October 20th, 2006
The world’s first full-colour animated feature film has an iconic position in the history of filmmaking and in the annals of modern culture. If you think you’ve seen this so often that you know everything about it, you might find that you are mistaken.
As an animated film it is almost perfect. The hand-painted scenes sparkle with gorgeous colours and endless attention to detail. In frames crowded with animal, human, and dwarf characters, everything will be moving; a view from inside a well looking up through the water is simply extraordinary.
The story opens with a terrifying vision of the evil queen and her magic mirror, and soon a henchman is dispatched to kill Snow White and bring back her heart as proof. This is strong stuff for kids, but it is softened by the friendly dwarfs who care for Snow White. Unfortunately the weakest parts of the movie are the long dwarf-related set-pieces, one an extended musical interlude with yodeling and accordions, and the other involving Dopey and a bar of soap. These are tedious for modern audiences.
The characters are extremely diverse. Every animal and bird has its own identity, not to mention the famous dwarfs. (Anyone who can name all the reindeer can probably also name all the dwarfs.) The weakest characters are Snow White herself and the goofy prince, but that is because their roles are iconic. They are presented as models for a social order based on romantic love and the subservience of women.
In this film, the prince hears Snow White singing and falls in love with her beauty. Snow White glimpses the prince for a moment and falls in love with his princeliness. The next time they meet he is waking her up with with his kiss (!) and she’s off to live with him in his castle, happy forever after.
In the real world, much of the social history of the latter half of the 20th century in the west was about trying to get Snow White to actually take a look at the prince before trotting off to the castle. Maybe if she did that she’d decide to go back to school and become a welder instead.
I’m of the opinion that the kiss is a metaphor for the idea that the husband awakens his bride’s sexuality, previously dormant. That being the case I have serious reservations about Snow White kissing each dwarf on the head as he’s off to work, hi-ho!
This movie is well worth a look, but if I watched it again I’d fast-forward much of the dwarf business. And I think it should be chased with something a little stronger, such as Snow White: A Tale of Terror, reviewed here.