Review of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

Review of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(dwôrf)”

By Roger Ebert

If Walt Disney’s(ˈdiznē) “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” had been primarily(prīˈme(ə)rəlē) about Snow White, it might have been forgotten soon after its 1937 premiere(-ˈmi(ə)r,prēˈmyer), and treasured(ˈtreZHər) today only for historical reasons, as the first full-length animated(ˈanəˌmādəd) feature in color. Snow White is, truth to tell, a bit of a bore(bôr), not a character who acts but one whose mere(mi(ə)r) existence(igˈzistəns) inspires(inˈspīr) others to act. The mistake of most of Disney’s countless imitators(ˈiməˌtādər) over the years has been to confuse the titles of his movies with their subjects. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is not so much about Snow White or Prince(prins) Charming(ˈCHärmiNG) as about the Seven Dwarfs and the evil(ˈēvəl) Queen–and the countless creatures of the forest(ˈfär-,ˈfôrəst) and the skies, from a bluebird that blushes(bləSH) to a turtle(ˈtərdl) who takes forever to climb(klīm) up a flight(flīt) of stairs(ste(ə)r).

Walt Disney’s shorter cartoons(kärˈto͞on) all centered on one or a few central characters with strongly-defined personalities(ˌpərsəˈnalədē), starting with Mickey(ˈmikē) Mouse himself. They lived in simplified landscapes(ˈlan(d)ˌskāp), and occupied(ˈäkyəˌpīd) stories in which clear objectives were boldly outlined. But when Disney decided in 1934 to make a full-length feature, he instinctively(inzˈtiNG(k)tivlē, inˈstiNG(k)tivlē) knew that the film would have to grow not only in length but in depth. The story of Snow White as told in his source, the Brothers Grimm(grim), would scarcely(ˈske(ə)rslē) occupy(ˈäkyəˌpī) his running time, even at a brisk(brisk) 83 minutes.

Disney’s inspiration(ˌinspəˈrāSHən) was not in creating Snow White but in creating her world. At a time when animation(ˌanəˈmāSHən) was a painstaking(ˈpānzˌtākiNG,ˈpānˌstākiNG) frame-by-frame activity and every additional moving detail took an artist days or weeks to draw(drô), Disney imagined(iˈmajən) a film in which every corner and dimension(dəˈmen(t)SH(ə)n, dīˈmen(t)SH(ə)n) would contain something that was alive and moving. From the top to the bottom, from the front to the back, he filled the frame.