Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Review
Walt Disney’s first feature length movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is to this day held as an industry standard by which all other animated films are compared. That’s a particularly impressive distinction considering the film is now celebrating its 75th birthday. And in honor of its diamond anniversary, Disney has unveiled a new restoration with the most gorgeous saturated colors, from the deepest red of a poisoned apple, to the shimmering waves of a set of “Dopey” blue eyes.
I’m not sure when or where I first saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I’m guessing it had to be when I was fairly young and viewed it on the old TV show, The Wonderful World of Disney. I must have seen it many times throughout my childhood, because I remember it well enough that I know most of the songs by heart and can recite the names of all seven dwarfs. Then again, who can’t? Disney (the person, place and thing) is such an indelible part of the American experience that it seems virtually impossible to find anyone within the 50 states (or its territories) that wouldn’t know, understand and immediately identify a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reference. And that’s without ever having seen the groundbreaking film at its best, projected on the big screen in a movie theater. Few people nowadays can boast such a distinction. After all, the film was initially released in 1937 and has had only a handful of re-releases since. However, thanks to the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, I can now count myself among those few.
I was so excited to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the 2012 TCMFF that I arrived outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre long before they had even established the waiting line. Needless to say, I got exactly the seat I wanted and spent the rest of my pre-show time chatting with those who had sat down around me. Besides the Daws Brothers who had planned ahead to join me, I spoke with a very interesting older man, George. He was at the screening with his young niece, Amelia who was an animation student in Arizona. Of course I thought she had brought him, but it was the other way around. George knew so much about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and animation in general that I thought for sure he must be a part of the industry, or at the very least a professor of animation history. As it turned out he was some big wig at an oil company, and the TCMFF was his Mecca, a place where he could mingle with other like-minded fanatics to unabashedly share his appreciation for classic cinema. I could have talked with George all day, but then the lights dimmed and I remembered why I was in the Chinese Theatre in the first place.
Film critic, Leonard Maltin was the host of the screening, and his first duty was to introduce the packed audience to a 92-year-old Marge Champion. Besides being a famous dancer (Show Boat, Lovely to Look At) the surprisingly youthful Champion was the 17-year-old model that posed for illustrators as Snow White. Having never attempted to illustrate such vibrant representations of the human form before, the animators were eager to render the character’s movements as realistically as possible. The result was the wonderfully vivid and lithe movement of Disney’s first princess; one that remains as captivating today as she was more than 75 years ago. Obviously, Disney selected the right young woman for the job who aged with the same grace and beauty one would expect of Snow White herself.
As the film began to play in that enormous theater I became completely engrossed. As I said, I’ve seen the film many times before but it had been years, and never on the big screen, let alone one the size at the Chinese Theatre. Viewing Snow White in such a format was not only magical but completely absorbing. It was as if I were seeing parts of the film for the first time, particularly the playful antics of the seven dwarfs with their individual nuances and expressions (according to George, Disney used seven different shades of ink to color their noses alone). Apparently the grand impression had the same effect on the rest of the audience, because I’ve never been in a theater rife with children who were so quiet, and some were so young they were sitting on their parent’s laps. This extraordinary accomplishment is a testament to the fascination the film still holds for people of all ages, and an accomplishment that should be lauded and honored as frequently as possible.
Fortunately, TCM agrees with this assessment and has been working with the folks over at Disney for several years to bring their classics out into theaters to be admired by the public once again (last year Fantasia was included in the Hollywood film festival). Who knows, maybe if we’re lucky, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs may receive the same treatment as Casablanca and experience it’s own national, one-night only special presentation, complete with a pre-recorded introduction by Robert Osborne. If any film at this year’s festival is ripe for such a celebrated fanfare, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the one. And if it does, I urge you not to miss your opportunity to see a bit of the wonderful world of Disney. It will undoubtedly remind you just how wonderful it was.