Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Pinto Colvig, Roy Atwell, Stuart Buchanan, Eddie Collins, Marion Darlington, Billy Gilbert, Otis Harlan, James MacDonald, Scotty Mattraw, Moroni Olsen, Harry Stockwell
Written by: Ted Sears, Richard Creedon, Otto Englander, Dick Rickard, Earl Hurd, Merrill De Maris, Dorothy Ann Blank, Webb Smith, based on a story by the Brothers Grimm
Directed by: David Hand
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 83
Date: 12/21/1937

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Happy and Creepy

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs deserves all its accolades as a landmark in the history of cinema; not only is it America's first animated feature film, but it's of such a high artistic quality that it can be easily ranked alongside other enduring landmarks, like Battleship Potemkin.

Watching it again in 2009 is an interesting experience; it's mostly an oddly comfortable mix of laughter and terror, as if the two physical reactions naturally went hand in hand.

Disney and his team of writers and animators and supervising director David Hand concocted a very simple story that could have been told in a short film, but stretched it out with the use of interludes and segments. At least half the movie's running time is used up watching the Seven Dwarfs (should be "dwarves") leaving work, coming home, realizing that they have an intruder in the house, discovering Snow White, washing for dinner and going to sleep.

Another good, long chunk is devoted to the wicked queen skulking down to her evil laboratory, disguising herself as an old hag, and making the poison apple. The actual plot, with Snow White falling in love with her prince and the queen giving her the apple, is almost beside the point. But that's what makes this film so great. It luxuriates in the art of animation, watching the various animals race through the woods, or watching Snow White running scared from an array of imaginary horrors.

Snow White (voiced by Adriana Caselotti) herself is rather a pathetic simpleton by comparison. And the famous song, "Someday My Prince Will Come" is the least interesting thing of all (certainly Snow White and her man have absolutely no chemistry in their few seconds of screen time together). But whether or not Disney cannily intended all this stuff, or if he was just very naïve, we can forgive any funny little faults due to the beauty and audacity of the production as a whole.

Disney has released a remarkable 2009 DVD/Blu-Ray two-disc combo pack, though the pack is clearly intended for Blu-Ray owners. (The Blu-Ray disc contains the majority of the extras, as well as the remastered soundtrack.) The combo is also being released an entire month before the DVD-only package will be released. But the DVD side at least has a new commentary track featuring the voice of Walt Disney himself, and moderated by John Canemaker. There's a promo for the new feature The Princess and the Frog, and a truly awful music video of "Someday My Prince Will Come" sung by Tiffany Thornton.

In 2016, Disney released a "Signature" Edition of the film; according to some sources, the Blu-ray transfer is the same as the 2009 edition, but it comes with new extras. Though fairly brief, these include: "In Walt's Words," "Iconography," "Designing Disney's First Princess," "The Fairest Facts of Them All: 7 Things You May Not Know About Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Snow White In Seventy Seconds," an alternate sequence, and a half-hour making-of featurette. There are also a bunch of extras carried over from the 2009 release. I was sent a digital copy, and it also comes with a classic cartoon, Hungry Hobos. In either edition, this is a beautifully remastered transfer.

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