Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Disney Films - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Over the course of the next year, I plan to watch every Disney animated feature in chronological order. Why have I embarked on this strange undertaking? Besides the fact that I'm crazy, to give both a critical view and historical perspective of Disney through the years. I hope you'll come along for the ride!

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937

Background: "Snow White" was not only the first animated feature film produced by Disney but the first animated feature film produced by anyone. The movie was adapted from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, with Disney toning down and streamlining the original story and adding the seven iconic dwarf personalities.

The Good:
  • Great historical significance.
  • Classic characters in The Evil Queen and Grumpy. (Well yeah, I guess Snow White too.)
  • One of the best death scenes in Disney history. (Two words: circling vultures!)

The Bad:
  • Loose story and plot holes.
  • Borderline offensive characters.

Random Notes & Nitpicks:
  • What's with that scene where Snow White goes running through the forest? You know, when half the cast of "Flowers & Trees" tries to kill her or something. I guess just one of many sure signs of hallucinogenic drug use among Disney animators.
  • The whole "Whistle While You Work" sequence is basically just a glorified Silly Symphony, right down to the actions corresponding to the music.
  • Doesn't the dwarfs' "Silly Song" sound a lot like a Bavarian version of the "Bear Band" song from "The Country Bear Jamboree?"

Thoughts: I take some umbrage with people like AFI, who have ranked this as one of the greatest films of all time. It's really not all that great of a movie. It doesn't have much of a plot or character development and is more a bunch of scenes cobbled together with a loose fairy tale story behind them. That having been said, it's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!" It's one of the most significant achievements in the history of American cinema! For it's time, the film is outstanding. People thought Walt Disney was crazy when he made it. It cost a fortune (almost bankrupting him) and was completely and totally revolutionary. It influenced countless films that followed it.

The Disney formula is all there. The sympathetic main character, the love interest, the awesomely evil villain, comedy sidekicks, memorable songs, beautiful and iconic images. This is the formula that Disney would use for pretty much every film that followed over the course of a century. So it's pretty darn amazing that they got it all down right from the very start.

There is plenty to complain about in the film as well, from the gaping plot holes, logical gaps, antiquated and somewhat offensive portrayal of little people and the mentally handicapped, and Snow White's annoying voice. But come on, this is really just a glorified Silly Symphony with a feature plot (and all the truly funny stuff has been skewered well enough by Enchanted so I don't need to bring it up.)

Why You Should See It: It's one of the most important and influential films in the history of American cinema, not to mention a singular "make or break" moment for Walt Disney. If you're a Disney fan, or just a fan of cinema in general, you simply must see this film. Plus the dwarfs are pretty funny.

Next up: "Pinocchio"


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