“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was the movie where the magic of Disney animation first came to life in full color. Released in 1937, this pioneering film not only marked the dawn of a new era in cinematic history but also introduced audiences to a world where fairy tales could be experienced like never before. As Disney’s inaugural full-length animated feature, “Snow White” set the stage for the legacy of innovation, storytelling, and dream-making that would become synonymous with the Disney name.
In this article, we’ll explore the captivating journey of “Snow White,” from its ambitious beginnings as Walt Disney’s “folly” to its celebrated status as a timeless masterpiece, unlocking the secrets and stories that paint the rich history of this beloved classic.
The Classic Fairy Tale – Snow White
The story of Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is based on a classic fairy tale that was written by the Brothers Grimm and was published in 1812 in the first edition of “Grimms’ Fairy Tales,” a collection of German fairy tales, which include another classic fairy tale titled “Cinderella.” Here is an overview of the Brothers Grimm’s story of Snow White.
- Grimms’ Fairy Tales – this collection of fairy tales was written by a duo of brothers named Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The Brothers Grimm are considered to be one of the most popular writers of fairy tales in the world, as they have been able to write timeless and iconic stories, including “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Frog Prince,” “Rapunzel,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Sleeping Beauty.” These stories were all compiled in different editions or versions of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
- The Original Snow White – the original fairy tale included some of the most popular elements in the Disney animated film, including the seven dwarfs, the Evil Queen, the magic mirror, and the poison apple. However, the Seven Dwarfs do not have names in the original version, and their names were only given in the 1912 Broadway play titled “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” But it is important to note that the names of the dwarfs are different for the Broadway play and the Disney animated film.
The Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale is very similar to what Disney created for their animated movie, although there were differences in the last few events that took place in the story. Take a look below for the key moments in the original fairy tale of Snow White.
- Skin as White as Snow – the story starts with a queen of a kingdom giving birth to a baby daughter who has skin as white as snow, and she names her daughter “Snow White.” In the original version of the story, the queen grows jealous of Snow White’s beauty and plans to kill her, but in later versions, she dies after giving birth to Snow White, and her husband would later marry the Evil Queen.
- Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – the Evil Queen that the king of the kingdom married practiced witchcraft, and she owned a magic mirror that knew the answers to every question. Every morning, the Evil Queen would ask the magic mirror who was “the fairest one of all,” and the magic mirror would always reply that the queen was the fairest. However, when Snow White is seven years old, the magic mirror answers that Snow White is the fairest, and this makes the Evil Queen angry and jealous. Because of her jealousy, she ordered a huntsman to take Snow White deep into the forest and kill her so that the Evil Queen would remain the fairest one of all. As proof that Snow White is dead, the Evil Queen also tasked the Huntsman to take the child’s heart.
- Snow White Meets the Dwarfs – the Huntsman, who takes pity on Snow White after seeing her tears, spares the child, takes a boar’s heart, and lies to the Evil Queen that he had killed Snow White. The girl then wandered through the forest for many hours until she stumbled upon a small cottage owned by the Seven Dwarfs. Inside the cottage, Snow White ate tiny meals and slept on the beds of the dwarfs. The dwarfs then returned home to see Snow White sleeping on one of the beds. After waking up, Snow White explained her dilemma about her stepmother, and the Seven Dwarfs agreed to let her stay in exchange for becoming a housemaid in the cottage.
- Eating the Poisoned Apple – upon discovering that Snow White is still alive after many years, the Evil Queen sets out to kill the young woman herself. She tried numerous tactics to poison Snow White, but the last one, where Snow White ate a piece of a poisoned apple, was the most effective. The dwarfs later place Snow White’s body inside a glass coffin, and they mourn for the death of their beloved housemaid.
- The Prince Sees Snow White – the Prince, who was on a hunting trip in the forest one day, saw the dead Snow White lying in her glass coffin. The Prince then offered to send Snow White to her father’s castle so that she would have a proper resting place. While on the way to the castle, one of the Prince’s servants, who carries Snow White’s coffin, trips and loses balance, which then makes the coffin fall on the floor. The sudden movement of the coffin dislodges the piece of the poisoned apple that Snow White ate, and with the piece of apple gone, she is revived.
- Marrying the Prince – after reviving, Snow White is greeted by the Prince, who declares his love for the beautiful woman. Snow White accepted the Prince’s love and decided to marry. The Evil Queen later finds out that Snow White is still alive and decides to visit her stepdaughter at the wedding. Unfortunately, the Prince thwarted the Evil Queen’s plans, and Snow White, along with the Prince, lived happily ever after.
The lesson presented in the story is that true beauty lies in how we treat other people. Snow White, through her kindness, was able to become beautiful both inside and out. Her kindness has also rubbed off on other people that she met in the story, which includes the huntsman and the Seven Dwarfs.
A Trailblazing Tale in Animation: The Background and Creation of Disney’s Snow White
The story behind the creation of Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is as enchanting as the film itself, marked by ambition, innovation, and a leap into uncharted artistic territory. This 1937 masterpiece didn’t just emerge as the first full-length animated feature in color; it revolutionized the world of animation and set a new standard for cinematic storytelling.
The idea of creating “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” sprang from Walt Disney’s desire to break new ground in the world of animation. Inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Disney envisioned a feature-length animated film that could captivate audiences with its narrative depth, emotional resonance, and artistic beauty. When Disney first proposed the idea of “Snow White,” it was met with skepticism from both the film industry and his own animators. Dubbed “Disney’s Folly,” many believed that a full-length animated film would be unable to hold the audience’s attention and be a financial disaster.
The creation of “Snow White” required the development of new animation techniques. Disney animators refined the multiplane camera – a device that allowed for animated scenes to have more depth and realism. This innovation was pivotal in creating the film’s immersive fairy tale world.
Bringing the characters of Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, the Evil Queen, and others to life involved extensive research and character development. Each dwarf was given a distinct personality, a departure from the nondescript characters in the original fairy tale.
The casting of voice actors was a meticulous process. Adriana Caselotti was chosen as Snow White’s voice for her youthful and innocent tone. The film’s music and songs, like “Whistle While You Work” and “Heigh-Ho,” were integral to its storytelling, adding a layer of charm and memorability.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” not only established Walt Disney as a significant figure in the film industry but also laid the foundation for the future of animated feature films. It opened the door for the numerous Disney classics that followed and remains a cherished piece of cinematic history.
Fascinating Facts About Disney’s Snow White
As the first full-length animated feature in cinematic history, it holds a special place not just in the Disney canon but in film history as a whole. Here are twelve captivating facts about this groundbreaking film:
- Original Budget Multiplied: The film’s initial budget was $250,000, but it eventually cost $1.5 million to make – a massive sum for a movie in the 1930s.
- Walt Disney Mortgaged His House: To finance the film, Walt Disney mortgaged his own home, believing in the project’s potential despite widespread skepticism.
- Live-Action Reference Used: Live-action references were used for animation, a groundbreaking technique at the time. Actors performed the scenes, which animators then used as a guide.
- Innovative Multiplane Camera: Disney utilized the multiplane camera for the first time in an animated feature, allowing for more dynamic and three-dimensional animations.
- Thousands of Drawings: The film included over one million drawings and used about 250,000 separate pieces of artwork.
- Voice of Snow White: Adriana Caselotti, just 20 years old at the time, was chosen as Snow White’s voice. She was paid only $970 for her work.
- Snow White’s Unique Animation: Snow White’s character animation was unique for its time, blending realistic human movement with traditional animation techniques.
- The Dwarfs’ Names: The dwarfs went through several name iterations before settling on the final seven. Early options included Jumpy, Deafy, Dizzey, Hickey, Wheezy, Baldy, Gabby, Nifty, Sniffy, Swift, Lazy, Puffy, Stuffy, Tubby, Shorty, and Burpy. The final names were Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey.
- Academy Award Recognition: The film won an honorary Academy Award in 1939. Shirley Temple presented Walt Disney with one regular-sized Oscar statuette and seven miniature ones.
- Critical and Commercial Success: Upon release, “Snow White” was both a critical and commercial success, earning $8 million during its initial box office run.
These facts about “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” reveal the innovation, risk, and creative artistry behind a film that not only made history but also paved the way for the future of animated storytelling.
The Fairest One of All
As we reflect on the kaleidoscope of fascinating facts surrounding Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” it becomes abundantly clear that this film is more than just an animated classic; it is a cornerstone in cinematic history. The creation of “Snow White” was a journey marked by bold risks, artistic innovation, and an unwavering belief in the magic of storytelling.
“Snow White” set a precedent for animated features, proving that such films could enchant audiences, tell compelling stories, and achieve artistic excellence. Its legacy extends beyond the boundaries of its runtime, continuing to inspire animators, filmmakers, and dreamers around the world.