The film that started the franchise!
We’re all familiar with the storyline: Snow is a young princess (and I mean young, 14 years old, yeesh!) whose evil (jealous) stepmother wishes her dead. Furry creatures, seven dwarfs, high ho, a bite of a poisoned apple, a kiss from the prince and BAM-Happily Ever After. Snow was Disney’s first full length feature film, and America’s first animated feature film!. It’s old. Almost a century. While the plot sometimes jerks you around through the most important bits, the classic score and lovable dwarfs make it so even after all this time-it holds up.
I’ve seen this film before, a handful of times in my childhood. I remembered much of it. Watching Snow sing “I’m Wishing” into the wishing well with the birds fluttering around her was like buttery nostalgia to my soul. Here’s my takeaways from my first viewing of this film as a full fledged adult.
- The music: From the second those opening credits hit, the music is absolutely dreamy. Like background music for feeling like an actual princess. This stuff is timeless.
- The dwarfs: Like I said before, they’re real cute! Grumpy is a little insufferable but even he wins you over midway through.
- Snow: Initially she seems a little daft. But let’s remember, she’s only 14, and this is a fairy tale for children. The kids need to be able to see the dramatic irony and predict what’s going to happen before she does. So give Snow a break when she first peeks into the dwarf’s house, exclaims, “Ooooh, it’s dark inside!”, fixes her hair and walks right in. She goes in and makes the cottage her own. She’s cheery and positive to a fault. The way she mocks Grumpy when she first meets him is witty and intelligent.
- The animation: From this first film, Disney’s animation is lovely, and we know it only get’s better. Pretty people, long fluttering lashes on cuddly forest creatures, and sweeping landscapes smudged with an almost water-color effect. The animation on Snow’s face makes her look almost dewy. It could be the lack of detailing from the early animation, but the result is dreamy. The image of the light shining through the trees upon Snow’s glass coffin is stunning.
- The Queen: The evil queen, jealous of Snow’s beauty, orders her huntsman to kill Snow and BRING BACK HER HEART IN A BOX!? How come I don’t remember this horrifying detail from when I was a kid?
- The enchanted forest: When the Queen’s huntsman (the real unsung hero by the way) warns Snow away and she runs into the forest, it comes alive in the most frightening way. Trees tear at her, the forest floor opens up and swallows her, logs turn into snapping reptilian creatures.
- The Queen has her own underground prison with a mote. There’s a skeleton behind bars reaching out toward a water jug. That guy DIED trying to reach for that water!
- There’s one scene that actually made me startle. Snow putting the finishing touches on her pie in the kitchen. She looks up and the Queen/Old Hag is standing in the window smiling at her. Chilling!
- The opening scene with the famous Snow White story book describes Snow as a “scullery maid”. I had to look this up. As a “scullery maid”, Snow is responsible for the domestic duties for the Evil Queen. At first I was troubled by this. She goes from scullery maid to the Queen, to-basically-scullery maid to the dwarfs, and with vigor I would say! Then came the scene where she’s ready to serve the dwarfs dinner, and she’s real clever with this one. They try to swindle her into believing they’ve washed their hands “recently” and she doesn’t let them off the hook. She shows an ease and command with the dwarfs that quickly assuaged my rumpled feathers about her “scullering” for them. She’s now the boss there. Good for her too, I wouldn’t have tolerated 7 stinky old men who had never used soap before either.
- The final 10-15 mins of the film are a whirlwind. It feels a little like you’re dropped off a cliff, fall for a mile or two and then just before you hit the ground a big warm cloud scoops you up and gingerly delivers you back to safety. The Old Hag makes her way to Snow, feeds her the apple, and Snow falls into a deep sleep. The music kicks up, and the forest creatures ARE. FRANTIC. They run through the forest to alert the dwarfs. The dwarfs scramble and race back home but they don’t make it in time. Cut to seven dwarfs mourning around Snow’s death bed, the forest creatures crying in the window. It’s heavy and emotional. Suddenly-we get a written interlude describing the glass and gold coffin the dwarfs fashioned for snow. The scene opens again and BAM here comes the Prince on his horse, a big kiss, she wakes, kisses the dwarfs goodbye and off she goes to Happily Ever After! Now I understand why Snow White’s Scary Adventure ride in Disneyland ends the way it does: doom, doom, doom, doom, and a mural on the wall saying “Happily Ever After”. What just happened!?
For me, Snow holds the test of time.