Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – DVD Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears & Webb Smith, based on the story by Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm & Wilhelm Carl Grimm
Directed by: David Hand
Starring: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Pinto Colvig, Roy Atwell, Otis Harlan

Features:

  • Animated menus hosted by the Magic Mirror, featuring new animation
  • Guided tours of the disc’s features, hosted by Angela Lansbury
  • New version of “Someday My Price Will Come,” performed by Barbra Streisand
  • “Still the Fairest of Them All,” a 40-minute documentary about the making of the film
  • “Heigh Ho” from Disney’s Sing-Along Songs
  • “Dopey’s Wild Mine Ride” game
  • “The Goddess of Spring” Silly Symphony animated short
  • Audio commentary for the film by Walt Disney (compiled from audio archives) and film historian John Canemaker
  • Biographical timeline for Walt Disney
  • Production timeline for the film
  • Original version of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale
  • Storyboard to film comparisons
  • Galleries featuring the visual development of the film, including backgrounds, character designs and deleted concepts
  • Camera and filter tests
  • Excerpts from Disney television programs, talking about both the film and the multi-plane camera used to film it
  • Featurette regarding the voices used in the film
  • Live-action footage used as visual references for the artists
  • Storyboard reconstructions of abandoned sequences, including an alternate fantasy version of “Someday My Prince Will Come,” an extended version of the Prince meeting Snow White, and the Prince being captured by the Queen
  • A look at the restoration process the film underwent for the DVD release
  • Four deleted scenes in various stages of animation
  • The original RKO release opening and end credits
  • “Disney Through the Decades,” a decade-by-decade look at the history of Walt Disney Studios, featuring trailers for almost all releases of the film
  • Newsreel footage of the 1937 premiere, as well as the radio broadcast from the site
  • Posters from the various releases, as well as the original press book, production photos, and stills from the 1937 premiere
  • Two vintage shorts about the making of feature length cartoons at the Disney Studios, one made exclusively for RKO exhibitors, and another that was used as a trailer
  • Deleted songs
  • Two excerpts from Lux Radio Theater programs featuring Cecil B. DeMille talking with Disney
  • The entire Disney radio program for “Snow White Day” from “Mickey Mouse on the Air Theater” (1938)

Released by: Disney
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A, appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Own it.

Snow White is a princess. You’d think that would get you some credit, but apparently her father remarried following her mother’s death–and the stepmother is a…well, she’s a not-very-nice person. She’s got issues, might be a polite way of saying it. Anyway, the new Queen wants to be fairest in the land–and when her stepdaughter gets in the way of this, the Queen plots to have the poor girl killed. But instead Snow White (notice how it just feels wrong to call this girl by her first name? Snow? Why is that?) flees into the forest, only to take shelter with seven little men. But can they protect her from the wicked Queen? What do you think?

Well, let me say this up front. You know me. I don’t usually care about how films look on DVD. I’m not one of these videophiles who has the liquid flat screen atomic television and can make out (or care about) defects in films. In fact, I never give such things a second thought. So believe me when I tell you, that the restoration on the film is just mindblowing. It’s so clean, it makes what we’ve been subjected to in cinemas (including the 1993 restored release even) look like crap.

But the film is only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, this disc is so well put together…you’d think it was from Pixar. But no, finally Disney has pulled their collective head out of the sand and given us a release that makes even stacked Criterion discs shudder in apprehension. This is the longest list of features I’ve ever had to type up. I bloody well needed a nap afterwards. That’s because Disney has made this a comprehensive look at the film, and I honestly can’t imagine there’s anything they left out.

The Wicked Queen from Snow White

Going through miles and miles of the stuff would kill my server, so just let me hit the high points first. The best thing on this set is the “Still the Fairest of Them All” documentary. It gives a really stunning look at what went into the making of the film, and it doesn’t feel cotton candy like most Disney documentaries are. It really does inform. Speaking of not sugar-coating, the audio commentary is very insightful as well–so much so that you must snicker at the “disclaimer notice” at the first screen. These comments aren’t necessarily the official position of Walt Disney Studios…and the majority of the comments belong to Walt Disney. Does that qualify as irony? Anyway, between Disney’s rather candid recounting of the film and John Canemaker’s discussion of what’s being seen on-screen–it’s well worth sitting through the film again to hear what’s there.

Kudos also for going into such detail to explain exactly WHY Snow White was groundbreaking. We’re in the 21st Century now–we can’t imagine a time without full-length animated features. And if there’s anything modern cinema audiences have trouble with, it’s contextualizing earlier films. They can watch Psycho and yawn–because they’ve seen everything in the film before, cannibalized for later movies. Same with this one. But through in-depth looks at what goes into the animation process, using the “Goddess of Spring” and “Old Mill” shorts to illustrate innovation, and the explanation of the multi-plane camera process used to give two-dimensional cartoons three-dimensional weight–the disc manages to honestly give a feel for what it must have been like to witness this stuff for the first time.

Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ad from 1937

Also jewels are the information about the voice talent for the film. For example, did you know that Lucille La Verne, the voice of the Queen in both her incarnations, simply took out her teeth to create the crone’s voice? Neither did I. Deleted scenes and songs that were cut from the film are fascinating, because as is beaten about our head and shoulders, Disney was a vicious but effective editor. And honestly, if you can imagine the scenes restored, they would have indeed thrown the film off. Lastly, of great amusement are the audio supplements. Hearing the radio broadcast from the premiere, featuring all of the stars giving their little spiels as they arrived–it’s quite a change to have Joan Rivers standing on the red carpet at the Oscars. And maybe not a change for the better. Also, the Mickey Mouse radio program, featuring Mickey and the Disney characters meeting the characters from the film is quite amusing–Donald Duck gets turned into an egg by the wicked Queen–amongst other insanity.

Even the Dopey’s mine ride game would be fun for small children to play (with help from their parents to work the remote). So by and large this is an impressive disc set, with fun menus and a Magic Mirror that has a trifle bit of attitude. Let the menus play for a bit and see what I mean. And last but not least, the artwork is presented in a virtual gallery that actually gives the illusion that you’re walking through it. So that’s nice and nifty. But–and you know I can never be completely satisfied–there are some nits I would like to point out.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Platinum Edition DVD menu

The Walt Disney biographical timeline isn’t any such thing–it’s just up through the release of Snow White, which is a little annoying, seeing as how one thought you were getting the whole deal initially. Like all Disney releases, they insist on making it impossible to switch audio channels during the film, so you can’t switch over to the commentary without going to a separate menu. And speaking of the commentary, it would have been nice to have the actual film’s audio, which plays in the background, get turned down a tad volumewise. Seeing as how Walt Disney’s archival audio has planes going by and stuff, it’s easy to be distracted by what’s happening in the movie.

The much-touted Guided Tours are practically meaningless. They both reside on Disc 1, and the first one takes you through the features on the first disc, showing either bits of things or the whole thing (in the case of the “Goddess” short). The one for the second disc is mercifully shorter, but still it offers no insight. It’s even worse, if you can believe it, than the People Mover Ride at Disneyworld. And those of you who have been there know what I’m talking about.

Grumpy character model sheet from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Also–though the virtual galleries come with your very own docent (fancy name for “person who sometimes pipes up with information”), and she does provide some interesting tidbits on certain pieces of artwork, she’ll also start talking when you come up to a part of the gallery–and she does so without warning. Which means those with quick remotes (like me) will already be browsing the art and have cut off the docent before she can do her spiel. It would be nice to be warned when she was about to speak in the galleries–they have a nice apple icon on individual works of art to let you know she’s coming once you get into each individual wall setup.

And here’s the really glaring omission that I just don’t understand: “The Old Mill.” The Oscar-winning short that was the first use of the multi-plane camera, the one that’s name-checked constantly on the disc…we get a couple of short snippets of it, but never the whole thing. Why? Not a clue. Lose the Guided Tours and give me that instead, I say.

Lastly, before I wrap up here, one other disappointment. The next release in this “Platinum” line of Disney discs is Beauty and the Beast, coming next year about this time. Why they didn’t just move on to Pinocchio, the studio’s next release, is a complete mystery. You can’t tell me that a treatment like this wouldn’t work just as well on that and Bambi and so forth. Oh well.

Don’t let my tirade up above fool you into thinking this is not a worthwhile disc–it’s a freaking must have and, unlike recent Disney features, actually is geared toward the entire family. Any problems I have with the presentation of the material is overshadowed by the sheer amount of said material provided–and it’s just flat out huge, people. This is really a fascinating and comprehensive look at a film that, unlike many who have merely claimed to do so, actually changed the face of cinema–not to mention set up Disney with a paradigm for animated films that–even more than seventy years later–they are still desperately trying to outgrow. Massive and astounding, this disc comes with a very high recommendation from yours truly.

By | 2017-09-25T00:02:56+00:00 December 7th, 2003|Reviews|0 Comments

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