Search For Treasures

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Feelings on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937)

I've recently rewatched Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We recently bought the Diamond Edition (although it would have been better if we waited for the 2-disc DVD set because we don't have a Blu-Ray player), and I've been reanalyzing my view of it.Let me say that my view of this films has changed over the years. When we first got the videotape of the film, I remember thinking it was a girly film, and not leaving a big impression on me. As I got older and learned more about animation, I learned to respect its place in the history of my beloved artform, but I still didn't think it was that great of a movie. I had a fair share of qualms with it

However, I've grown older and more mature (hopefully) and have come to admire it and like it as well. I think it was after reading Michael Barrier's Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age and all of the time he focused on this film that caused me to look it over again. I popped in the VHS tape we had and watched it. To my surprise, I was actually enjoying it. A few more viewings, and I was getting what the fuss was about. it truly is a good film.

First off, the visuals of the film are spectacular. The backgrounds are so wonderfully painted, filled with a wide variety of colors, but they're more muted colors with a wide variety of shades. More animated movies should watch this to get a look at what a good color scheme is. It also provides excellent atmosphere. I can really feel the influence of artist Gustaf Tenngren in the film. I think my favorite scenes for pure atmosphere are the scene in which Snow White runs into the forest and it looks like the forest is alive and ready to devour her and the scene with the Hag Queen in her dungeon.

Secondly, the animation is fantastic. All of the characters are animated wonderfully, giving them a great depth. I know a lot of people have heaped praise on them already, but I have to single out a couple of animators for their work. First off, Fred Moore and Bill Tytla did fantastic with the dwarfs. They added such life and vitality to them. Of course, it helps when the voice actors do a good job giving you juicy material to work with. However, the dwarfs that really leave me entertained are Grumpy and Dopey. They're the ones that have the most personality. Grumpy is more than just grumpy. He's superstitious, wary of strangers, and plain stubborn to boot. However, we see him transform into a more kind-hearted character as he falls in love with Snow White. That and I really do suspect that he is the true leader of the group. He just lets Doc think he's in charge, but when push comes to shove, Grumpy leads the charge. All you have to do is look at the big chase scene at the climax and you'll see my point.

Dopey is the other Dwarf I like because he reminds me of Harpo Marx. Childlike and a bit impish. That, and he is a horny little devil. Don't believe me; watch the scene where he tries to get one last kiss from Snow White. There's more than just affection on his mind.

The other animators I have to give praise to are the artists who worked on The Wicked Queen. Actually, I've noticed a little quirk in the animation that helps provide quite a contrast in her character, almost like revealing two different sides of her. When Art Babbitt and his assistants animate her (when she is in her royal form), the animation is graceful, precise, and cold, very much representing her as we know her. In her animation, we do see subtle facial expressions, like the best actors of the time. Her body language is a bit melodramatic, but it adds such emphasis to the scenes she's in. In contrast, the Hag Queen is more hammy and openly evil. She;s not cold, but just evil in that pure sense. She also has hammy, but also subtle body gestures. It's almost ;like she is revealing her true self, her more human emotions. Norm Ferguson and his assistants did a masterful job.

Now, I still have a few qualms about the film. Some of the most important story points are hard to believe. First off, Snow White's romance with the Prince feels forced, but I guess I can chalk that up to fairy-tale conventions. Secondly, I cannot believe that the Dwarfs would all fall instantly in love with her that fast. If I'm supposed to believe that these dwarfs are living, thinking characters, then I can't accept that there wouldn't be any hesitation to keep Snow White in the house. Maybe I'm missing something about her character. Perhaps I just don't understand the character dynamics of this movie. Can someone explain that to me?

However, apart from those little trepidations, everything else about the film is marvelous. I love the musical score and the songs. My favorite is still "Heigh-Ho".

When talking about story, the pace of the storytelling is marvelous. Every scene of the film flows, even if the scenes are just little bits of padding, like the scenes with the small animals. Come to think of it, they may not be padding at all. Perhaps these animals help to serve Snow White's character. Their undying devotion perhaps helps to highlight her own essential purity and goodness.

Also, it makes a great use of editing, montage, and all other tools of filmmaking. I would have to study more about that aspect of film in order to go in-depth.

I finally understand why this is a masterpiece. I understand why Walt was so proud of it.

Until next time.


Jim Smith said...

Tenggren is awesome! And Neilsen, Blair and them. Thanks for the great posts.

Eric Noble said...

The concept artists Walt hired are some of the best damn artists I've ever seen. Thanks for commenting.

JSmith said...

This is the most insightful review of the movie I've ever seen. I agree with you on most of the stuff you said here. It took me years to really appreciate this movie too.

Fred Moore's animation is my personal favorite in the movie. He also was the one to design all of them. Funny that it's also the same guy who designed today's version of Mickey Mouse. Seriously, Moore had talent!

Thanks for the very thorough analysis of the film.