Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Original One-Sheet Movie ...

You can’t help but look back at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in wonder and awe for what was achieved so early in both cinema and animation. Snow White is famously the first feature-length animated movie but it does not rest on this as an achievement alone. It is also a benchmark for animation at the time and what Disney was producing compared to anyone else doing similar… if there was anyone else doing similar.

That is why it is so impressive that Disney took a fairy-tale which was well-known, well-told and timeless and managed to make it their own, putting that (not quite yet) classic Disney stamp upon it. This begins with the iconic characters. Not Snow White, she has become a more generic, cookie-cutter Disney Princess, although her black hair and red lips do make her stand-out amongst her peers while Prince Charming isn’t much more than standard “good-looking man.” The magic comes with the dwarfs.

When was the original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs released ...
The Dwarfs are an example of perfect Disney magic

It isn’t until Disney got their hand on the story that the Dwarfs become characters in their own right, each with a distinct personality and trait. From leader Doc, through to cynical but kind-hearted Grumpy and then the fan-favourite Dopey, each dwarf adds a depth to the scenes they are in and the best parts of the movie are when they are on-screen.

The same can be said of the movie’s villain. Known simply as Queen or Witch, the villain is equal parts interesting and terrifying. She gets some of the better scenes and considering the time this was made, the transformation scene where she turns herself into the “old hag” is a disturbing one, particularly considering this is a kid’s film. Again, she has become a timeless addition to both Disney’s characters but also movie culture itself.

Disney's Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, The Queen's Order: Final ...
Disney also creates an iconic villain in The Queen

As impressive as Snow White is for the time, it also highlights the limitations of the period and how novel a feature-length animated film was. Snow White as a fairy-tale is not long or deep with layers of plot so Disney has to try to fill that time. They do so with some extended but dull scenes. One such is when Snow White gets animals to help clean the dwarf’s house. It is clever for the time and surely impressive for demonstrating animation skills but it is also far too long and you find yourself wishing the dwarfs would just show-up.

So many moments in the film are like this. Aside from “Heigh-Ho” which is now a classic Disney song, none of the other musical numbers are that memorable, in fact they again bore rather than entertain. It is an example of how Snow White is an impressive feat for it’s time but is also a victim of it’s time, not holding-up against the standards of Disney even ten years after this movie was made.

Overall, Disney’s Snow White will always be a classic. It was a benchmark in both animation and cinema and delivered something no-one else had managed to yet. It gave us the dwarfs and one amazing song but the rest strains under the weight of being the first and having been bettered, by Disney themselves in most cases, with many of the animated films that followed.

Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Wizard Dojo
It struggles to hold-up against the (animated) films that followed

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