Something I always will remember is the first time I encountered something referred to as the “deleted scene”. After watching one of the VHS tapes my parents had put on for me, I waited for a bit after the film had finished and got to see a sketchy scene of some dwarfs singing about their dinner. What I saw was “The Music In Your Soup”, a deleted sequence from a film called Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.
Released in 1937, this film is not just a major landmark for the Walt Disney Company, but for cinema itself. The feature-length animation that basically gave birth to the genre, not to mention the legacy of Walt Disney and the toons that came both during his time and after it, this film is a classic by every mean. The fact that it is endearing, amusing and enjoyable to this day doesn’t hurt.
Although it’s occasionally somewhat dark and scary, this Snow White is still not as macabre as the original story by The Brothers Grimm, and can be enjoyed by kids (but then again, I didn’t much mind the original story when I was younger). Princess Snow White, of course, is fairest in the land, as confirmed by the Magic Mirror that the Queen of said land (Lucille La Verne) has hidden in her castle. Jealous of her stepdaughter and evil, as her most commonly assigned name “The Evil Queen” suggests, she hires a huntsman (Stuart Buchanan) to kill Snow White and bring her cut-out heart as proof of her demise. Don’t worry, in this version The Queen doesn’t eat the heart before learning that it’s the heart of an animal and that the huntsman let Snow White flee into the woods.
Adriana Caselotti voices Snow White, and what a poor child. All she wanted was to meet and marry her generic pretty boy Prince Charming (Harry Stockwell) and go to his kingdom. Instead she’s forced to flee, but at least she befriends a few animals before stumbling upon a cottage wherein reside the true stars of the film, the seven dwarfs. They’re an unkempt bunch who agree to let Snow White live with them in exchange for better cooking than they’re used to, cleaning and ultimately, kind of a mother figure.
Meanwhile, the Queen finds out from the Mirror (voiced by Moroni Olsen and frankly one of the spookiest and coolest visuals in the film) that her competitor in beauty still lives, disguises herself as an old witch, reads up on a spell about apples, and you can figure out the rest.
The Queen is a great villain and her popularity within the Disney Animated Canon is a warranted one. Her nightmarish transformation into the old witch is perhaps my favourite scene in the movie.
But the dwarfs are the ones that truly make the film so sweet, memorable and fun, on top of being such a feat in filmmaking. There’s Dopey the dopey one (as voiceless as beardless), Grumpy the grumpy one (Pinto Colvig), Happy the happy one (Otis Harlan), Sleepy the sleepy one (Colvig again), Sneezy who sneezes (Billy Gilbert), Bashul the shy (Scotty Mattraw), and Doc (Roy Atwell), the leader that very much wants to think he’s smart. These characters, their designs and their character traits are all iconic. Anyone could be shown a picture of them and know each by name as well as who does what.
I know the hardcore buffs will point out my error, but I already know; this isn’t technically the first animated feature ever made, as Quirino Cristiani’s El Apóstol was produced 20 years earlier (1917) but sadly got all of its copies destroyed in a fire shortly thereafter, making it one of cinema’s lost treasures. There was also Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed in 1926, which now qualifies as the oldest surviving animated film.
But Snow White is still the earliest film to capture what animated feature lengths film could offer in terms of whimsical adventure, magic and timelessness. The first one ever? Certainly not. The one that set it all in motion and gave us a whole new medium that has evolved into something spectacular? Most likely. Modern films like Frozen, Pixar productions like Brave and really, even non-Disney animations like Rango could probably cite Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs as their great-grandmother. It’s when I am reminded that the success of animation has also resulted in things like Titanic: The Legend Goes On that I become less grateful, but it’s probably better if we focus on the good stuff, wouldn’t you say?
Snow White is delightful, whimsical, cute and sometimes scary. It’s reasonable to expect that it will have the same effect and impact on the children we raise as it did on us, and the ones before, and even before that. I recall being told by my grandfather how scary he used to find films like this one and Pinocchio when he was a total of 6 years old! This movie was his first theater experience.
Watching films like this often makes me wonder; given that most of these actors are dead by now, do they know what an impact this film truly had? Did they get to see what a timeless musical classic the film evolved into? Did they see how it helped turn the Walt Disney Company into the master of splendid family entertainment most of us recognize it as? I know that Adriana Caselotti at least lived until 1997 and must thus have experienced most of Disney’s glory days, and as a bonus, didn’t live to see her character get watered down and put in the Disney’s bloated series of Princesses merchandise. Not bad timing.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a film I believe many of us hold dear and remember fondly since those glorious days of childhood and innocence. We can all name the characters, we can all appreciate its recognizable yet charmful fairytale formula, we can all adore its visuals and characters, and we can all hum such lovely songs as “Whistle While You Work”, “Some Day My Prince Will Come”, “The Silly Song”, and “Heigh-Ho”. It’s a classic that no amount of mediocre rom-com remakes could match. Please don’t watch Mirror Mirror, dear readers.