Making the Grades
Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has left a giant impression on film history. This first full-length, color animation ever to grace the silver screen, has captured the heart and imagination of generation after generation of movie watchers -- even though critics warned Walt that making an 84 minute "cartoon" was pure folly.
In his adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairytale, the princess Snow White (voice of Adriana Caselotti) is forced to work as a servant in her own castle, because her wicked stepmother (voice of Lucille La Verne) does not want to lose her place as the Queen (or as "the fairest in the land"). When warned of the vain usurper's desire to kill her, the pale-skinned girl runs away to the forest and takes refuge in the home of seven dwarfs. Unfortunately, the Queen's magic mirror (voice of Moroni Olsen) reveals her hiding place, and the murderous monarch brews up a plan to be rid of Snow White forever.
Although the animators thought it might be too shocking for the audience to see the naïve royal take a bitter bite of the poisonous apple that casts her into endless sleep, parents should be reminded that some young viewers may still be frightened by a few of the portrayals in this perilous plot.
Yet when a movie manages to last through the toils of time like Snow White has, it is interesting to ask, "What has made it work so well, for so long?"
Besides the amazing technical achievements, perhaps it is because the film is imbued with a gentleness that flows from the hand painted cels through to the simple musical numbers. Snow White also offers a glimpse of the beauty of human kindness. Despite the oppression she has endured, the young woman expresses her caring by the acts of service she performs for her tiny hosts. The dwarfs, who melt under her warm affection, return her goodness with a desire to protect her.
The patterns established here work so well that they can be seen in the many Disney movies that followed. Look for a similar wicked witch in Sleeping Beauty and an evil stepmother in Cinderella. The fair maiden and handsome-though-characterless prince are also stereotypical in several of Walt's animated tales.
While today's consumers may point out that the needy protagonist presented here hardly represents an independent woman, or that the humorous depictions of the little men might be viewed as politically incorrect, it is hard to criticize the intentions of this good-overcomes-evil story. More than half of a century has passed since its conception and still the production's abundance of charm and artistic uniqueness make it one of "the fairest in all the land."
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
Snow White offers an interesting time-capsule-like portrait of the ideal 1930s woman. How does she compare to some of Disney’s later female characters, such as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, or Jasmine in Aladdin. (Note in particular costumes and body sizes.)
Click here to learn more about the historical significance of Walt Disneys Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.