I thought it might be fun to rewatch some old Disney films and examine them under modern day morals and norms, and see how they hold up. If this isn't your thing, that's cool. I'm sure I'll get bored before I make it to the Renaissance Disney stuff, anyway. Full disclosure, there are several I haven't seen, and one that I've only seen in French. So I don't have the same level of nostalgia that many of you might have.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is the first full length Animated Feature. Released in 1937, at great cost for the time, it won an Oscar (and seven mini Oscars.)
For me, personally, this one reminds me of my Grandmother. She told me about going to see it, with my aunt, when it came out. I don't really remember details, just that it was a Big Deal. And that my Grandmother much prefered Fantasia, but I'll get to that story later. She did, however, like Snow White, and had a copy of it for me to watch when I would have to stay at her house. On VHS, in the plastic clamshell case. I can almost smell it if I think hard enough.
To the recap:
Snow White opens with the old school credits before the film, and an overture, much like going to a live theatre. Not sure when credits changed to end credits, but I can see advantages for both systems. Walt Disney placed a note:
My sincere appreciation to the members of my staff whose loyalty and creative endeavor made possible this production.
and signed it with his now well known signature.
The story opens, literally, with someone opening a book, and we are expected to read some back story. Which we all know. Once Upon A Time, there was a lovely Princess named Snow White. Her vain and wicked Stepmother the Queen feared that some day Snow White's beauty would surpass her own. So she dressed the little Princess in rags and forced her to work as a Scullery Maid.
This little paragraph begins a long tradition of Disney tropes.
- Wicked Stepmother! ✔️
- Vanity being a Major Sin ✔️
- Woman being jealous of other women's looks! ✔️
Turn the page and it's more back story. Blah blah, the Queen consults her magic mirror, and as long as the mirror thinks the Queen is the "fairest" one of all, Snow White is safe. You'd think a Queen could just pay someone to tell her she looks good. That's obviously what a certain American President has done for at least the last 30 years.
Finally, we get some actual animation. The Queen, who is very "fair" if "fair" means pale, looks into her magical mirror and gets some bad news. A girl, with "red lips, and skin as pale as snow" has surpassed the Queen's beauty. She looks into the sky, like a proper villan and hisses out "Snow White." Next scene is Snow white, looking slightly more tan than the doves/pigeons she is serenading while she hand washes some steps in a cherry orchard. The flowers are painted, and it's quite lovely. The music is very dated. Snow White sings into a well and makes wishes.
She's wishing for "the one she loves" to "find her today." Her hair is cut into a very fashionable 1930s bob, tied with a blue ribbon. Some random guy shows up and starts to sing with her, she runs away. It's very Romeo and Juliet, with a dude singing at her while she stands around on a balcony. The Queen watches this from a different balcony, scowling and making herself less beautiful. Come on evil queen. You just need to drink more water, do some meditation, volunteer, and maybe take another spin class. You aren't ugly! Snow White is just younger. Do you want to marry Prince Whatever? But no, instead of working on Evil Queen, she goes with the "pay a huntsman to bring back her heart in a box" plan.
I still love Snow White's iconic outfit with the yellow and the blue and the red that she wears while running into the woods, away from the huntsman and the Evil Queen. It's quite a frightening scene, with trees grabbing her clothes and disembodied forest eyes lurking. She collapses and cries and cries. All of the herbivores and some omnivores come out to console her. She apologizes to them.
It's yet another Disney Trope!
- Young girl befriends animals. So many animals. ✔️
They take her to the cottage where the Seven Men live. It's filthy. She lets herself in, followed by half the forest. Gross. Squirrels do not belong in houses. Anyway, so she decides, with the help of some deer and rabbits, that seven orphans without a mother live there. Enlisting the assistance of these magical creatures who would rather wash dishes than poo all over the floor, she gets to cleaning. There is a german style beer mug, which is a little tribute to the Grimm Brother story of which this film is adapted from. But only one, and it's decorative.
The "Seven Dwarves" are digging in a mine and sing a song. Then they sing another song to go home. For some reason, they hang the key to the vault next to the vault. They all have pickaxes, except Dopey who only has half of one. No idea what that's about. Snow White, being such a wonderful houseguest, enters their bedroom for presumably the first time and falls asleep, along with most of her new pets. Exactly what everyone wants, to come home to a deer in their bed. And why didn't she clean their sheets when she was having the rest of their laundry done?
Aww Dopey has a red lantern! Doc trips over his words more than anyone with a phd in mining should. Or is he a medical doctor?
Grumpy complains about "females," while the rest of the little men discuss how pretty she is. They all know that Snow White is the Princess, and that the Queen is a witch.
Snow White makes grown men wash their hands. Grumpy is the last hold out, of course, and complains about "women."
It's honestly kind of infuriating. He even spits on the floor, while trying to convince everyone of some grand conspiracy to make them wear perfume and put ribbons in their beards. So now we've got some entrenched sexism of the "boys are dirty" variety, and only two characters who are women.
The other men hold Grumpy down and wash him, while Dopey eats soap. I don't know what the deal is here. Should I be offended about the portrayal of little people? Is Dopey supposed to be intellectually disabled? Or are they not even supposed to be human? It's making me kind of uncomfortable.
The stupid magic mirror tattles on the Huntsman and the Evil Queen who has no name storms off, cape moving nicely. She needs someone to clean her lair, there are cobwebs all over her magic books. Maybe she shouldn't have kicked Snow White out so soon. She could have just disfigured her somehow, if she was so hung on being the most physically beautiful person ever. Not that she ever specifies that to the mirror, so as Snow White continues to force standard hygienic practices on stranger men, the Queen is just obsessed with killing her.
The Queen poisons an apple and steps over a skeleton that is not explained at all. It could be Snow White's dad, for all we know.
With 14 minutes left of an 84 minute film, we get our first conversation between Snow White and the disguised Queen. This is a very scary moment.
The Queen tells Snow White that the men folk prefer apple pies to gooseberry pies. (Wikipedia says that gooseberries are common in Europe and Northern Africa.) Considering that the Queen is not named anything other than "Evil Queen" and Snow White is named so because of the color of her skin, and they talk about what to feed men, I do not think this film passes the Bechdel test.
The animators did a nice job on the scene where the dwarves chase the disguised Queen in the rain. We get another trope!
- Villian dies offscreen by falling off a cliff! ✔️
The Dwarves are sad and decide that they can not bury the dead Princess. This makes me ask the question - What is the plan for this supposed kingdom? If the King died, leaving his daughter in the care of his second wife, who served as Queen Regent, what happens to the realm? Or is the King still alive somewhere?
Another title card explaining the plot. The "plot" being that the dwarfs stuck the Princess in a glass box and the Prince (is this a prince of a neighboring kingdom?) has heard stories of it.
And look! Prince No Name shows up singing, while the animals and dwarves keep vigil. He sees her lying there and just kisses her, right on the mouth. That is NOT OK. Who just sees a young girl sleeping or dead and just kisses her right on the mouth. They didn't even know each other! They sang one song together, a few days ago.
- True Love's Kiss saves the day✔️
Snow White runs off with him. Well, she hops on his horse, and he leads the horse off into the sunset.
5/10. I thought it dragged on, and on, and on. The artwork was excellent, and thinking about how they animated it without the technology we have today was pretty cool. The "story" is barely a story. The dwarves make me uncomfortable, in a "is this still OK" kind of way. The background music is well done.
I could see a modern remake being a thing, though. They would have to actually film the backstory, make the "dwarves" either actual children, or explain why a group of people (there are seven of them, they don't all have to be men. You could have men, women, and non-binary, as long as they have actual names) live together in the woods. Maybe she just stumbled upon an actual mining operation? Snow White and Seven Miners? Let Snow White have a female friend that she talks to about being hunted by the Queen Regent. Have a conversation when the Queen and Snow White talk to each other or fight or whatever. And let's have the Prince just hold her hand, or figure out a different way to bring her out of the coma, and a back story where they had been seeing each other in secret for a while.