(Avast! There be spoilers ahead.)
In 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs changed animation and film. It would prove to be the initial step in a decades long process that would transform pop culture, business, media, tourism, and countless other areas of human existence.
But it’s also just a really great movie.
If you are unfamiliar with Snow White, let me begin by welcoming you to Earth. I hope you enjoy your stay. Snow White is the story of a delightfully naïve young princess who evades murder at the hands of an evil queen, flees to the woods, and finds safe refuge at the home of a group of jewel-mining dwarfs.
I could have sworn that I had seen this movie in its entirety at some point in my life. I quickly realized that I had not, which is a strong testament to this film’s enduring place in the annals of pop culture history. I knew the songs, the characters, the plot points, and the ending, all without ever having seen the film. That’s pretty impressive.
The film opens with the evil, self-obsessed Queen interrogating her truth-speaking magic mirror. She quickly learns that she is no longer the prettiest woman in the neighborhood. Her perfectly calm reaction to this news is to order her huntsman to murder Snow White, cut out her heart, and bring it back to her in a pretty, shiny box. While seemingly a harsh move, one could argue that it pales in comparison with the daily modern office workplace warfare perpetrated by some members of the fairer sex.
The huntsman can’t bring himself to do the deed and orders Snow White to escape into the forest. Not the best idea for Snow as she is obviously an indoor kid and suffers from severe panic attacks brought on by the nighttime glares of some adorable woodland creatures. So much so that she passes out.
When she awakens, she helps herself into the home of the seven dwarfs who are off in their mine doing surprisingly pleasant, backbreaking work. Snow enlists the help of her adoring coterie of aforementioned adorable woodland creatures to clean the home of its dirt, cobwebs, and other general filthitudes. This scene is full of cute gags and awwwww-inducing sequences in which the round-faced, doe-eyed creatures (some are literally doe-eyed) use their natural gifts to help Snow cleanup. It’s delightful.
Snow quickly tires and heads upstairs to sleep in the dwarfs beds’ (nothing abnormal or intrusive there). She falls asleep, and perhaps because of their post-cleaning lethargy, the animals take off and fail to warn Snow that there is a group of potentially dangerous, pick axe-wielding men returning to their violated home.
The dwarfs soon realize that something is amiss when they see that their usual squalor has been tidied. They act as any brave group of grown men would and forcibly send their autistic brother Dopey upstairs to investigate.
They suspect there is some kind of horrible creature lurking beneath their sheets, but that misunderstanding is cleared up, when the dwarfs see that the monster they expected is just a very pretty young lady. They all fall in love with her immediately. All except the misogynistic grumpy who has clearly been wronged by a woman sometime in the not too distant past.
The dwarfs and Snow quickly bond. She cooks for them, they sing songs together, she helps them conquer their fear of water and cleanliness, they have a party and everything goes just great for a while. Until the Queen realizes that her incompetent huntsman didn’t have the jewels to complete a simple task like tearing the heart out a young girl’s chest. Idiot!
She takes matters into her own hands and hatches a plan to disguise herself as an old crone and feed Snow White a coma-inducing poison apple. She goes to work in what has to be the most well stocked and awesome evil laboratory in all of film. The ingredients of said transformative potion? Just your everyday mummy dust, blackness of the night, the distillations of an old hag’s cackle and a scream of fright, some wind, and a thunderbolt. She has these all on hand in her lab! Say what you will about her, but she’s no slouch and is quite versed in the dark arts. Sure she’s brutal and psychotic and quite possibly one of the most heinous villains in all of film, but you still have to admire her. She makes things happen.
Back in the woods, the dwarfs head off to work. They must know that while Snow White is exceedingly sweet, she is also dumb as a post, since they all repeatedly warn her that the Queen might show up to kill her and that she should not trust anyone or take anything offered to her by anyone. The Queen (in old lady disguise) calls on Snow. Snow naturally invites her into the dwarfs’ house, offers her something to drink. The Queen tells Snow that she has an apple that grants wishes. And poor, dumb Snow White, plagued by her low self-confidence, wishes to see the hot prince we met briefly at the beginning of the movie, and eats the apple. If you can’t trust freaky, old crones you met two minutes ago, who can you trust?
Snow succumbs to the poison and loses consciousness. The dwarfs return home, and led by Grumpy (see, he loves Snow too!), chase the Queen to a cliff’s edge. In a convenient twist of fate, the cliff is struck by lightning, it crumbles and the Queen gets splattered on the rocks below. And a boulder falls on her. And her carcass is picked apart by vultures. Seriously.
The dwarfs, believing Snow to be dead, choose not to bury her (contrary to the hopes of the Queen) but to enclose her in a glass coffin so they can still look upon her in death (nothing creepy there).
At this point, we’ve only got a few minutes left, so we know things have to resolve themselves quickly. And they do. The prince happens by and kisses Snow. She wakes up, and promptly ditches her friends the dwarfs to go live in a big fancy castle.
The morals of the story? First, old people aren’t to be trusted under any circumstance. Second, If you’re hot, just kind of hang around and kill time before a sexy rich guy comes to marry you. And finally, it’s perfectly ok to abandon the devoted friends who did their best to save your stupid life, and ultimately risked their own wellbeing to kill the most evil person in the kingdom.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a fantastic movie. Apart from being an important cinema touchstone, it’s just great to watch. The songs are wonderfully catchy and the animation is beautiful. The attention to detail, especially in the dwarfs’ home, and the subtle vibration of the artists’ lines serves as a gentle reminder of the epic amount of love, work, and dedication that went into making the movie a reality.
The voice acting in Snow White is top notch. The actors voicing the dwarfs do a phenomenal job infusing each character with personality, and Lucille La Verne’s deliciously evil Queen is played pitch perfectly. Snow White’s voice is a little annoying, but what are you gonna do? She’s a sweet kid, and it’s her story.
This film is an American classic in every sense of the word and a great start to this project.
If you’re like me, you may not have seen this movie, even if you think you have. Watch it again. It will make you happy.
In fact, you may just live happily ever after. (Wink)