The first of Disney’s Animated Canon, and a film I have watched countless times in preparation for a review.
This film has really grown on me. I’ve noticed so much in each rewatch… Let’s dive in…
The princess Snow White (Adriana Caselotti) falls in love with a prince. Her stepmother, the jealous Evil Queen (Lucille La Verne), vies to be “the fairest in the land,” and orders her killed. When the Huntsman she hires (Stuart Buchanan) cannot do so, Snow White runs away and hides in a cottage owned by seven friendly miners. As she helps the dwarves clean up their act, the Queen dirties hers by transforming herself into an old woman, intending to give Snow White a poisoned apple and end her life.
We all know the plot. It can be boiled down to the paragraph above. It’s short, simple, and sweet, right?
Then why does this film treat the plot like an essay?
The film’s pacing is a major issue here. We speed through the first ten minutes, then the next 45 or so are all about little events that get blown out of proportion. Combing throughout the dwarves’ cottage? That’s five minutes with a song. Going to bed and having the dwarves climb the stairs to see Snow White? That’s eleven minutes. Washing your hands with a song? Eight minutes. Singing a silly song and dancing? Another four minutes.
Not to deride these moments, they’re a lot of fun and contain memorable, if not iconic music and sequences, but they can be shortened to better the flow of the film. Honestly, this could be a 45 minute short, yet it insists upon being roughly double the length. While I do attribute this to wanting to reach a full-length runtime to essentially show off, and yes, there are a lot of great sequences, story-wise, the plot can be tied up tighter and more can be explored.
The prince could have had a sub plot, or the beginning could be expanded upon, and the relationship between the Queen and Snow White could be fleshed out more (seriously, their only interaction is at the end where Snow White doesn’t even know that the woman is her stepmother), but as-is, the midpoint of the film drags.
My PLOT RATING is 6 / 10 (3 / 5). “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” has an exciting beginning and ending, but also a middle that drags and has wasted potential for sub plots.
The characters are where the film gets WAY better.
Snow White, however bland sometimes, always wants to do good by others. She is a teacher by nature, helping others do good and improve themselves. She also talks to animals and treats them like people, to the point where I wonder how long she has been in solitude (self-quarantine as of March/April 2020) cleaning for the Queen. I admire her go-getter attitude as she jumps into situations head-first (cleaning up a house, talking to seven complete strangers, and taking a bite of an apple given to her by another more ominous stranger), and this, having female characters take more agency, especially from the get-go, it appreciated.
The Dwarves are where the characters get way better, yet are given simpler character traits.
Doc (Roy Atwell) is the leader, yet he stumbles over his words a lot. He takes the most initiative, and tries to calm everyone down, though he isn’t really taken seriously with his stutter. He’s sort a proto-Porky Pig, in a weird way.
Grumpy (Pinto Colvig) is the best. As an optimistic person, I know that I (and everyone else) can summon their inner Grumpy if they really wanted to. He’s kind of the mascot of the Dwarves, I see him everywhere! He’s my personal favorite Dwarf, and he’s played very well, being one of the smartest of the Dwarves. He is one of the few characters with a character arc, and we slowly see him grow to love Snow White. Seeing him at the end of the film always kills me.
Dopey is basically Harpo Marx, and he is the comic relief of the Dwarves. He has no real voice (aside from hiccups) but he has a lot of great sight gags, and is the first to spot (or cause) danger in the group. He’s adorable.
The other four Dwarves are exactly what their names say: Happy is happy, Sleepy is sleepy, Sneezy sneezes a lot, and Bashful is — well, I can’t say what he is, on account of my blushing…
As a whole, the Dwarves are a solid team. Sure, less than half of them have defined personalities, but they’re united and that’s what really matters. They all agree with what the others say, and stick up for each other.
The Evil Queen is by far the best character in the film. She steals the show, with her regal presence and piercing eyes, coldly giving orders and just staring at Snow White from time to time. She’s creepy on an “always watching” level.
The Witch is a blast. Lucille La Verne is having a grand old time with the role (she took out her teeth to go from Queen to Witch, actually) and it shows onscreen. She has some funny, over-acted moments (purposefully) and achieves more than the Queen ever could.
The Prince, Huntsman, and animals all play their roles well, but don’t have really that much impact on the story than to get White out of a jam. The Prince thankfully shows up at the beginning (otherwise we don’t know who he is at the end), the Huntsman is a kind soul, and he takes pity on White, letting her run away and kick off the second act. The animals are adorable and helpful, but the best are the turtle, the Queen’s raven, and the Witch’s vultures.
Solid characters that contribute to the plot and are vague enough to be interesting. The cast is pretty proactive in this film, with some characters letting others drive the plot when needed, but this film is a great domino effect as far as characters affecting plot. A few characters could have been expanded upon, but with this size cast and runtime, it’s to be expected.
My CHARACTERS Rating is 8 / 10 (4 / 5).
The dialogue pushes the plot forward and while there are not that many lines between all of the characters, key interactions between Snow White and the Witch, as well as the monologues of the Queen are standouts.
My DIALOGUE Rating is 8 / 10 (4 / 5). Solid dialogue throughout, but a little more interaction between the heroes and villains would be appreciated.
Beautiful painted backgrounds, fog effects, and a creepy atmosphere blanket the film. Special mention goes to the forest chase scene, the transformation scene, and the final battle. All still hold up incredibly well today.
My EFFECTS Rating is 10 / 10 (5 / 5).
The songs in this film are all really good, and are staples of Disney tradition and history. Several jaunty tunes and fun beats.
“I’m Wishing” has really cool echo effects for the time and is cute and simple.
For a character that gets less than ten minutes of screentime, the Prince has “One Song” that is nicely orchestrated but nothing that special.
“With a Smile and a Song” combines animal sounds with Adriana Caselotti’s vibrato is just plain adorable.
“Whistle While You Work” is a bit faster and has more life, and is equally adorable. A fun song to chores to while at home.
“Heigh Ho” starts with what I call “Dig Dig Dig”, detailing the Dwarves’ job, and then goes into the best song in the film. Seriously, who wouldn’t be roused into action by this? Heigh Ho!
“The Dwarves’ Yodel Song” AKA “Silly Song”, gives a little more characterization to the dwarves, and it’s plain fun. Definitely a toe tapper.
“Someday My Prince Will Come” is the showstopper. The haunting, solemn vocals speak truth and love. Beautiful. Just beautiful.
The score is also really good, especially in regards to the Queen, Witch, and other tense situations. The orchestra flares and swells as the songs go on, and even when a bow tensely goes over a string of a violin, the score is still effective.
My MUSIC Rating is 10 / 10 (5 / 5). The songs may be simple, but man, they are effective for capturing the mood of the scene.
Initially while writing this, I thought I was going to give this a lower rating, but upon reflection, it actually holds up pretty well. Sure, there are lulls in the action, dialogue, and plot, but this one is well-remembered for several reasons. The music and effects are excellent for their time, the characters and dialogue are very well done, and while the plot has some faults, it’s impressive that this film was even made at all. The film cost over one million dollars to create, but it was all worth it, getting a nomination for Best Original Score, and a year later, getting an honorary Oscar and seven small Oscars presented to Disney himself by Shirley Temple.
My OVERALL Rating is 84%
Stay tuned, tomorrow we’ll be reviewing… One second, there’s someone yelling outside my window…
“Sir! Would you please stop yelling PINOCCHIOOOOOO!…”