2015 Blind Spot series: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)






My contribution to Ryan McNeil's 2015 blindspot series blogathon, where I watch a film each month that I have never seen before.

A family fantasy film based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. At the time of its release, Disney didn't make feature length animated films, so this was a first and a remarkable technical feat. Beautifully animated considering it was made in 1937. The castle and forest are believable, the characters have facial expressions and shadows, and I was able to care about the characters who are likable and memorable.

Heigh-Ho, Whistle While You Work, & The Silly Song are stand-outs from a wonderful soundtrack. Someday My Prince Will Come is considered a classic too, but isn't a favorite of mine. The wishing well song (from the opening scenes) is also quite original how the echo from the well becomes the backing vocal.

The film isn't perfect. The obviousness of the diamonds in the mine is pretty laughable, but you go along with it because it’s for kids. Unfortunately the prince character is never developed as a fully fleshed-out character, which is a minor weakness. He should have had more screen time.

I had a smile on my face for most of the movie, and would place it on my top ten favorite animated films list. Even if you don’t normally like Disney or musicals, you should do yourself a favor and watch this. Definitely a film I could rewatch, which still holds a real charm today. I love that the dwarfs all have a certain quirk and they are just very entertaining characters to follow. I had a really good time and I felt I was in the cabin as part of the group.




Contains spoilers:
The film has a warmth to it that the animals of the forest (and later the dwarfs) look after Snow White when she has no place to go. Although you could say the tables are turned and she is looking after the dwarfs, cooking them food, cleaning the house, reminding them to wash! She names them Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey. However I was a bit confused if they already called themselves by those names. I would imagine they did because you can see in the background those names are carved into the wood.
Some may find it odd that Snow White as a guest would treat the hosts in a slightly preachy manner (see image above). Yet that aspect of the story worked for me because of her charm and that they are all getting along well as friends. The dwarfs appear to enjoy a female in the house. Perhaps due to her shielded upbringing she simply doesn't know how to behave among regular people.
Steve Honeywell at 1001plus questioned in his review whether Snow White is a passive and submissive character with a pretty face waiting for her prince to rescue her, and I agree with that to a certain degree. Her role at the cabin consists mostly of chores and the work of a dutiful house wife, which again could be interpreted as sexist.
The dwarfs are a happy and welcoming group, and maybe the film's aim is for us to think of them as people not to be dismissed. Dopey reminded me of the Marx Brother Harpo, and I was okay laughing at a mentally slow person. I didn't find it condescending the way Dopey was represented.
The highlight of the film for me is probably during The Silly Song, with Dopey on the shoulders of another dwarf, thereby tall enough to dance with Snow White. Other sequences I like are when the dwarfs are sleeping which is fun to watch, and when they line up for a kiss. Now I have an idea why Walt Disney Pictures have that logo. 

Rating 9/10


Thanks for reading. Agree or disagree? Have you seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)? How do you rank it with the other Disney animated classics? As always, comments are welcome

18 comments:

  1. Great review Chris! Yeah, I like this one, and the kids love it, but it's not my favorite Disney, and I think the nostalgia factor coupled with the fact that it was the first and showed such incredible potential are the main reasons this is so well regarded (I mean, AFI's Top 100 of all time? Come on) but it is a very well made and enjoyable film.

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    1. @Fisti: Thanks! Yep, I could see this appealing to all ages, though the witch is quite scary for young children! Even if it isn’t your favorite Disney film, it’s still a hell of an achievement for 1937. Indeed very well-made and enjoyable.

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  2. I don't judge films by today's standards when they were made several decades ago. At the time it came out it was considered a woman's responsibility to straighten out the men in her life, get them to stop being slobs, and turn them into proper members of society. The character of Snow White in this film is simply reflecting the public's view at the time.

    And if it is judged by today's standards then there's sexism on both sides because of the way the men are presented as needing a woman to get them to clean up their acts.

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    1. @Chip Lary: I also try and put myself in the shoes of an audience in 1937, but it's easier said than done.
      Good point that there's sexism on both sides. I don't know much about life in the 1930s, wasn't aware it was considered a woman's responsibility to straighten out the man in her life. That fits with the tone of the movie for sure.

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  3. I love this film. I think it's amazing for what it would do for animated features. I need to do a marathon of Disney films in the future. Most of it will be re-watches.

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    1. @thevoid99: Me too, love this film. I created a list to keep track of animation I have yet to see. There are some iconic ones I ought to have seen: http://letterboxd.com/mas365/list/yet-to-watch-animated-films/

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  4. I had forgotten I went into an extended rant on sexual politics in my review of this film. I stand by that, but I also contend that it's easy to forgive this film a lot of the faults it has because of what it is. It was the first of its kind, and weaknesses are easily overlooked in the grand context of its importance.

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    1. @SJHoneywell: Interesting review you wrote. I agree that it's easy to forgive the faults, and my high rating of 9/10 indicates I wasn't too bothered by the minor issues I had

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  5. I really need to see this again. In fact, I'm not sure if I've seen it in its entirety in one watch. Snow White's just one of those films that "you know".

    There's something magical about the animation from this era - I really miss hand-drawn animated features.

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    1. @Jaina: I knew about the dwarfs and the red apple beforehand, I agree it’s one of those unavoidable pop cultural items you ”know” without having seen the film. I’m happy checked it out because even for adults it has its charm.

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  6. It's been ages since I saw this but I owned the dvd and you made me want to rewatch it, Chris! I like Heigh-Ho & Whistle While You Work more than the sappy 'Someday My Prince Will Come' I guess I'm just not fond of Snow White's voice here. Overall it's a cute & charming film, I do miss the hand-drawn quality of animation, it's just so gorgeous to look at.

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    1. @Ruth: I wouldn’t hesitate to rewatch it. Must have taken a long time to hand draw each image, and it was worth the effort! I agree it’s cute and charming. Glad you like those tunes from the soundtrack as well. The “heigh-ho” song got stuck in my head for days :)

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  7. Like others have said, being the first of its kind and the era in which it was made gives it a pass in a lot of areas. Judges by 2015 sensibilities there is lots to debate and rightfully so. Taken on its own terms as a whimsical fairy tale from the 1930s, it's a monumental achievement that is still loads of fun to watch.

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    1. @Wendell Ottley: Indeed, a great achievement in animation and still fun to watch! I appreciate when a movie can put a smile on my face, and I wasn’t expecting that. A good movie to brighten my day.

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  8. Thought you're not joining BS this year?

    I watched this when I was in kindergarten and it was the least cartoon I like compared to Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland. I think it was because it felt dark. But maybe I should watch it again, it would be nice and nostalgic maybe.

    Glad you loved it though.

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    1. @Andina: Snow White isn’t so dark except the witch for 10 min, about 80% of the movie is cute, so I predict you’d feel more relaxed about it, now you are older. I loved it :)
      I am joining film blind spot series: http://moviesandsongs365.blogspot.com/2014/11/selections-for-2015-blind-spots-series.html
      I’m also (when time allows) going to do book blind spot reviews in 2015:
      http://www.afistfuloffilms.blogspot.com/2014/12/join-me-for-fistful-of-reads-2015.html

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  9. Glad you liked this one so much. I loved this as a child, so I'll always be biased towards it. :)

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    1. @Josh: I know what you mean about biased towards films we loved as a child. I think I saw parts of the film as a kid, glad I finally saw the entire thing. Loved it :)

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