyone’s beauty outshining her own, the wicked Queen (Lucille LaVerne) is dismayed to learn from her Magic Mirror (Moroni Olsen) that her stepdaughter Snow White (Adriana Caselotti) has grown into a more ravishing beauty than she. Send into the woods to be killed by the Queen’s huntsman (Stuart Buchanan), Snow White is allowed to escape deep into the forest where she is led by her woodland friends to the cottage of the seven dwarfs: Doc (Roy Atwell), Grumpy (Pinto Colvig), Happy (Otis Harlan), Sneezy (Billy Gilbert), Bashful (Scotty Mattraw), Sleepy (Pinto Colvig), and the mute Dopey. The Magic Mirror, however, knows all and informs the Queen that there is still a beauty that outshines her own. The queen, then, decides to take drastic measures to eliminate Show White once and for all.
To modern viewers who are spoiled by the intricate animation of such late Disney classics as Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King not to mention the animation fare of the Golden Age such as Bambi and Peter Pan, Snow White might seem to be a bit lacking in the “wow” department, yet I’d be hard pressed to find a more expertly and evocatively drawn sequence than the horrific dash through the forest when Snow White is released by the huntsman and is running for her life. With every tree limb a gnarly hand trying to grab and hold her and with the trees filled with all manner of demonic presences, it’s little wonder she eventually collapses into a sea of traumatized tears. And yet, the horrors of the scene give way to the film’s most lilting tune “With a Smile and a Song” where Disney’s animation geniuses have imbued every forest creature with such adorable personalities (without giving them the ability to speak) that they chase away the princess’ fears (and our own) and restore a sense of joy and wonder to the proceedings. Of course, the entire Frank Churchill-Paul Smith-Leigh Harline score is so filled with gems it’s rather amazing to realize that not a single one of them was nominated for the Best Song Oscar (the original score was nominated) even though six of them made the Hit Parade.
The script for the film is credited to no fewer than eight hands: Ted Sears, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Credon, Dick Rickard, Merrill De Maris, and Webb Smith, so it’s impossible to know who did what. What’s generally terrific, however, is that the film’s deft mix of comedy with the melodramatic evil of the Queen and her unstoppable mission to destroy her rival is astutely handled marking something of a touchstone for all of Disney’s future animated efforts. The best cartoon features in the studio’s vaults all manage this amazing balance of comedic and dramatic elements without either side predominating. Snow White may not have the innovations of some of the later masterpieces, but the genesis of their greatness can be traced back to this first effort.
As for the voice casting, it’s superb. True, Adriana Caselotti’s tremulous soprano dates her singing clearly to the 1930s when young soprano vocalists such as Deanna Durbin were so popular, but its sweetness and naiveté are unmistakably right for the part of Snow White. As her polar opposite, Lucille LaVerne finds all of the cruelty and malignant power as the mad Queen and her hideous hag counterpart. Famous for his long take sneezes, Billy Gilbert was picture perfect casting as Sneezy, and all of the other voice actors for the dwarfs etch wonderful characters with a limited number of spoken lines. Harry Stockwell’s Prince gets the least development (even the huntsman is a stronger character) by the animators, but he certainly handles the Prince’s “One Song” with the appropriate ardor.
The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. (The main titles and the opening storybook pages are windowboxed, but the remainder of the feature is not.) The color palette is an adroit mixture of pastels and bold primary colors which the Blu-ray has no trouble handling. (Certain shades of red, on the Queen’s belt, for example, may run a tad hot.) Banding which can sometimes creep into animation transfers is nowhere to be seen here. Sharpness is the variable in this transfer with about 90% of it looking majestically sharp while otherwise there are occasional frames or the edges of frames which are softer and less distinct. The image is free from any dirt or debris. The film has been divided into 27 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 remixed soundtrack is clear and clean, free from age-related artifacts such as hiss or crackle. The main title music and some other musical passages do channel the music to the seven sound channels (the LFE channel is barely used), but you’ll spend much of the movie aware of the original mono nature of the audio since the surround channels are silent for many of the film’s non-musical sequences.
The audio commentary by Disney scholar John Canemaker and supplemented with vintage comments from Walt Disney and the Disney staff makes for a fantastic history behind the making of the film. This has been carried over from the last release of the movie on DVD.
DisneyView is a choice the user makes which fills in the black pillarbox bars used for the 1.33:1 aspect ratio with specially created art panels by Toby Bluth. There is also a featurette in which Toby Bluth describes how the film inspired him to draw the panels used in DisneyView.
All of the bonus featurettes on disc one are presented in 1080p.
“Snow White Returns” is a reconstruction of a possible animated sequel short using the two deleted musical numbers from the film along with some new bridging material. This runs 8 ¾ minutes.
The two deleted musical numbers can also be viewed separately and in their entirety. The soup eating sequence runs 4 minutes while the bed building scene runs for 6 ½ minutes.
A music video of “Some Day My Prince Will Come” is performed by Disney Channel star Tiffany Thornton and runs for 3 ½ minutes.
Four games and activities in conjunction with BD-Live can be selected. They are:
“Mirror, Mirror On the Wall” asks the user a series of questions and then selects the Disney princess the user is most similar to. The feature also allows the user to enter his telephone number and have that particular princess make a personal call to the user.
“What Do You See?” is a game where the viewer tries to identify out of focus images as quickly as possible.
“Jewel Jumble” is a Tetris-style game where the user attempts to put jewels in a proper sequence without boulders getting in the way.
“Scene Stealer” allows users to upload personal photos and have the images placed within a music video using Snow White characters.
There is a 7 ¾ -minute sneak preview of the first six minutes of the upcoming animated feature The Princess and the Frog. The film’s director explains that due to portions of the first six minutes not being finished, the clips will be in various stages of animation from complete to rough pencil sketches and everything in between.
There are trailers for upcoming Blu-ray releases of Up, G-Force, Beauty and the Beast, and Dumbo, among others.
Hyperion Studios is an interactive tour through Disney’s animation studio which was in use during the making of Snow White. There are 13 sections of the facility, and in each section, the user can branch off to see featurettes on the work done on Snow White in various phases of the facility including the Story Room, the Music Room, Layout, Art Department, Animation Department, Live Art Reference, The Sweat Box, Ink & Paint, Camera Department, Soundstage, and Walt’s Office. Not only are each of the departments explained with an interesting and informative featurette using a mix of vintage recordings and film clips and also modern Disney artists talking about their “forefathers” at the studio, there are also more than a few delightful examples of the work done in these discussed departments. For example, after the discussion of the multiplane camera, a screen lowers and we’re treated to the first animated short where it was used, the Oscar-winning The Old Mill in glorious 1080p. A discussion of Technicolor leads to the first Oscar-winning Technicolor short Flowers and Trees also in 1080p. The Soundstage office shows us the first synchronized cartoon short Steamboat Willie, all in 1080p. There is also a handy index you can jump to that makes sure you’ve seen all of the dozens of featurettes and shorts included in this amazingly informative section. The disc records which featurettes you’ve watched on a checklist so you can see what you’ve seen and what’s still waiting to be viewed.
From the last DVD issue of Snow White are a few bonus features carried over to this new release: Except for the singalong feature, these are in 480p.
“Animation Voice Talent” is a 6 ¼-minute short about the various actors who voice the major characters in the film.
“Disney Through the Decades” features 15 trailers for Snow White from its first announcement in 1937 to the most recent theatrical reissue.
“Dopey’s Wild Mine Ride Game” is a fun trivia game for fans of the movie in which the viewer attempts to get Dopey and the other six dwarfs through the mine which has been enchanted by the Queen with lots of booby traps.
“Heigh Ho” sing-along and karaoke activity either has the lyrics printed in subtitles or removes the singers and allows the viewer to sing along without help. This uses the 1080p sequence from the new Blu-ray edition for the activity.
The standard DVD of the film.
4.5/5 (not an average)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a landmark in the history of cinema, and while it may not be most people’s favorite Disney animated feature, it certainly set the tone and texture for all of the greatest ones which were to be created in the next few decades. The Blu-ray release offers the bonus of a regular DVD remastered version of the movie in addition to the usual crowded slate of extras aimed at different ages of viewers from youngest to eldest. Most definitely this comes highly recommended!