GDR #1: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)


And so we begin at the beginning. The very first full-length animated Disney feature. It’s strange watching this movie, because there are several Disney cliches–many of which were recently spoofed by Enchanted. And then I have to remind myself that these aren’t cliches. These were the first. The first time a Disney movie starts with an opening storybook. The first time a princess frolicks with her woodland animal friends. The first Disney musical. That’s just crazy!

Here’s what I find so interesting about the animation of Snow White: it looks like animation. There’s no CGI, no super computer wizardry. It really looks like someone painted that background castle. And it’s gorgeous. There’s such a distinct aesthetic to Snow White. It looks like a painting come to life, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Even with all the amazing things animation can do today, the animation in Snow White is absolutely beautiful.

Story-wise, though, Disney has come a long way, and I’m glad of it. Snow White and her Prince are thorougly uninteresting. Even with their first meeting at the beginning of the movie (which totally reminds me of Sleeping Beauty, though I would say SB does it better), there’s no love story here. It’s just pretty royal people getting married for no good reason. It’s not like I didn’t know this already, but it’ll be interesting to look at the progressive efforts to make romantic couples seem less superficial as we go through the years.

Another thing I find interesting is how scary the movie is. People are always talking about Disney movies like they’re full of light and happiness with nothing remotely scary, but that’s NEVER been true. Disney movies have always had scary moments and villains. They’ve always been a little scary–they have to be, or we wouldn’t care about what’s going on in the story. Snow White’s nightmarish journey into the woods? The Queen’s transformation into the old hag? These are CLASSIC Scary Disney Moments. It’s like Snow White set a precedent for all the scary moments ahead.

It sounds like I love this movie. But I kind of don’t. There’s a big ol problem with this movie, and it’s that Snow White herself is boring. Somewhere during “Someday My Prince Will Come,” I realized the problem. It’s not just her voice. I’m not even that offended that she offers to keep house for the dwarves–really, she’s just paying for board. I can respect that. The problem is that she has no agency at all. After she runs away to the cottage, she’s just waiting around. For her prince to come and for her stepmom to kill her. And nothing interesting happens until the stepmother gets there first. There are some cute comedic moments with the dwarves, but Snow White’s time with the dwarves just feels like a lot of filler until the Queen decides to take matters into her own hands (…which leads to her death). Looking ahead to Sleeping Beauty, I’m beginning to realize why Aurora’s barely in the movie–Disney is learning.

Here’s something else I realized: Other than maybe the Queen, Grumpy is the most interesting character in the movie. He actually changes! He’s the only character in the movie who does! When he cries over Snow White’s coffin, it’s heartbreaking, because we know how much he must regret how mean he was to her at first. Snow White even made him a pie with his name on it before she went all coma-y. Imagine how sad it must have been for him to find that pie in the same room as her unconscious body. IT’S SO SAD. Snow White’s relationship with Grumpy is more interesting and faceted than her relationship with her beloved Prince. Seriously. Think about it. The Grumpster is the best character in the movie. I’ve declared it so.

And that’s why the ending actually kind of broke my heart. Yeah, yeah, happily ever after and all that, but WHAT ABOUT THE DWARVES? Snow White just wakes up and is carried off into the sunset by her prince, waving good-bye to the seven men who did more for her than the damn prince did. He didn’t even kill the witch! She could have at least thanked them for holding vigil over her dead body and for not burying her alive. I mean, really. It’s the least she could do. Those dwarves better be made dukes or counts or something. She owes them big time.

Favorite scene: The Queen’s transformation

Because it’s a seriously creepy scene and because there’s this sense that the Queen isn’t quite sure what she’s getting herself into–she’s just as frightened by what’s happening as we are. Awesome.

Next time: Pinocchio!



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Filed under movies, The Great Disney Rewatchathon

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