STUDIO: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes
• Interactive Hyperion Studios Tour,
including storyboards, interviews, promotional
materials, and Steamboat Willie
• Retrospective Featurette: “The One That Started It All”
• Children’s DVD games
• Disneyvision border fill-in
• Magic Mirror menus
• Heigh-Ho Karaoke
The first full-length animated feature gets its first Blu-Ray release.
Cast: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille Vernon
Director/Producer: David Hand, Walt Disney
Based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale, Walt Disney’s iconic first feature follows the naive but kindhearted Snow White as she flees her murderous stepmother and befriends a septet of dwarf miners. In the face of technical obstacles and countless detractors, the 1.5 million dollar production was a huge success, laying the groundwork for the entirety of the Disney empire.
Here, the queen demonstrates how to guzzle a goblet of Mountain Dew correctly.
Remember when Disney used to be good at being scary? Body horror, child slavery, drug hallucinations, and evil mountain gods gleefully litter early Disney features. Even Disneyland had dark rides that ended with you roasting in hell.
While it’s not as dark as Disney’s subsequent (and superior) Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs comes close. Extracted pig hearts and gruesome transformations are standout elements of its simple story, and as with Pinocchio, it’s refreshing to watch a Disney feature that doesn’t pander to kids. Sure, Snow White might be a precious and dainty character, but the world she inhabits is not. Mottled browns, slime greens, and other undergrowth colors set an ominous tone, especially in the film’s classic forest chase, which is still really unsettling. In fact, almost everything here holds up terrifically against childhood memory. Beyond being a technical marvel, Snow White is still a fun watch.
Early investors worried that a 90-minute cartoon would be an unpleasant ordeal for audiences. Some predicted that the film’s bright colors would hurt the audience’s eyes, while others foretold that it would be perceived as a children’s novelty. Gathering the best and brightest animators and artists at Hyperion studios in Los Angeles, Walt Disney and his staff spent four years drawing, composing, and inventing new ways to make movies, and ultimately managed to prove everyone wrong. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was instantly hailed as a masterpiece.
One thing you might notice about Snow White if you haven’t seen it in years: it’s really all about the dwarfs. Snow gets top billing, but she’s more a catalyst for upturning the dwarfs’ militia-esque lifestyle than anything else. It’s actually pretty remarkable how much of a non-entity she is. Besides being a little naive, she has virtually no flaws, and doesn’t really undergo any change whatsoever. The dwarfs, on the other hand, all have unique, dynamic, and quirky personalities. They’re the story, which makes sense, considering how little screen time any of the non-dwarf characters get, including the prince and queen, who might as well have cameos.
And yes, you’ll also probably notice that Snow White isn’t a very progressive character. She’s valued mostly for her cooking and cleaning abilities, and her biggest dream is to run off with a handsome stranger. It’s certainly a product of its time.
With Snow White being one of the more ubiquitous Disney characters around, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the movie at least once. Disney’s Diamond Edition Blu-Ray is a stunning way to rewatch it, as it’s not only an amazing HD transfer, but is packed with extra features that are accessible even to casual admirers. More on those later. As it stands, even if you don’t own a huge television, you’ll probably still get a lot of value out of this HD package aside from owning the film.
As part of Disney’s new “Diamond” brand, Snow White includes a number of worthwhile special features, including the DVD version of the film, a number of featurettes, a commentary, storyboards, and multiple interviews. What makes this one special is how they’re all integrated into the presentation. For starters, there’s an AI magic mirror on the menu screens who comments on how many times you’ve watched the movie, and what special features you’ve seen (or ignored). There’s also a really great interactive tour of Hyperion studios that plays out almost like a point and click adventure game, with various objects around the studio triggering different featurettes, like interviews, scoring sessions, and even cartoon shorts. There’s a lot to explore here.
If there’s anything off about the package, it’s that the commentary track isn’t available on the Blu-Ray. You’ll actually have to pop in the DVD to listen to the commentary. The transfer is great, and the audio remaster is also stellar. Snow White introduces “Disneyvision,” which fills in the black bars on the sides of the image with artwork to resolve the 16:9 aspect ratio. It sounds like a gimmick, but it ends up being a neat experiment that does a reasonable job fleshing out the whole screen without being distracting.
The infamous scary forest scene
9 out of 10