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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Disneyear: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Let's kick off my Year of Disney with the very first animated film ever, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film that started it all and one that countless critics call the greatest animated film ever made. Do I feel the same way? Well, let's have a look and see.

The story goes that in a kingdom once upon a time, an evil and jealous queen finds out that she's not the fairest lass in all her kingdom. According to her magic mirror with one of those play masks inside it, that title belongs to a young woman called Snow White. So the queen hires a huntsman to kill her and bring back her heart as proof (seems logical, right?) but he can't do it. So SW runs away only to bump into some very helpful forest animals that show her to a cottage where she can hide from the queen. Only problem is that seven Mini-Me's.... er, dwarfs, live there but thankfully they agree to help her out. The Queen finds out and tries to find and kill her herself with a poisoned apple, but is saved by her prince's kiss and they all live happily ever after... except the Queen.

So is it as good as the critics make it out to be? Well, I think so. It's as basic as a film can get, but there's a lot of heavy atmosphere in this film for being a Disney film. You get sucked into the film from minute one. There's also some really dark imagery, in fact some of the darkest ever. Hell, I remember being freaked out by the scene where SW first gets lost in the woods. Speaking of imagery, the artwork is just incredible. Just looking at some of these backgrounds and animation just blows me away. After all, this was the studio's first film and by the look of it, they really put their damnnest into this flick.

But that doesn't mean the film is100% perfect. Some of the scenes feel like filler to me, like when SW cleans the house with the animals. Then again, turning a seven-page story into an hour and a half feature isn't the easiest thing on earth to do, so I'll let it slide. The prince is really boring (he's only in two scenes and barely speaks a line) The queen, as a villain, is only a jealous bitch. Compared with some of the other villains we'll see later, her motives and persona are not that strong.

I have mixed feelings for Snow White. She's not the most interesting Disney princess either. She's nice, that's it. But on the upside, she's.... nice. Hey, want proof that she's nice? She makes a pie for Grumpy near the end of the film. GRUMPY!!! And is it me, or does her singing remind you of Mae Questal's singing for Betty Boop?

The best characters by far are the dwarfs themselves. I like how the Disney artists decided to make each dwarf different by having their names represent their emotional status. They're the most interesting characters in the whole movie and to me are the heart and soul of the film. The relationships between them and Snow White is a rather interesting one. You really feel like they care about this girl and want to keep her as safe as possible. If I had to pick a favorite, it's Grumpy, hands down.

Can you name them all?
The best scenes? Well, it depends: if you wanna laugh, then the scene when the dwarfs get back home after a day's work and find there's something their house really leaves me in stitches. The climax where the dwarves chase the queen after she kills Snow White is really friggin' good (speaking of which, her death is really one of the most gruesome in a Disney flick. Hell there's vultures following her. That should say something) I'll admit, I got really teary-eyed watching when the dwarfs have a funeral for SW. THAT is the most depressing scene in a Disney film ever! The dwarfs are crying, no sobbing for they lost the only woman that's ever come in their lives. It's just a wake, right down to the organ music. When Grumpy starts to break down, that's when I just lose it.

So does Snow White still hold up even if we emotionally de-attach from it even though we saw it as children? The key word there is "emotion". This is a film fueled entirely on emotion. Logic plays no part in it. To be honest, I find films like that fascinating.The film doesn't please your sense of logic, but gives you whats your emotions want to see. Though not complex, the film's emotional simplicity taps into the audience so deep that we don't care if some of this stuff doesn't make sense. Overall, I'm glad I saw this film again and it really is one of Disney's best. Not the best, but top 10 easily.

To finish off, here's a clip of the best song in the movie:


RetroBrian said...

I like your analysis of Snow White. I think it's a really good film for both animation and for the fact that this was Disney's first animated feature. I don't think what you mentioned about what you see being rare for Disney was really established at this time. What I mean by that is the Disney that many people grew up with and thought as "The Magical World of Disney" and thinking of Walt Disney as "Uncle Walt" wasn't established until television came along and the opening of Disneyland. Many of the animated shorts had a dark tone to them. I mean, even Mickey Mouse, that loveable happy-go-lucky we know him today in the old days was actually a real troublemaker. This movie really did lay the groundwork as to what a Disney animated feature was supposed to be like, and for a first feature, it does a great job! If this film came out after a film like Fantasia (in my opinion the absolute peak of early Disney animation), it would have been a bit of a letdown. Anyway, great blog to a great movie!

Rodan said...

I would have to concur with RetroBrian's post regarding the significance of this movie factoring in on its appeal. If it had come out at some other time and not been the first it might not hold it acclaim.

Granted I love the story & characters but it is because of the skill and depth Disney put in this first full-length peice that gives it a special sense of awe in the pantheon of Disney works.