Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a 1937 American film based on the eponymous German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It was the first full length animated feature to be produced by Walt Disney, and the first American animated feature film in movie history.
Walt Disney's Snow White premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21, 1937, and the film was released to theaters by RKO Radio Pictures on February 4, 1938. The story was adapted by storyboard artists Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears and Webb Smith from the German fairy tale Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. David Hand was the supervising director, while William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen directed the film's individual sequences.
Snow White was one of only two animated films to rank in the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest American films of all time in 1997 (the other being Disney's Fantasia), ranking number 49. It achieved a higher ranking (#34) in the list's 2007 update, this time being the only traditionally animated film on the list. The following year AFI would name the film as the the greatest animated film of all time
In 1989, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
At the film's opening, the Magic Mirror informs the queen that Snow White is now the fairest in the land. The jealous queen orders her huntsman to take Snow White into the woods and kill her, demanding that he bring her the dead girl's heart in a jeweled box as proof of the deed. The huntsman instead urges Snow White to flee into the woods and never come back, bringing back a pig's heart instead.
Lost and frightened, the princess is befriended by woodland creatures who lead her to a cottage deep in the woods. Finding seven small chairs in the cottage's dining room, Snow White assumes the cottage is the untidy home of seven children. It soon becomes apparent that the cottage belongs instead to seven adult dwarfs, who work in a nearby mine. Returning home, they are alarmed to find their cottage clean and surmise that an intruder has invaded their home. The dwarfs find Snow White upstairs, asleep across three of their beds. The princess awakens, introduces herself, and the dwarfs, save one named Grumpy, welcome her as a house guest after they learn she can cook. Snow White begins a new life cooking and keeping house for the dwarfs.
The queen eventually discovers the girl is still alive when the mirror again answers that Snow White is the fairest in the land. Using magic to change herself into an old hag, the queen goes to the cottage and tricks Snow White into biting into a poisoned apple that sends her into a deep sleep, which can only be broken by love's first kiss. The dwarfs chase the old hag up a cliff and trap her. She tries to roll a boulder over them but lightening strikes the cliff she is standing on and she falls to her death.
The dwarfs return to their cottage and find Snow White seemingly dead. Unwilling to bury her body out of sight in the ground, they instead place her in a glass coffin trimmed with gold in a clearing in the forest. Together with the woodland creatures, they keep watch over her body through the seasons.
After several seasons pass, a prince learns of her plight and visits her coffin. Captivated by her beauty, he kisses her, which breaks the spell and awakens her. The dwarfs and animals all rejoice as Snow White and the prince ride off to the prince's castle.
Walt Disney had to fight to get the film produced. Both his brother Roy Disney and his wife Lillian attempted to talk him out of it, and the Hollywood movie industry mockingly referred to the film as "Disney's Folly" while it was in production. He even had to mortgage his house to help finance the film's production, which eventually ran up a total cost of just over $1.5 million, a massive sum for a feature film in 1937.
Snow White, which spent three years in production, was the end result of Walt Disney's plan to improve the production quality of his studio's output, and also to find a source of income other than short subjects. Many animation techniques which later became standards were developed or improved for the film, including the animation of realistic humans (with and without the help of the rotoscope), effective character animation (taking characters that look similar — the dwarfs, in this case — and making them distinct characters through their body acting and movement), elaborate effects animation to depict rain, lightning, water, reflections, sparkles, magic, and other objects and phenomena, and the use of the multiplane camera.
The names of the Seven Dwarfs (Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy) were created for this production, chosen from a pool of about fifty potentials. The one name Disney always had in mind from the start was Grumpy, or something similar. Blabby, Jumpy, Shifty, and Snoopy were among those that were rejected, along with Awful, Baldy, Biggo-Ego, Biggy, Biggy-Wiggy, Burpy, Busy, Chesty, Cranky, Daffy, Dippy, Dirty, Dizzy, Doleful, Flabby, Gabby, Gloomy, Goopy, Graceful, Helpful, Hoppy, Hotsy, Hungrey, Jaunty, Lazy, Neurtsy, Nifty, Puffy, Sappy, Sneezy-Wheezy, Sniffy, Scrappy, Silly, Soulful, Strutty, Stuffy, Sleazy, Tearful, Thrifty, Tipsy, Titsy, Tubby, Weepy, Wistful, and Woeful.
The songs in Snow White were composed by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey. Paul J. Smith and Leigh Harline composed the incidental music score. Well-known songs from Snow White include "Heigh-Ho," "Some Day My Prince Will Come," and "Whistle While You Work." Because Disney did not have its own music publishing company at this time, the publishing rights for the music and songs were administered through the Bourne Co., which continues to hold these rights. In later years, the Studio was able to acquire back the rights to the music from many of the other films, but not this one. Snow White became the first American film to have a soundtrack album released in conjunction with the feature film. Prior to Snow White, a movie soundtrack recording was unheard of and of little value to a movie studio.
Unvoiced characters include Snow White's animal friends, the Queen's raven, and the vultures who follow the Witch. However, although the animals did not have human speaking voices, their natural calls were very lifelike, and were all voiced by champion whistler and animal mimic A. Purves Pullen, who would provide bird and animal calls for Disney films (including numerous Pluto cartoons) for several decades. Pullen also produced the bird calls for the Enchanted Tiki Room attractions at Disney theme parks. During the 1940s and 1950s, he performed as "Dr. Horatio Q. Birdbath" with the comedy band Spike Jones & His City Slickers.
Coinciding with the 1987 release, Disney released an authorized novelization of the story, written by children’s author Suzanne Weyn. On October 28, 1994, it was released as the first video in the Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection. It was the last of the early Disney animated films to be released on home video. Snow White was later released on DVD on October 9, 2001, the first in Disney's Platinum Series line of releases, and featured, across two discs, the digitally restored film, a making-of documentary narrated by Angela Lansbury, an audio commentary by John Canemaker and (via archived audio clips) Walt Disney, and many more special features. It is due to be released again as a Platinum Edition DVD on October 6, 2009, making it the first Disney film to have two different Platinum Edition DVDs.
Disney's wife, Lillian, told him: "No one's ever gonna pay a dime to see a dwarf picture." Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21, 1937 to a wildly receptive audience, many of whom were the same naysayers who dubbed the film "Disney's Folly." The film received a standing ovation at its completion from a star-studded audience that included such celebrities as Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, Shirley Temple, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Jack Benny, Fred MacMurray, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Burns and Allen, Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, John Barrymore, and Marlene Dietrich. Six days later, Walt Disney and his magical seven dwarfs appeared on the cover of Time magazine. The New York Times said "Thank you very much, Mr. Disney." RKO Radio Pictures put the film into general release on February 4, 1938, and it went on to become a major box-office success, making more money than any other motion picture in 1938.
The film grossed $66,596,803 domestically when released, and has had a lifetime gross of $184,925,486. For a short time, Snow White was the highest-grossing film in American cinema history; it was ousted from that spot by Gone with the Wind in 1939. Adjusted for inflation, and incorporating subsequent releases, the film still registers one of the top ten American film moneymakers of all time.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first full-length animated feature film to be made in Technicolor and won an honorary Academy Award for Walt Disney "as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field." Disney received a full-size Oscar statuette and seven miniature ones, presented to him by 10-year-old child actress Shirley Temple.
The film was also nominated for Best Musical Score. "Some Day My Prince Will Come" has become a jazz standard that has been performed by numerous artists, including Buddy Rich, Lee Wiley, Oscar Peterson, and Miles Davis.
Noted filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein and Charlie Chaplin praised Snow White as a notable achievement in cinema. The film inspired Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to produce its own fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz in 1939. The 1943 Merrie Melodies short Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, directed by Bob Clampett, parodies Snow White by presenting the story with an all-black cast singing a jazz score.
Snow White was such a success that Disney went on to produce 18 more full-length animated feature films during his lifetime (though the last, The Jungle Book was released posthumously).
On February 22, 2008, William Hakvaag, owner of Lofoten War Museum, said he found four watercolor paintings with Disney motifs hidden inside a painting signed "A. Hitler" that he purchased at auction. Three of them featured dwarfs and Hakvaag claims these have been signed by Hitler himself, while the last one was an unsigned painting of Pinocchio.
Songs written for the film but not used include two songs for the dwarfs: "Music in Your Soup" (the accompanying sequence was completed up to the pencil test stage before being deleted from the film), and "You're Never Too Old to Be Young" (which was replaced by "The Silly Song").
On Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic, this includes "Some Day My Prince Will Come" on the red disc, "Heigh-Ho'" on the blue disc, "The Silly Song (Dwarfs' Yodel Song)" on the green disc, and "I'm Wishing" and "One Song" on the purple disc. On Disney's Greatest Hits, this also includes "Heigh-Ho" on another blue disc and "Some Day My Prince Will Come" on the green disc.