Feature animation started with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, even if technically another film was actually the first to offer an animated running time of a full movie.
But the significance of this movie isn’t just that it started something amazing, but it was what the creative people working at Disney learned making it that changed cinema forever. It confronted those who said animation couldn’t hold an audience for the running time of a feature, those that said Walt would go bust making it (close as that was), and the idea that 1,200 people could work for four years on a single project and it would still be a commercial success.
What it delivered was a tight piece of storytelling, gorgeously animated and beautifully stylised. It was bright, colourful and dynamic, in a way that movies had never been before. Many of the scenes and images in it are now iconic: the mirror-mirror scenes, Hi-ho song, Whistle While You Work, and a dozen other seminal elements.
Over the 72 years since Snow White was made a number of people have spent their time over-analysing this movie. I myself sat through a lecture at film school discussing the cleanliness obsessions of this movie, and how the dwarfs actually represent seven tiny phalluses who must be continually scrubbed. No really, I sat through that garbage. No one tell Fox News, please.
My only real regret about it as an interpretation of the Grimm Brothers source material is that they didn’t work out a way to include the original ending where the Queen was made to dance herself to death wearing red-hot iron shoes. I guess that might have psychologically scarred a generation, but I’d have loved to have seen the animation! If you’re wondering where the Disneyfication of popular culture began, the evidence is right here.
Whatever people think about the characters and the story is mostly irrelevant, because this film can do two amazing things. For an animator, it can inject them with the passion for their art that only they understand. And for any child under six years old it has a Mephisto-like ability to mesmerise them like almost nothing else I’ve seen.
Anyone who loves animation can’t refuse to have this in their collection, any more than they can ignore Disney entirely. It was great in 1937, and it’s not lost any charm since.
The diamond edition comes in a three disc box where the movie occupies one Blu-ray with some extras. Bonus extras are on another, and a sacrificial DVD copy is provided for you to give the ankle-biters and avoid them damaging your Blu-ray copy.
It’s not exactly a surprise, but Disney have made an amazing job of restoring Snow White to pristine condition, the movie is presented in it’s original 1:37 ratio, with black borders to each side.
What really strikes you is the colour saturation they’ve revealed, which makes the dwarfs in particular really stand out. My only slight reservation is that the fine detail contained in the watercolour backgrounds sometimes makes the cell characters appear to be slightly out of focus due to the soft colour contrast of having coloured (and not black) outlines. However, what they’ve achieved is quite remarkable and does for this what they brilliantly achieved with Sleeping Beauty.
The audio is also substantially rebuilt and in the process they’ve converted the mono original in a DTS-HD 7.1 surround implementation. No mean feat. And they’ve also included the original audio for audiophile comparison.
What I was really hoping to see was the deleted scenes, which are both on the first disc, These are quite long and worth seeing even if they are mostly in line work. The soup eating sequence is a must-watch even if just to explain what happened to the soap that Dopey swallows while washing.
The audio commentary is by film historian John Canemaker who talks at length both here and in some of the bonus documentary material about how influential this production was and the groundbreaking nature of the project.
My only disappointment was that when I tried to access the BD-Live contents I was quickly informed that it wasn’t available from my geographical location, darkest Cambridgeshire.
Disc two has a somewhat over elaborate means to present some excellent material about the evolution of the movie and the studio that spawned it. Entitled ‘Hyperion Studios’ it creates an interactive hierarchy that allows you to explore the production facilities through a series of mini features. Some of these are a minute long, while others are longer. The section on the animation department is 12 minutes long, and The One That Started It All is a newly created piece focusing on the Snow White legacy that runs for 17 minutes.
All of this is in HD, and sets the highest standard of disc extras. They’ve also put some older DVD extras in standard definition, if you can accept the lower quality to enjoy them. On both the Blu-ray discs are also some interactive games aimed at young children, that won’t really excite the serious film fan.
A special treat they’ve also added is the first eight minutes of the new The Princess And The Frog feature in a mix of finished, line and still images. It looks stunning, and a promotional trailer for Dumbo certified another two future sales for Disney Blu-ray.
Overall, there isn’t as much here as some of the other classic releases, but what is here is pretty good and certainly interesting.