The one that started it all. The fairest of all time. One of the greatest animated film in the history of Disney animation. These are three common ways to describe this movie and they all work because without it, the Disney company would not continue making feature-length animated films nor would they be able to take the risks they took. With all the risks put into this one behind the scene, it is startling to even figure that this was once dubbed to be “Disney’s Folly” for if it failed, animation and cartoons would have nothing to thank and would have faded with no respect left from the public eye. Fortunately, “Disney’s folly” was not a folly and became a monster of a hit at the time.
Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom lives an Evil Queen a.k.a. Grimhilde (Lucille La Verne) obsessed with her vanity. She approaches her Magic Mirror (Moroni Olsen) and asks who is the fairest in all the land. When he says the fairest is Snow White (Adriana Caselotti) who is recently visited by an unnamed prince (Harry Stockwell), she flips her lid and has Humbert the Huntsman (Stuart Buchanan) take her out into the woods to have her killed and her heart delivered. When he tries to do so, he stops and cannot do it while urging her to run into the woods and never look back. She runs and finds a cottage that is inhabited by seven dwarfs: Doc (Roy Atwell), Grumpy (Pinto Colvig), Sleepy (Colvig), Happy (Otis Harlan), Bashful (Scotty Mattraw), Sneezy (Billy Gilbert) and Dopey (Eddie Collins). She befriends them, washes for theme and lives with them. Meanwhile, the Evil Queen asks her Magic Mirror again and finds that Snow White is still alive. She disguises herself as a old hag and heads to the cottage with a poison apple in tow. She offers Snow White the apple and she falls to her death, but only true love’s kiss can break the place. This is left in the hands of the prince and the dwarfs to see if she may wake up once more.
I genuinely love this movie from start to finish. This film knows what it must provide and it provides it with simple storytelling (a recurring theme in this countdown) and delivers a movie reliant on the viewer’s attention and investment. It captures the hearts of those watching it by roping into a story filled with joy and happiness, so that when the thrills and sadness creep in, it genuinely gets them to either be terrified or cry your eyes out. I once watched this film in complete silence from beginning to end and noticed a tear drop at the end when the prince comes and saved her. I was hooked throughout and ready for the happy ending. the film is genius in making the viewer work for the happy ending by allowing their time to be spent in this world waiting for happily ever after to come. In fact, isn’t that what all cinema truly in the end? The viewer constantly trying to get to the end result hoping for a true resolution, good or bad. This is Cinema 101 and it gets an A+ for even getting to that point.
The animation is top notch as it is the literal interpretation of a painting come to life on the big screen. Every frame, every cells and every line of water color and paint is on display to show the world what a work of art it is. It adds a realistic layer to itself, thanks to the introduction of the multi-plane camera to separate cels and give the illusion of scope and camera zooms and pans. It was innovative to see that in animation as opposed to the flatness of previous short cartoons and such. It gives that extra layer not just to the design, but the performances of the actors. They come to life with the true-to-life animation and exceed what Disney was capable at the time. Snow White herself stands out by capturing a sweet nature girl constantly in fright, showing off utter happiness and the power of song. Speaking of which, the music is timeless with “Someday My Prince Will Come” getting me every time. The humor in it is great to sticking to comedic slapstick, wordplay and clever sight gags galore. It is a culmination of their greatest work with Silly Symphonies into one film and proved that Disney was ready to continue on taking a chance with animation and getting broader with their studio. The studio is all about risks and seems to be a recurring theme. Their biggest risk was yet to come…as our number one film.
Critic’s Quote: “Nothing quite like it has been done before; and already we have grown impolite enough to clamor for an encore. Another helping, please!” – Frank S. Nugent, New York Times, January 14, 1938