If I walked up to completestrangers—just normal people out on the street—and asked them if they had everseen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,I bet over half of them would say yes. Those who answer no, I then would bethave at least heard of it. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is aclassic. Even though it came out nearly a century ago, people still talk aboutit frequently today. And that’s because of how revolutionary it was. Not onlyin its techniques but in its style and story-telling as well.
And this is largelydue to Walt Disney. The film’s creation faced a lot of adversity, but it heldout and the result became a success. So, despite being called”Disney’s Folly,” Snow White and theSeven Dwarfs became the first full-length animated feature in color andwith sound because of Walt Disney and his maxim, “You don’t know what you cando unless you try.”Walt Disney was a creativegenius.
Without his creativity and determination, the film would have beenimpossible. There are numerous accounts of these two traits, ranging from hislive portrayals of characters to his desire for a three-dimensional feel—whichled to the invention of his own multiplane camera. As well, having read theGrimm’s original, “Little Snow White” and then watching Snow White, I can see Walt’s deliberate changes. He alteredelements of the story so it would be more appealing to viewers. He addedromance. He softened the violence. He made it a story that engaged people andtouched their hearts. He had a knack for that—touching people’s hearts.
However, Walt Disney didn’thave an easy life. “Walt Disney’s adolescent years were ruled by a repressive,increasingly cruel father who was incapable of love and affection.” He was born in Chicago,Illinois on December 5th, 1901. He grew up on a farm and had threeolder brothers and a younger sister. However, despite these siblings, “it hasbeen assumed that Disney embraced the animals around the farm because of lackof companionship in his family.
” Hisfather, Elias Disney, was very strict and political.Though Elias ran his entire”household with an iron fist and did not shrink from imposing his authority byphysical punishment,” he seemed to have it out for Walt. He rode his back,cracking down on him for even minor things.
“Elias’s physicalintimidation seems to have left deep scars on his son’s emotional makeup.” WaltDisney was a creative and determined person, and no one can deny him of that.However, there were instances with his employees where “he was often impenetrable,distant and brusque, and considered those who left or who opposed his will tobe traitors.
” This was only a side of Walt Disney, though, and not one that wascommonly seen. For the most part, he was as people know him: humble, bold, andpassionate.There is more to Walt’shistory than his abusive years with his father, though. In high school—heattended McKinley High School in Chicago—Walt was a cartoonist for the schoolpaper. At 16, though, he quit school to join the Army. He was rejected forbeing underage. Rather than return to school, “he joined the Red Cross and wassent to France for a year to drive an ambulance.” When he returned to the U.
S.,he settled in Kansas City, where he pursued a career as a newspaper artist. Itwasn’t long before he was introduced to animation, though, and quicklydeveloped a fascination for it. So, he joined the “infant animation industry”with his brother Roy. After early success with Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney becamevery adventurous and introduced “synchronized sound, full-color three-stripTechnicolor, feature-length cartoons and technical development in cameras.
” Allthese advancements furthered the development of animated film. However, thecompany that he was creatively heading, needed something more to grow. And Walt had known that “more” was feature-lengthfilms. They would generate the necessary income that would allow for thecompany to expand. However, when he took on Snow White, there were many criticsand people sharing their doubts.
Walt displayed his courage and resolve, notletting their doubt phase him, and was unmoved by their slander and negativity.In result, he produced a classic.And Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs isa classic because of its “firsts” and its engaging story. It was the firstfull-length animated feature in color and with song. And its storyline is anappealing twist on a known tale.The story is based off”Little Snow White,” a short story by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Itis very close to the story, in terms of the characters and setting. However,there are some obvious differences.
For one, in the tale, the prince wakes SnowWhite because one of his servants—who was carrying her coffin—missteps andstumbles, and the movement dislodges a piece of the poisoned apple from herthroat. In the film, the prince wakesher with a kiss. There are other notable differences—such as minor changes withthe characters—but this one really shows how the movie was created to be moreappealing. It brought in romance. And it softened the tale, which was kind ofgruesome—especially for how the queen ended. Besides having a fascinatingand exciting story, the film also had wondrous representations of the characterswho made up the story. Snow White and theSeven Dwarfs had a realistic portrayal of humans. Even though it wasanimation, the feelings and movements were so realistic—in comparison to prioranimations—that it was easy to connect with the characters.
As a viewer, yousympathized with Snow White and came to love the dwarves. However, as JohnCanemaker said, “One of the greatest challenges in making this film was thedepiction of the human characters.” The company went through many differentconcepts and ideas for the queen, Snow White, the prince, as well as thedwarves. In an earlier short created by Walt, there were dwarves, but they wereall the same—they were doing the same thing and appeared the same. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, thedwarves are “definite individual characters.” These distinct, lovablecharacters really brought the animation to life, aiding in the film’s success.And really, no one can arguethat Snow White and the Seven Dwarveswasn’t a success.
On its first trip around the world, the film grossed$8,000,000. And while a large part of this success came from the film itself,there was also tons of advertising for it. The company was even selling toys ofthe dwarves! This beckoning of attention to the movie’s release created a lotof excited anticipation for it. However, though there was a lot of hypesurrounding the film before it was released, there was also a lot of criticismdirected at Walt Disney. The company didn’t have a lot of money at the time,and there was also the fact of whatWalt wanted to achieve with the film.
His desire for a three-dimensional feeland a more realistic portrayal of humans seemed impossible to critics, so theywrote his endeavors off as foolish. But their opinion didn’t end up mattering.Despite what they might have thought of the film before its release, it turnedout a hit.Besides Walt Disney’sdetermination, another contributor the film’s success was its technology. “In1935, when he (Walt) began to prepare for it, he felt it needed an illusion ofdepth.
” Walt Disney didn’t want SnowWhite and the Seven Dwarfs to feel like the animations and shorts beforeit; he was “afraid that eight minutes of flat, one-dimensional animation mightbe hard for the public to take.” To achieve this illusion of depth, heexperimented with a device he invented: the multiplane camera. The multiplane camera was invented to give thebackgrounds a three-dimensional and more realistic feel. Thus, the backgroundswere separated into multiple planes. The first evidence of similar techniqueswas in 1926 in The Adventures of PrinceAchmed. After that, Ub Iwerks actually invented the multiplane camera in1933. Then, finally, Walt Disney had his own multiplane camera invented in1937.
Other technology used was the drawing and painting itself—thecel-animation. And this was using that art for a film. So, it was very tedious and lengthy work. The cells, orimages, were two-sided.
One side had the lines which were to be inked. Theother side was where the images would be painted—basically, coloring in thelines that were visible from the other side. Once completed, the cell was thentaken to be shot by the multiplane camera. And 24 cells created 1 second offilm. For Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,there were over 200,000 cells. Though this meant creating the film would take awhile, it ended up being worth it.
As such, another reason why Snow Whiteand the Seven Dwarfs was so revolutionary was because of the multiplane camera and traditional animation. Byseparating the background into multiple planes, each plane was able to move ata different speed—and just move ingeneral—to give a more realistic and three-dimensional feel. Walt Disneyexplained it by having a painting with a large, luminous moon. With oldcameras, they would have to zoom in and out on the shot, and that just made themoon grow larger or smaller with the rest of the image. With the multiplanecamera, they were able to zoom in and have the moon stay the same size, large,while the rest of the image grew smaller. This made the shots more realistic.And the traditional animation contributed to this realism as well. With thetwo-sided cells, on the side with the paint, some of the characters—Snow White,specifically—would have real make-upadded to them.
So, both technologies—the traditional animation and the multiplanecamera—really aided in the success and the acquirement of fame for the film.Now, I have included a lotabout the film’s framework. However, I have only barely touched on the story.And when I did, I focused on its effect more so than its contents. The story itselfis very engaging and beautiful, though, so I will dive more into it.The film opens with a shot ofa decorated book. The book opens and you’re taken into a story where SnowWhite, a princess who is stepdaughter to an evil Queen, is dressed poorly,nothing like a princess, and it’s revealed that this is because the Queen isjealous of Snow White.
She has Snow White act as her maid. The expositioncontinues as you see the Queen confer with a Magic Mirror, asking it, “Mirror, Mirroron the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” In which, the Magic Mirror repliesto be her. However, that changes one day, as the mirror’s answer says SnowWhite “is a thousand times more beautiful than you.” As the Queen is being toldthis, Snow White is down in the courtyard. She is singing, and her high, sweetvoice is soon joined by another—the prince’s.
The prince, having heard thebeautiful voice, sought it out and discovered Snow White. Snow White, startled, runs inside. However,the prince begs for Snow White to come back out. She succumbs to the balcony,where the prince sings to her.The Queen, angered by therevelation that Snow White’s beauty is superior to hers—as well as theinteraction occurring outside—demands Snow White’s death. She calls upon theHuntsman, whom she orders to kill Snow White and bring her heart back to theQueen.
He is ordered to take her out into the forest, away from any pryingeyes, and kill her. The Huntsman is not keen to do the Queen’s bidding.However, he is bound by orders. So, he takes Snow White out into the forest.Snow White picks flowers and plays with the animals, seeming very happy. Whileshe is helping a baby animal find its parents, the Huntsman advances. Heunsheathes his dagger and prepares to strike.
Snow White notices this andscreams. The Huntsman, perhaps because he stared her vulnerability and kindnessin the face, drops the dagger, unable to carry out the order. Demeanorcompletely changed, the Huntsman begs for Snow White’s forgiveness, and alertsher to the Queen’s hatred—which has grown so much that she wants Snow Whitedead. Snow White, heeding this, flees through the woods. However, as she isrunning, her fear appears to her in large, intimidating manifestations.
Eventually,the fear and running become too much, and Snow White falls to the ground. Herfear soon disappears as the woods soften and animals come out. Snow Whitebefriends them, sings to them, and asks if they know of place where she canhide.The animals, happy to helpSnow White, lead her to a cottage. When she enters, she discovers the house isempty and dirty. Snow White cleans the house, with the help of the animals,thinking perhaps the owner will let her stay if she does.
The seven dwarfs, whoown the cottage, are away at work. They are in a mine, digging for diamonds. Aftershe has cleaned the entire house, Snow White falls asleep, though not on justone bed. The dwarves, on their wayhome, notice a light on from inside the cottage.
Concluding that a monster hastaken up residence in their home, they approached the cottage cautiously. Theyenter the house, but are wary as they search the first floor. They find nothingand continue up to the second floor, where they find Snow White asleep. SnowWhite awakes soon after they discover her and befriends each of them.
Snow White prepares them dinner, but has thedwarves wash before she serves it to them.While this is happening, backin the castle, the Queen confers with her Magic Mirror. As she asks it the samequestion she does every day, though this time expecting to hear that she, onceagain, is the fairest of them all, the Queen is surprised when it answers thatSnow White, still alive, is the fairest of them all. The Magic Mirror alsotells her that the Huntsman gave her a fake heart, a pig’s heart. Enraged, theQueen decides she will kill Snow White herself.
She disguises herself as an oldwoman to deceive Snow White. She then decides to use a poisoned apple to sendSnow White into the Sleeping Death.While the Queen is plotting,Snow White is preparing the dwarves for bed, growing closer to them. The Queensets out for Snow White soon after.The next morning, the dwarvesleave for the mine.
Grumpy, in passing, warns Snow White to not let anystrangers inside the house. After they leave, the Queen, disguised as an oldlady, approaches the cottage and Snow White. She offers Snow White the poisonedapple.
Snow White is about to accept it, when the forest animals, sensing thedanger from the vultures flying overhead, try to attack her. Snow White, takingpity on the old woman who was victimized by the animals, invites her inside.The animals, still trying to save Snow White, rush to the mine, where theyalert the dwarves to what’s happening. The dwarves, once made aware, rush backto the cottage.As this is happening, theQueen has convinced Snow White to take a bite from the apple by claiming it tobe a Wishing Apple—one that will make any of her wishes come true. Snow Whitetakes a bite and immediately falls into the Sleeping Death.
The dwarvesdiscover the Queen, and what she has done, and chase her up a cliff. Cornered,the Queen tries to crush them with a boulder. However, that doesn’t work, andshe is pushed off the cliff by a bolt of lightning, and the same boulder crushesher. Having dealt with the Queen, the dwarves return to the cottage. Both thedwarves and the animals mourn Snow White, who appears dead. They place her in aglass coffin, which they then take and set up in the forest. Not long after,the Prince arrives.
Mourning, he sings to Snow White’s dead body. He ends thesong by kissing her. His kiss breaks the spell of the Sleeping Death, and SnowWhite wakes up.The film ends with Snow Whitesaying goodbye to the dwarves and the forest animals, and riding off into thesunset with the Prince.The story is sound allaround. It has sweet moments and tense moments, and it engages you right offthe bat.
Though Snow White is reveredfor its techniques, its story can’t be dismissed either. And that’s thanks toWalt Disney.In conclusion, without WaltDisney, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfswould have been impossible to create. His creativity and passion anddetermination led to the appealing, new light of the story and its characters,as well as to the pursuit of a three-dimensional feel—which, in turn, lead tothe invention of his own multiplane camera. The story elements and thisillusion of depth made the film revolutionary, as well as the fact that it wasthe first full-length animated feature in color and with sound.
Walt Disney took animationfurther. He explored storytelling in animation. He explored depth in animation.He explored cel-animation. When he went into the “infant animation industry”with his brother, he had ideas. And those ideas became real, tangible thingsand achievements through his creativity and determination. Snow White was just one of them.
I think animation would notbe where it is today without Walt Disney—or, at least, not have arrived atwhere it is now by now. Of course,there were other artists and creators right beside Disney or very closebehind—and even a few ahead—but I don’t think any of them really possessed thesame passion and determination as Walt did. Heworked all the time. But for him, it seems like it didn’t even feel likework. From what I have researched, he loved what he did.
He had a true passionfor it. And that passion is very visible in SnowWhite—and not just the film itself, but also the creation of it. Despite the odds being stacked against him, WaltDisney, through creativity, ingenuity, and passion, created one of the greatestclassics of all time: Snow White and theSeven Dwarfs, a revolutionary film that changed the game of animation.