Walt Disney Productions (December 21 1937), Walt Disney Home Entertainment (October 9 2001), 2 discs, 84 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Original Mono, Rated G, Retail: $29.99
Once upon a long time ago, in a far off castle, there lived a beautiful, but ice cold Queen. Asking her Magic Mirror each day “who is the fairest one of all”, she is surprised one morning to find that it is not her, as usual, but her stepdaughter Snow White instead. The Queen orders her Huntsman to take the young Princess out into the forest, where he is to kill her. Unable to accomplish this task, the Huntsman urges the Princess to run away deep into the forest where she finds the home of the Seven Dwarfs. The Mirror betrays the Huntsman, so the Queen devises a wicked plan and disguises herself as an old hag. With the protective Dwarfs away at work in their diamond mine, the now Wicked Witch persuades Snow White to take a bite out of the story’s famous deadly apple, the only cure from which is the kiss of true love…
The Sweatbox Review:
Released in 1937, Walt Disney’s Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs was the first Technicolor full-length animated musical motion picture. A wonderous marvel back then, just as amazing CG features astound audiences today, Snow White still holds up as a triumphant technical and creative tour de force today.
One could wax lyrical about the ingenious personalities awarded the seven little men, or the sweetness of Snow White herself, the frankly awesome animation and groundbreaking animation effects but, simply put, this is a very important film in animation history, and is an essential DVD addition to any serious library.
Snow White created the conventions for decades of animated films to follow, even being spoofed as recently as in rival studio DreamWorks’ Shrek franchise. Fittingly, the “one that started it all” is the first in line for Disney’s exceptional Platinum Editions, a series of one release a year with insights and in-depth analysis on each film. What you do not want to know about Snow White is probably not in here anyway!
For more on the history and production of Snow White, check out our featured article right here!
Is This Thing Loaded?
It’s with the Platinum Editions that Disney is really coming out trumps! The original series of Gold Collection titles have given way recently to straightforward Collectors’ and Special Editions, but with the Platinums, the vaults are opened and anything and everything available is packed onto the discs.
First up, on disc one, a newly animated Magic Mirror – your “host” into the world of the Snow White DVD experience, will greet you. Seamlessly integrated with the style of the original animation, the Mirror offers the usual main menu staples: play, chapter select, set-up, bonus and guided tours – this last option a chance to be taken around what lies in store on the two discs, introduced by Roy Disney. Wait before you select any of the options, and the Mirror will become impatient: “I don’t have all eternity, you know” he says, “Oh wait, I do…”
Each selection takes you to its own page in a storybook, via newly animated three-dimensional menus. Whiz to the bonus features, and you’ll find the extensive documentary Still The Fairest Of Them All: The Making Of Snow White. This 40-minute retrospective is similar to the 50-minute version from the 1993 LaserDisc box set, replacing Corey Burton’s narration with “tour guide” Angela Lansbury. Animation historian John Canemaker draws on 30 years of interviews to “co-host” the audio commentary with none other than Walt Disney himself heard through archival recordings. Although the quality of the material varies significantly, it is obvious that Canemaker is excited at the prospect of enthusing over a film he clearly enjoys, and Walt’s comments have been carefully picked to make them as scene specific as possible.
The 1934 Silly Symphony The Goddess Of Spring is included as an indication of the Studio artists’ first attempt at creating a lifelike and realistic human girl in animation. It’s interesting, but maybe a little frightening for very small children – like other Disney shorts of this period, there is a visit below the bright and shiny world to Hell, from which our heroine must escape!
Either as a menu choice, or after the movie, there’s a chance to catch Barbra Streisand performing what has become Snow White’s main theme song in a new music video for Someday My Prince Will Come. Introduced by Mouse chief Michael Eisner, it’s an okay addition, one you may sit through a couple of times, and the arrangement itself is similar to the MOR versions of songs that play out the end credits of recent Disney fare.
A couple of kid-friendly features – Dopey’s (not-so) Wild Mine Ride set-top game, and a Heigh-Ho Sing-a-long round things up on disc one.
Disc two offers even more behind-the-scenes facts and fun. After the Mirror’s introduction, there’s a choice of five “lands” of Snow White to choose from. The Wishing Well will lead you to the History and Storyboards. Within the text-based History, there’s a Walt Disney biographical timeline (a look at the creation of the Disney Studios), a Snow White timeline (charting the production) as well as the original Brothers Grimm story. The Storyboard to Film Comparison recreates some of the film’s memorable scenes and allows you to use the angle feature on the DVD remote to switch between the original pencil sketches and the final film. It’s interesting to see how closely the final ink and paint feature ties with the rough drawings – Disney obviously had a lot of faith in the production, but was taking no chances!
The Fairy-Tale Castle offers a look at the visual development of Snow White, taking in backgrounds, character designs, animation tests and a “virtual gallery” featuring many concept pencil sketches. In the Dwarfs’ Mine, there’s a treasure chest of deleted scenes and alternate title cards. The highlight in the Mine is the inclusion of Ward Kimball’s Music In Your Soup sequence, fully animated in pencil test stage with dialogue, music and effects. There was talk that the scene might have been completed with full color, but it apparently proved too costly to pull off. The other scenes here range from a completed shot of the Witch at her cauldron, as well as other half-storyboard/half-pencil test animated scenes – including an extended scene where the Dwarfs find Snow White in their beds!
Disney Through The Decades, also found in the Dwarfs’ Mine, is one of the most interesting segments in this Platinum Edition. Using the re-issue of the film throughout each successive decade, this Studio timeline highlights the films and achievements made at the Studio during Snow White’s “lifetime”. A famous Disney star hosts each decade, with each part ending with the corresponding trailer for Snow White for that particular era. It’s a great way of illustrating exactly what the legacy of Snow White is all about, and a lot of fun too!
Looking into the Dwarfs’ Cottage, you’ll find more material on the film’s release, including the Premiere newsreel, theatrical trailers, audio programs, and the never-before-released RKO press film A Trip Through Walt Disney Studios. The public version of this short, How Walt Disney Cartoons Are Made is also included, as are “scrapbook” images of programs, posters and the wealth of merchandise that Snow White spawned!
Finally, heading into the Queen’s Dungeon, there’s a look at discarded concepts from during production as well as an account of the restoration of the 1937 film over the years. The abandoned ideas are similar to the deleted scenes, in basic storyboard form, but have been nicely reconstructed. The restoration sequence seems to have been lifted from the documentary on the first disc, but is fascinating all the same for chance to see portions of the film before clean-up and take in the amount of work Buena Vista Visual Effects have done to keep the picture looking pristine and the audio clear and crisp.
Alternative to the “lands” of Snow White, the individual sections can be accessed by highlighting the revolving “wishing apple” at the bottom of the Magic Mirror on the main menu page. This will present a static list of supplemental materials contained on the disc and is handy for quick location of various segments – a great idea! There’s no added DVD-ROM content listed in the liner notes, and I couldn’t get my disc to work in this way – but it seems likely that the ROM section of the disc is merely a link to the Disney/Snow White website.
While subsequent releases changed tack and provided frustration for collectors who were hoping all the Platinum Edition titles would appear uniformly stacked up along their shelves, this set comes in a double-width black keepcase. Inside are a comprehensive 14-page multi-foldout DVD Guide that lists a navigational overview, notes on the disc, and chapter index, and a Fall 2001 catalogue that showcases Disney’s biggest titles and collectors’ editions. A promotional booklet offers up $24 worth of savings and advertisements including pushes for Disney On Ice, soundtracks, upcoming titles and, cutest of all, a Sneezy and Dopey salt and pepper shaker set.
The UK release gets a more lavish approach – a “storybook” case containing the two-disc DVD plus an illustrated “mini-book” on the film’s story and history – that comes close to the later gift set editions of other Platinum titles, but loses the informative DVD Guide. The content between the discs remains the same.
Ink And Paint:
Okay, so we’ve heard the tale of this young maiden a million times before and probably seen this animated take of it a million and one times, but how does Snow White look for her DVD debut? The answer is simply amazing! The technicians at Buena Vista Visual Effects have taken the print that was spruced up for 1987’s 50th Anniversary re-issue and gone one step further than the 1993 “paint-box” video clean up. Each frame of film has been converted into digital information, much as the Disney classics of today are made, and individually rotoscoped, matted and re-printed as a new frame element, bringing out detail and color like never before. The resulting files were then transferred digital-to-digital for DVD, providing an un-paralleled picture for a film of this age. When the blurb on this box says “restored and remastered”, you better believe it!
With such a great picture, how does the disc sound? Again, for a film over 60 years old, pretty darn fine! Originally a mono release, Terry Porter and the guys at Buena Vista Sound were able to locate some of the separate tracks and re-design them for today’s high quality 5.1 systems. The audio relays great clarity in the top end, with bass and surrounds perhaps not as aggressive as a modern mix, but very atmospheric and appropriate for this release. Also included on this Platinum Edition is the original 1937 track, great for completion’s sake, appreciated by purists, and fun as a comparison to the newly mixed clean up!
Although the UK release gets the nicer packaging, this region one disc shines as an example of what can be achieved with an older library title in terms of presentation and bonus material. The image on the film is fresh, the sound better than you might expect, and the extras will take you a good few evenings to work through. Apart from the movie, I found the most fun to be had was with the Decades feature. The pencil tests are very interesting to see again after catching them from the amazing LaserDisc box set, and I expect that people seeing all this material for the very first time will be blown away not only with what is on show, but the way the Studio has preserved and presented the material. Whatever you think of Disney’s business practices these days, or their annoying production of inferior direct-to-video “cheapquels”, you really can’t knock them when it comes to pushing out truly quality product like this. Say what you like, but they really do know how to put an incredible, top-value package together, and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs has been handsomely and appropriately served well here.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?