The Production: 5/5
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. Sent into the woods to be killed by the Queen’s huntsman (Stuart Buchanan), Show White is allowed to escape deep into the forest where she is led by her forest 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 alive a beauty that outshines her own. The queen then decides to take matters into her own hands and takes drastic measures to eliminate Snow White once and for all.
To modern viewers who are spoiled by the 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 it would be almost impossible to find a more expertly or evocatively drawn sequence than the horrific dash through the forest when Show 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 song 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 it onto 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 astute handling of comedic and dramatic elements without either side predominating.
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 crone 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 appropriate ardor.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The transfer gives every appearance as being the same one used in the 2009 Blu-ray release right down to the main titles and the opening storybook pages being windowboxed (the remainder of the feature is not). The color palette is an adroit mixture of pastels and primary colors which the Blu-ray has no trouble handling. Banding which can sometimes creep into animation transfers is nowhere to be seen. 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, and in typical Disney home video fashion, the image seems to have been digitally smoothed. The image is certainly free from any dirt or debris. The transfer has been divided into 27 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 remixed soundtrack is clear and clean and is 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 most amazing is that the film’s most exciting sequence, the chase of the crone by the dwarfs while rain, wind, thunder, and lightning pummel the soundtrack, seems to revert to the original mono nature of the audio since the surround channels are mostly silent here. For purists, a remastered Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack is also provided and sounds authentic and without age-related problems.
Special Features: 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: Disney scholar John Canemaker hosts and is supplemented with vintage comments from Walt Disney and the Disney staff which makes for a fantastic history behind the making of the film.
In Walt’s Words (4:22, HD): transcribed from an audio interview in 1956, Walt Disney comments on the making of the film. Some of these comments are included in the above commentary.
Iconography (7:16, HD): current staff artists reminisce about their first experiences with Snow White and then produce iconic sculptures using their own various media abilities.
@DisneyAnimation: Designing Disney’s First Princess (5:16, HD): today’s animators look at various influences from the 1930s which influenced the look of Snow White.
The Fairest Facts of Them All (4:37, HD): Disney Channel star Sofia Carson relates seven little known facts about the iconic film.
Snow White in Seventy Seconds (1:12, HD): a young rapper relates the story of the film.
Alternate Sequence: The Prince Meets Snow White (3:39, HD): recreation of a crew story session of how the Prince and Snow White might meet for the first time.
The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (33:15, HD): Disney historians such as Neal Gabler and John Canemaker along with many vintage interviews with Walt Disney and various animators tell the story of the four and half years leading up to the film’s premiere in December 1937.
Bringing Snow White to Life (11:35, HD): Andeas Dija and other Disney animators discuss the key artists assigned to the individual characters.
Hyperion Studios (30:36, HD): the interactive tour through Disney’s original animation studio has been shortened into a thirty-minute featurette offering the information contained in the 2009 Blu-ray tour but without any user interaction. The vignettes discuss work done onSnow 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, and Camera Department.
Decoding an Exposure Sheet (11:35, HD): a rather technical look at the record sheet kept on each sequence of the movie detailing times and movement of frames so each department would know exactly what was expected of them and what had already been done.
Snow White Returns (8:44, HD): a reconstruction of a possible animated sequel short using the two deleted musical numbers from the film along with some new bridging material.
Story Meeting/Dwarfs (5:51, HD): a recreation of a story session between Walt and his story men concerning dwarf behavior at a key moment.
Story Meeting/Huntsman (3:55, HD): a recreation of a story session between Walt and his story men concerning the huntsman’s behavior before his attack on Snow White.
Deleted Sequence/Soup (4:07, HD): the pencil sketches for the deleted soup-eating sequence.
Deleted Sequence/Bed (6:28, HD): the pencil sketches and stills for the deleted bed-making sequence.
Voice Talent (6:20, SD): a short about the various actors who voice the major characters in the film.
Promo Trailers (HD): Zootopia, The Good Dinosaur.
DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
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. There are some new bonus features with this release while most of the games and some other bonus material has been dropped from the 2009 Blu-ray release. For those who don’t have the film in any version, this is highly recommended. Others will have to weigh for themselves if the new bonus content is reason enough to buy it again.