WHY IT'S AWESOME: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
Updated: Mar 2, 2019
I am starting a new feature called "WHY IT'S AWESOME" where I look at various Disney films, characters, attractions, music and more in hopes to bring greater appreciation. For this first installment, I thought we'd start with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which is my favorite Disney animated film.
I feel that this film often doesn't get the love it deserves. People say that the film is boring or that Snow White lacks in personality or feminist viewpoints. But, I hope, by the end of this article, if you are one of those people, I will have changed your mind. Even just a little.
While watching this film, you have to really take into account the time period in which this film was made. It's easy to dismiss the film as anti-feminist rubbish. I'm not going to apologize for the film. Although, I do think that Snow White had a lot of strength. She escaped death and started her life over again. She then basically took over the management of a bunch of men. And, in the end, she gets what she wants, even though some might disagree. Is it entirely anti-feminist to choose to embrace the qualities defined as traditionally feminine? Some women do like the frilly stuff and cooking and cleaning and it's not wrong.
Regardless of where you stand on the feminism front, one can't entirely blame Disney. This is how film was at the time. Enforced by a very puritanical Production Code Administration, Hollywood seldom wanted to take any risks as to upset religious groups who protested the liberation of women. Hollywood was about finding that one love to create a family. So, it is not odd for the heroine of this story to pine for her prince to come and that was about it.
As a gay Asian American, I know its hard to look at film from the past and just forgive it for the time period. But, I do it. I have to forgive Mickey Rooney's horribly racist yellow face in Breakfast at Tiffany's because that was then during a less enlightened age. So, while I love the film and appreciate it for what it is, I still acknowledging the racism. I do the same for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in terms of feminism.
You also have to take into account where this film falls in Disney history. This was the first. We all know that the film was once dubbed "Disney's Folly" as it was being developed because nothing like this had ever been attempted. This was a full length feature film and it seemed silly to think people would watch more than a few minutes of kiddie fair. Ten years prior to this film, Mickey and Minnie were dancing across the big screen in their rubber hose animation. Everything after Steamboat Willie was almost training to create this beautiful film. And it succeeded with flying colors.
While Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs revolves around a simple story, the Disney team really poured their heart and soul into the look and animation. Where they ended up was undeniably a masterpiece. One of the images that most stand out in my mind is during the "Heigh-Ho" sequence where the Dwarfs cross over a log over the valley below. You have this wonderful sunset going on. The color is absolutely goregeous. The scene is simply stunning and almost lifelike. Every single element in that sequence was so expertly placed. And I can't imagine what this might have looked like at the time when nothing like this had been done before.
One doesn't have look further than "Silly Song" to see the mastery of character animation. I would go as far as to say that the animation in this scene rivals anything that is done today. Watch all of the Dwarfs and see how each of their personalities are so nicely expressed.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, though, isn't just about the lighter moments. Disney may have removed much of the darkness of the original Grimm Brothers tale, but the Queen, or Queen Grimhilde as she is lesser known, still remains one of the most evil villains in the Disney pantheon. While the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland might comically call for people's heads to be chopped off, the Evil Queen actually sought to have Snow White's heart removed and placed into a box. Thankfully, the Huntsman did not go through with it. But, there is something romantically dark about this act that has made her a fan favorite. I know she is my favorite Disney villain.
Finally, I honestly love the soundtrack to this movie, including the anti-feminist theme "Someday My Prince Will Come." The music was composed by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey. Paul J. Smith and Leigh Harline. Once could dismiss it as overly cutesy, but I find myself always singing the songs in my daily repertoire. Fun Fact: I never knew that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first film to have a soundtrack album. What a smart move to forever remind us of how wonderful these songs really are.
When you look at everything that Disney poured into this film, there is not a doubt why Walt Disney received a special Oscar comprised of a full-sized one and seven tiny Oscars, presented by Shirley Temple. An amazing achievement indeed.