“Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho! It’s off to work we go.” In 1937, Walt Disney had a vision and it came to fruition with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” It was the very first feature length animated film and 83 years later, it remains the most important animated film of all time.
Walt Disney adapted Grimms’ classic fairy tale for his audience and the result was a resounding success. It changed animation. It changed the Oscars. And, it changed the Walt Disney company in ways that Walt, himself, could’ve never foreseen.
The remastered version available on Disney Plus remains astoundingly beautiful. The colors are bright and vibrant. The story remains iconic. We finally get names for the dwarfs. (They weren’t named in Grimms’ Fairy Tale.) It’s truly amazing how the animation has held up.
The film also created a change to the Oscars. There was no proper Oscar category for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” back in the 1930s. So, the Academy created a special Oscar trophy to honor Walt Disney for his achievement. That special Oscar was accompanied by seven little Oscar trophies.
The film is iconic and important but it’s not without its flaws. The biggest and most obvious flaw lies with Snow White. She has no agency. In the entire Disney canon, only Aurora from Sleeping Beauty has less agency. Snow White thinks her life’s purpose is to wait for a prince. That’s it. She does so little before being forced to flee. Once she finds the dwarfs’ cabin, she cleans it for them and immediately sees her purpose as serving them. It was typical of the 1930s, but it doesn’t hold up in 2020.
Also, the Evil Queen goes from 0 mph to 60 mph in the blink of an eye. She asks the magic mirror who is the “fairest of them all” and when the mirror responds with anyone but her, she immediately puts a plan into motion to kill that person. We’re supposed to understand her to be evil, but some motivation for her actions would’ve been nice. The story hits all of the important points but leaves out the details. A little detail, a little backstory could go a long way when it comes to explaining motivations.
For all its flaws, it’s still a wonderfully enjoyable film, so long as you don’t try to apply 2020 standards to the plot. The film also helped revolutionize the Walt Disney company in many ways. First, a company known only for animated shorts was now making feature length films, a practice we still see today. Also, the re-release of “Snow White” after the end of World War II helped fund the creation of the Walt Disney studios that are still in use today.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” paved the way for all other Disney movies. Without Snow White, there would be no “Cinderella;” no “The Lion King;” no “Frozen.” “Snow White” is not the best Disney film, but it is the most important.
Ranking: 3.5 stars out of 5.
What did you think of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?” Do you think it held up?