Posted November 11, 2010 by editor in Retrospectives
 
 

Disney: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs


To celebrate the upcoming 50th classic animated tale by Disney – We are going to look back at every single release in the blog section. Find out which films did what for the writers here at Filmwerk.

And now… the one that started it all…

“Once Upon A Time” have been the words that open many a fairy tale. In fact they are words that have been taken by modern society and used in a whole variety of ways. You hear that phrase you automatically go straight to a fairytale expectation. Of course it has in the hilarious modern times we live in been taken and used on works that are anything but this fairytale-like. Often the opposite.

But let us imagine a time back when they meant something. They stood for purity, innocence, and the introduction to a world that was littered with characters who were as pure, yet to be tainted by the experience of the world around them as their tale unfolded.

Once such individual, and still probably the purest of them all is Snow White. Walt Disney could not have picked a more pure character to begin the company’s journey that it took way back in 1937. Over 70 years later and they are releasing their 50th animated feature classic (Tangled). Although the quality of the Disney output is generally highly regarded – very few titles come close to Snow White’s crowning glory. Of course if you are a fan of CGI and computer animation then Snow White doesn’t come close – but this classic hand drawn style of animated is still very impressive.

Snow White herself is often misconstrued as a bit of a doormat, whereas in reality she is just pure, happy and happy to make others happy. The opening scene says it all. She is already put upon by an evil stepmother and forced to work as a servant. And instead of whining, complaining, making post modernistic jokes about her current situation, or having a laugh with clumsy sidekicks who are constantly a pest – she is simply washing the steps in her rags, happy in her singing. Now that is what I call a strong personality. Someone who won’t be broken by others perceptions or treatment of her.

Some feminists like to point out that she is used by a house full of men to do all their housework and chores and therefore trying to say that a woman’s place is there. Well if that is true (which I don’t think it is) – it is hardly painting a great picture of men either who apparently are obsessed with riches, work and can’t clean or cook to save their lives. So the stereotypes are all over the place. I think they are more presented this way due to the nature of the time in which it is set (After all the ruler of the kingdom is also a woman!) Snow White presents a pure and perfect figure with whom the Dwarfs aspire to as she teaches them the value of clean living and how to go about it themselves without it ever being a terrible thing to do.

 

The only really two dimensional figure here is Prince Charming himself who appears in only a couple of scenes and is there more as the representation of love than anything else. We are just to assume that he is perfect for her and that is what she deserves.

 

Today his character would have been fleshed out entirely (no doubt with a couple of bumbling sidekicks who cause all sorts of chaos and comedy along the way). But instead here we get the rather creepy approach he takes – boisterously singing at Snow White whom he has overheard. The rest of us would be tempted to call the fuzz and have the pervert arrested for trespassing and being a downright stalker. But in this fairytale world, breaking and entering and operatically bellowing your lungs out to a woman you have never met, but like the sound and shape of, is what is wanted. Just be thankful that at this stage in the film it is only “One Song” that he has for her and nothing else.

Snow White still has scenes that are effective and remind us perhaps of what frightened us as kids. The scene where Snow White flees into the forest is met with rather trippy and yet dark imagery as the forest comes alive as Snow White’s tormented psyche tells her that she is in peril from the very trees themself. It’s quite the living nightmare, and the editing style of scene would give the likes of Michael Bay a lesson on how to build tension in a scene.

 

Equally threatening is the Queen’s transformation into the old hag. Black magic comes into play and again, the animation and editing skills of the studio at the time build to create a monster out of the queen through spinning and blurred backgrounds (Pokemon and general Manga may have taken a few notes here) and even the sound effects (as the Queen’s voice slowly changes to a cackle) effectively get the sense across.

With the build up of the threat of the Queen, the story has but one place to go. A confrontation between the two. And pure innocent Snow White is taken advantage of once again as the old hag confronts her with a specially brewed poisoned apple. In this scene there is use of almost a rumble bass beat as Snow White takes the apple. This is juxtaposed with the frantic hurry from the part of the Dwarfs who are trying to get back to save her. Of course we know that they will be too late.

It is here that the film climaxes with a chase up the rocky mountain as the Queen tries to make her escape. Whilst it is still dark and exciting it does take the decision to have the Queen die almost by default. Not wanting to make a murderer out of the Dwarfs we are instead presented with the prospect of them dying by her hand, only for a bit of chance lightening to strike and send her to her grave below – closely followed as she is by some looming and hungry birds.

The film then presents us with the saddest prospect of all with our heroine in her glass coffin. And as sad as it is to see the seven little men around her at their most humble, and as beautiful as she looks in her peaceful slumber – we were presented with a bit of hope earlier in the only antidote available to the spell. And of course the Prince makes his second entrance to deliver “Loves First kiss” upon Snow White.

 

And with that job done there is nowhere else for the tale to go to except for “Happily Ever After.” And we should be thankful too – because Disney have been revisiting old classics with sequels in recent years. Thankfully they have not tainted Snow White yet with this – Could you imagine current Disney minds working on this! They’d make a domestic problem for the happy couple, shovel in some of those hyperactive animal sidekicks, and clumsy servants to provide some cheap comedy and no doubt a sub-standard villain. Of course Snow White herself would probably undergo a make-over and take on a more dominant personality. This of course is just the nightmare in my head that may come to fruition should Disney jangle their pockets and decide they are not heavy enough yet. Snow White has had her “Happily Ever After” (therefore making a sequel impossible) and those words should also have as much significance as “The End.”

Steven Hurst


editor