Film Review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Release Date: December 21st, 1937 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: David Hand (supervising), William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen
Written by: Ted Sears, Richard Creedon, Otto Englander, Dick Rickard, Earl Hurd, Merrill De Maris, Dorothy Ann Blank, Webb Smith
Based on: Snow White by The Brothers Grimm
Music by: Frank Churchill, Paul Smith, Leigh Harline
Cast: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Harry Stockwell, Roy Atwell, Pinto Colvig, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw, Billy Gilbert, Eddie Collins, Moroni Olsen, Stuart Buchanan

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“I’m awfully sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. But you don’t know what I’ve been through. And all because I was afraid. I’m so ashamed of the fuss I made.” – Snow White

I’ve owned all of the original Disney animated films on DVD for years. I’ve always been a big fan of the classic hand-drawn 2D animation style and I’ve never really gotten into the Pixar CGI stuff. In fact, one of the first things I wanted to be, as a kid, was a Disney animator.

I also figured that reviewing all of these films is long overdue, as I’ve already written nearly 2000 film reviews on this site since its launch in late November of 2016. So why not start at the beginning with Walt Disney’s first full-length animated feature film?

That being said, I’ll probably do one of these per week until I get through the thirty or so that existed before CGI took over and killed the style that made Disney a massive company.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs wasn’t just Disney’s first animated motion picture, it was also the first one that I saw in the theater. I saw this on the big screen around 1983 or so, when I was four years-old. That experience always stuck with me and it helped fashion a lifelong love of Disney’s classic animation style.

This isn’t my favorite of these movies but it’ll always be special because it was my introduction to them.

I feel like everyone on Earth has seen this film but, as I’m learning as time goes on, the younger generation doesn’t have the attention span to indulge in anything old. To them, classic Disney is Toy Story 2 and films like these are relics that are probably seen as racist or offensive because everything is racist and offensive now.

For Disney’s first big feature, this is really well done. It has some issues with smoothness and how the characters move and flow but it is better than what was the norm in 1937. Also, Disney’s skill would improve with each movie until they really hit their stride around 1950.

I’ve always liked this story, even if it’s overly simplistic and plays more like a series of musical sequences tied together with a paper thin plot but honestly, that’s most musicals. And while I’m not particularly a fan of the musical genre, it has always worked for me in Disney’s animated films. Here, it’s no different and it was cool revisiting this simply because I forgot some of these songs.

This is a fairy-tale and you have to suspend disbelief but on that same token, this isn’t a film that really asks too much from its audience. It’s clear that the film was made in an effort to let its audience kick back and enjoy the feature without having to use a lot of processing power. In that regard, it works.

Granted, if you’re an overactive thinker like myself, there are a lot of questions you might have. Especially, now that you’ve reached adulthood and have a hard time taking things at face value.

For instance, the ending is kind of odd if you want to nitpick it apart. Actually, it’s slightly disturbing.

To give a brief rundown: the girl gets poisoned to death. Then the Dwarfs won’t bury her, so they just keep her corpse around the house as they build an opulent, intricate, gold and glass coffin to display her dead body in like a jewelry counter at Piercing Pagoda. Then a prince hears about this and sets off on a journey to kiss this corpse and bring it back to life like a zombie. I’m assuming all that didn’t happen within an afternoon and would also have to assume that Snow White got pretty rank.

See, there I go overthinking it like an overthinking adult.

The ending actually is fine but it’s pretty dark for a kids’ movie. But that’s also kind of cool, as it’s obvious that people in 1930s America didn’t coddle their damn kids into being complete weaklings. I’m glad that things were still that way when I was a kid in the ’80s: going to the movies at five to watch Gremlins.

Anyway, despite my weird tangent about the ending, this film just tells its story, throws in some tunes and gets it all over with in just 83 minutes. I wish more movies were only 83 minutes.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other early animated feature films.