Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 16 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

To say the old cliche “This is the one that started it all” is just that. Truly, this was the first full-length animated movie. Until then (“then” being 1937), cartoons were limited to a few minutes, but some guy named Walt Disney had the idea (and some say, the audacity) to change all of that. Judging by where Disney is now, I’d say he made a pretty good decision. Wouldn’t you? Even today, movies that are full-length animated films are a very daunting task and are becoming more and more commonplace. Disney’s Pixar studios have taken it a step further by creating films entirely in computers and have had fantastic results with that. Take the success of Toy Story I and II, A Bug’s Life and most likely the upcoming Monsters, Inc. and you have a formula for success. Arguably, it’s been probably twenty years since I’ve seen Snow White, Disney has a habit of releasing their classic animated films out in the theaters every 7 years and I recall seeing this movie for the first time. As I sat down to watch it again, which looked absolutely amazing (we’ll get to that later), I sensed that the movie was a lot darker than I had previously remembered. Killing of innocents, bring her heart back in this box, etc…truly, Walt Disney tried to make more of a story than a short story that would make people laugh. And for the time, 1937, you can imagine that this was very cutting-edge stuff!

Now we all know the story of Snow White and if you’ve been living in a forest all of your life, here’s the synopsis. A princess named Snow White (voice by Adriana Caselotti) is a threat to the vain existence of her evil stepmother, the Queen (voice by Lucille LaVerne). She constantly asks the mirror on the wall who is the fairest one of all and doesn’t like the answer she gets one day! There is indeed one fairer than her and Snow White is her name. Not liking this one bit, she sends her henchman (voice by Stuart Buchanan) to kill her and bring her heart back in a box. He goes off and does find her, though he has not the nerve to kill her. Instead he warns her of the queens plans and it’s off to the forest that she runs and hides. While in the forest, she meets seven dwarfs (you should know their names) and they instantly like her and they become one big happy family. But the Queen learns that Snow White is still alive and doesn’t like the sound of it. So disguising herself as a witch, she offers Snow White a poisoned apple that puts her in a deep sleep. But as a kiss from Prince Charming makes it all better and they all live happily ever after. Yes, that’s the whole thing including the ending. Sorry If I spoiled it for anyone.

While Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (named one of AFI’s top 100 movies of all time, by the way) may not hold up if made for the first time today, it was way ahead of it’s time when it first came out. As even our cartoons have a lot more plot and character depth, this was based on an old Grimm’s Fairy tale and challenged the mainstream moviegoers. And again I say that this is the one that started it all. How many great works of animation have followed this one? Countless. Movies like “Peter Pan”, “The Lion King”, “Dumbo” and “Pinocchio” are naming just a few that millions of fans have enjoyed time and time again. Walt Disney broke the mold with this movie and it seems that Disney is bound to break the mold with this DVD. I’m dreading reviewing all of the features, as I’ve been watching this disc for two days and still don’t think I’ve covered everything! This naturally marks the first in the line of Disney’s Platinum Series of movies. Releasing one a year, they will make all of their classic animations into classic DVD’s. Hopefully they can speed up the process, as most likely the arena of DVD will have changed by the time the last few titles roll around. Time will tell, as it will also tell that Snow White is one of the most beloved movies of all time.

Video: How does it look?

Snow White has been given a brand new digital transfer, but was obviously before the days of “widescreen”. Hence, the film is shown in it’s original full-frame transfer. The film was painstakingly remastered in the digital realm back in 1993 and the folks at Lowry Digital Images took it one step further. You might recognize some of their recent work up to and including North by Northwest, Citizen Kane and Dr. Zhivago. Lauded as one of the best in the business, Snow White is in great hands. Now more about the image…the colors are rich and vibrant, the apple tens to literally leap off the screen. Snow White’s skin is as apparent as her namesake, with the subtle backdrop of the forest giving the film a 3-D quality that you would have thought never before possible; certainly not with a film of this age! While a few errors do exist (the storybook in the beginning of the tale as well as her voyage through the forest), it’s very easy to overlook them as by the time you’ve noticed that anything could possibly be wrong with this transfer, your jaw is back on the floor. For a film made some 65 years ago, this should be a testament to the video presentation of DVD and how good a film can look. Absolutely perfect.

Audio: How does it sound?

A soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 is found on the disc (no, they didn’t have Dolby Digital processing back then) and for all things considered, it sounds awesome! Quite frankly, I was expecting the old mono mix that I don’t even remember seeing as a kid, but we’re treated to a very expansive, great-sounding track here. While a few of the lines of dialogue do have that “crackle” in them, thereby giving away the film’s age, the rest sounds terrific. You’ve never heard “Heigh Ho…” like you’ll hear it now. Though the surrounds are used rather sparingly, they are in fact used and with great force. The subwoofer is also used infrequently, but I did feel it’s impact a few times. This doesn’t compare with modern day tracks in any way, shape or form but for the age of the film and what it probably sounded like on opening day, this version sounds and looks better than any other version out there.

Supplements: What are the extras?

For every DVD that Disney releases with either no features at all or maybe a trailer, they seem to release these full-fledged Special Editions that take about a week to navigate through. I seem to remember the Toy Story Deluxe set coming with a printed out site map. Now isn’t that just ridiculous?!? I suppose the main extra is the feature-length commentary by Walt Disney himself. Obviously this is quite old and is edited together from different times and is mixed with Disney historian John Canemaker. However, it’s much like his Fantasia commentary and I found it very interesting. A documentary on the making of the film is next up that has some pretty old interviews (to give you a handle on exactly how long this film has been around). But the “Still the Fairest One of them All” documentary will inform you like never before. Hosted by Angela Lansbury and with interviews of animators from the old and new Disney, this is one informative documentary that clocks in just under 40 minutes. a “Goddess” short is up next and pre-dates Snow White by a few years and was Disney’s first attempt to animate human movements. As you can see, they didn’t quite have all the pieces together and it shows how much better Snow White is and what a landmark it really should be. You can sing along with the whole gang in “Heigh-Ho” in a 3 minute featurette and can be viewed as a Karoke version or with the original vocals. As you might expect, the lyrics are at the bottom of the screen.

An interactive game entitled “Dopey’s Wild Mine Ride” (wonder if it inspired the Indy Jones and the Temple of Doom scene…) is shown as you go through the dwarfs mine. Some questions you answer about the movie may seem a bit hard, but I’m sure there’s people out there who’ve seen it plenty of times and should have no trouble with them. In a bit of controversy, Barbara Striesand has recorded a new verison of “Someday my Prince will come”. Though it doesn’t take place of the version in the actual. This is a supplement, people. Some DVD-ROM materials are also included including the “Princess Fashion Boutique Game” that lets you dress a girl. Similiar to “Dress The Grinch” on “The Grinch”. I wonder if a trend is emerging…There is also a link to the Snow White website, some wallpaper, the dwarfs’ names into a variety of languages (17 to be exact) and a “Scene Builder” which allows you to create pictures that can be printed out. How very.

The second disc is full of extras as well (yes, that’s right…all of that was on Disc One). Snow White’s wishing well breaks into segments “History” which then branches off into “Walt Disney Biographical Timeline” that shows a series of screens about his life and so on. A Snow White Timeline discusses the important dates in relation to the movie itself. There is also a text version of the original Grimm fairy tale. There are also some storyboard to film comparisons with an introduction by Disney historian, John Canemaker (who can also be heard on the commentary). Four different scenes are listed in all: “Forest Chase”, “Cleaning House”, “The Queen’s Order” and “Dwarfs Chase the Witch”. Neat, like most other storyboard to film comparisons. There is also a feature called “Cameras and Tests” that deal with a more technical side of the movie. This is a minute and a half clip that comes from an October 1957 broadcast. Neat, but it could and should have been longer. There is some live action reference that starts with voice talent that runs about 6 minutes. We listen to Roy Disney and see some footage of the animators and the voice of Snow White herself, Adriana Caselotti. We learn how the actors got their parts and so on. A character design area has a few branches (this is getting quite frustrating, for anyone who has read this far down) that have some galleries. These are more or less stills of the movie, something which we’ve seen way too much of by now. What I found most interesting is the restoration. It’s only five minutes or so, but we hear from Chris Carey, Jeff Miller and Terry Porter who guide us through the process of doing the restoration, and how much work was involved in it. Now onto the deleted scenes…The Bedroom Argument, The Witch at the Cauldron, Music in your Soup, The Lodge Meeting and Building a Bed. The Witch at the Cauldron is the only one that looks like it made the animation stage, as the rest are mainly sketches. Still, these run around 14 minutes and it’s nice to see them included here. Also included is the original RKO opening and closing credits. RKO originally distributed Snow White, but it eventually ended up a Disney title (again). The trailers from 1937, 1944, 1958, 1967, 1987, 1993 and 2001 are shown and compare the marketing techniques from over the years. Interesting to see how they marked this film as time progressed. There is a lot of material that I didn’t (and couldn’t) cover here, but this should give you an idea of just how much is actually on the discs. Your money is well spent here and should more than occupy a day or two if you want to try and view all the bonus material. It’s certainly better to have it all than not to and saying this is the definitive DVD for Snow White is an understatement. This may be the definitive DVD, period.

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