Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (review)

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

So this chick, right, she breaks into these guys’ house, and, like, cleans it for them, but get this: she has help from a bunch of forest critters. These bachelors get pretty upset by her rearrangements — and they don’t even know they’re drinking out of cups that have been swished out by a squirrel’s tail.

Just because I’m snide and sarcastic here doesn’t mean Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs isn’t a wonderful film.

Disney’s first full-length animated feature, Snow White broke new ground and began many a Disney tradition: musicals set to stunning animation, supercool villains, and heroines with absent mothers who carry on conversations with woodland creatures.
It’s the Brothers Grimm’s classic tale: An evil queen orders the death of her young stepdaughter when the girl’s beauty eclipses the queen’s own. The assassin can’t go through with the deed, though, and tells Snow White to hide in the forest, where’s she’s taken in my seven little miners who love her to tiny bits. The queen of course discovers that Snow White still lives, and magicks the girl into what’s intended to be an eternal sleep. The kiss of a prince wakes her, and they live happily ever after. Th’end.

Sixtysomething years old, Snow White is just as gorgeous to look at as today’s computer-powered toons: velvet drapes shimmer, foliage is lovely and watercolor-y, and you can feel the chill in the nighttime mist on the castle moat. Cheery images — a chipmunk uses a turtle’s underbelly as a scrub board as the turtle laughs (it tickles!) — balance out the darker ones, like the creepy masklike face of the mirror, mirror on the wall. And the first time was the charm with the queen, probably still the most effective, scariest, and coolest villain Disney has yet created. Joan Crawford-esque, she’s got the best bit in the movie, mixing her mad potions in a bubbling cauldron in her dungeon. She meets a really gruesome (if offscreen) end, too, with vultures waiting to pick over her corpse and everything. (The queen is a nice contrast to the frightening sprightliness and little-girlishness of Snow White.)

With less plot than Disney’s later flicks, Snow White fills the running time with lots of song-and-dance numbers. “Whistle While You Work” and “Hi Ho, Hi Ho (It’s Off to Work We Go)” now sound like Depression-era propaganda, but they’re still fun.

For reference, the seven dwarfs are: Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful, and Sleepy. (I think the problem is that Sneezy and Sleepy are so close in sound that one tends to forget one or the other in the heat of the moment during Trivial Pursuit.) These poor guys. When the dumb broad falls for the queen’s old “this is no ordinary apple, this is a wishing apple” bit (Hello? Wishing apple?), and Snow White appears dead, they don’t have the heart to bury her, even after all her condescension and teasing kisses. So they display her like Lenin in a glass coffin and bring her flowers for months. And after all they did for her, the taking her in and the saving her from suffocation by not burying her, she wakes up and goes off with the Stepford-esque prince who all he did is sing to her once.

That’s gratitude for you.

AFI 100: #34
unforgettable movie moment:
In the queen’s dungeon, a skeleton reaches out from a cell to a water pitcher just out of grasp — for fun, the queen kicks the pitcher away.

previous AFI 100 film:
33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
next AFI 100 film:
35. Annie Hall

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