Disney Animated Features
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Release Date: 21 December 1937

The first full-length animated feature film ever. Walt Disney had been inspired to make the film after seeing a 1916 silent film version of the fairy tale. As his animation company became successful in the 1930's, he decided that the next step was to create a full-color, full-length, animated movie. This was a radical notion, considering that a scant eight years earlier, cartoons were black and white and had no synchronized sound.

Disney wagered pretty much the entire company on this film -- had it failed, there likely would be no Walt Disney Company today. There were plenty of critics who were positive that it would, in fact, fail -- after all, cartoons are for children, and no one would sit through almost ninety minutes of animation! They called it Disney's Folly.

Well, the critics were wrong. Way wrong. Heck, people actually watched Pokemon: The First Movie. Fortunately, Snow White is an excellent movie. It earned its creator a special Oscar in 1939 (actually one normal Oscar and seven miniature statuettes), presented to Walt Disney by Shirley Temple: "For Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, recognized as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field."

The story is relatively straightforward. A beautiful young princess; her jealous, wicked, stepmother, apparently a practicing witch, who wants her dead simply because the princess is more beautiful. Snow White (the princess) finds refuge at the home of the seven dwarfs (Doc, Happy, Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, and Dopey), but the Queen finds the princess anyway and poisons her. It's up to Prince Charming to rescue the fair princess with a kiss and take her away to live happily ever after.

The film set many lasting precedents. It began a long tradition of high-quality animated features from Disney, most with songs. It was the first in a long line of Disney animated features to be nominated for a Best Music, Score Academy Award (although it did not win). And it proved to the world that a film's characters could be nothing more than drawings and voices and still capture the hearts of its audiences.

Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de/~fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.

Grimm vs. Disney Versions:

Interestingly, the tone of the Grimm Brothers' original did not exactly make it into the Disney version of this tale. In one translation of the Grimm version, the wicked Queen gets a woodsman to put Snow White to death. Having pity, he returns with the heart of a wild animal instead, which the Queen eats, thinking it to be Snow White's. In the end of the tale, the Queen is invited to the wedding of Snow White, which has the decidedly un-politically correct ending for the wicked Queen:

Then a pair of red-hot iron shoes was brought into the room with tongs and set before her, and these she was forced to put on and to dance in them until she could dance no longer, but fell down dead.

Naturally, different translations use different wordings, and modern versions omit the gory stuff entirely.


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