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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (DVD, 2009, 3-Disc Set)
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Disney's First Animated Film is Truly a Masterpiece
Nov 19, 2007
Review by Mark Baker
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Humor, songs, story, pretty much everything
Cons:Snow White's voice
The Bottom Line: You know how some historic films aren't really watchable? This isn't one of them.
Over the years, Disney has overused the term masterpiece. Instead of reserving it for their popular films, they applied it to every animated movie they'd released, even the duds. But despite the overuse of the term, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs truly deserves the title. It is 70 years old this year, and yet it is still as entertaining today as it was when originally released.
Recommend this product?
The fairy tale story is simple. Snow White (Adriana Caselotti) is a princess forced to work in her own castle. Her evil step mother is obsessed with being the fairest in the land, and Snow White's growing beauty is a threat. But work and rags don't dampen Snow White's spirits at all. She sings of her dreams for true love while she goes about her work.
When Snow White's beauty finally eclipses the Queen's, Snow White is sent into the forest to be killed. When the huntsman can't do it, Snow White goes into hiding with the seven dwarfs who live in the forest. But is she truly safe? What will the Queen do if she discovers Snow White is still alive?
I didn't get to see the film until the last time it was released in theaters. By that time, I was already in college. And you know what? I was drawn into the film and loved every minute of it. In fact, I even had to hide some tears during the climax, even though I knew how the movie ended.
What makes this movie work is the characters. There isn't a lot of balance to them. Snow White is good (if a little too trusting) and the Queen is pure evil. The dwarfs all have distinctive personalities as described by their names. As you can imagine, a group called Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy, Happy, Bashful, and Doc are easy to tell apart. (And yes, I did that without looking them up.)
And that's the other thing. While the story moves fairly quickly, there is lots of humor. Snow White makes friends with some animals, and they provide lots of laughs. I especially love the poor turtle trying to climb the stairs. But the dwarfs absolutely make the movie. Any scene with them is well worth watching. I especially love the scene where they come home to discover someone is in their cottage. Their reactions are absolutely hilarious. And the "Silly Song" they sing later that evening with Snow White is, well, silly.
Granted, the movie does have some flaws. The animation is 70 years old, and it shows at times. There are a couple times when the animation freezes for no reason (it did this in the same spots on both my VHS and DVD). The humans are only passable, especially the Prince (which is why he isn't a bigger part of the film). But most annoying of all is Snow White's voice. Adriana Caselotti has a very high pitched voice that is pretty annoying at the beginning. By the time the film is over, I am usually used to it, however.
The movie also included plenty of now classic songs. Best known are "Heigh Ho" and "Some Day My Prince Will Come." Almost as well know is "Whistle While You Work." My personal favorite is "One Song," which the prince sings to Snow White. I absolutely love Harry Stockwell's voice. The thing about the songs is they advance the story. Most of them tell us something about the characters and let us get to know them.
While the film is great entertainment, it is also interesting to watch from a historic perspective. Watching this next to any hand drawn movie from the last 15 years shows just how far the art of animation has come. During the 1930's, Disney and his artists had done a series of short cartoons called the Silly Symphonies. These cartoons told simple stories and revolved around characters moving to music. This background can easily be seen in the various parts of the movie. And I think it helps explain why there are so many songs. The animators were most comfortable animation to music. Finally, the backgrounds are muted watercolors. While absolutely beautiful, they aren't the rich detail we are used to seeing today.
Legend has it that this movie frightened the audience during its first release. I can understand why. There are a few sequences which might frighten small kids. If your child frightens easily, you might want to watch it first yourself.
This movie was the first release in Disney's Platinum DVD line. And it set the bar high. The first disc mainly contains the movie. It's been restored, and the full frame picture (which is the original aspect ration) is beautiful. The audio is presented in the original mono and a remixed full surround sound. Personally, I can't tell much of a difference between the two, but it is nice to have the option. This disc also contains a game (navigate Dopey through the mine) and a new music video with Barbra Streisand singing "Some Day My Prince Will Come." The best bonus feature from this disc is the audio commentary. Film historical John Canemaker ties together clips from interviews over the years with Walt Disney himself. I thought it might be hokey and intended to only listen to a few minutes. Instead, I got hooked and listened to the entire 84 minutes, learning lots of fun trivia along the way.
Disc two continues to back stage look at the creation of this movie. They've got everything here. There are deleted songs and scenes, scenes that were considered but never animated, original character designs, info on publicity for the film over the years, interviews and information about the voices, a 37 minute documentary on the making of the film, and another one on the restoration of the film. And I'm just getting warmed up. This is truly an amazing disc of information for Disney fans and film historians.
The down side is this disc is long out of print. But if you can track down a copy, it is well worth it.
I am thankful Walt Disney didn't listen to critics who said audiences would never sit through an animated movie. Think of all the films we would have missed without this breakthrough film. Yet the wonderful thing is, this ground breaking film is still entertaining today. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is truly a film for all ages.
As a good movie, this film qualifies for CaptainD's Good Film Write Off.
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