Walt Disney’s Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937) is the animated classic that changed the entire trajectory of the art form forever. Once regarded as little more than a diversion for tots and suitable only as one reel shorts sandwiched between other feature films, Walt Disney so fervently believed in the sustainability of a feature length 'cartoon' that he gambled virtually all of his studio’s assets and a few of his own personal ones, even borrowing against his life insurance policy to bring Snow White to the big screen.
Many in the Hollywood community nicknamed the project ‘Disney’s Folly’ – but that did not stop those same pundits from attending the film’s triumphant premiere. What they experienced was an intensely melodramatic, ambitiously artistic breakthrough in film making. In the intervening decades, Disney would create many a masterpiece, arguably with more technical skill and storytelling prowess than illustrated in this film – yet, no one can deny that Snow White has endured as few cinematic masterpieces of its vintage. It remains the cornerstone for all that feature length animation has become today.
Based on the popular Grimm Brothers fairytale, Snow White (voiced by Adriana Caselotti) is a servant girl whose rare beauty presents a direct threat to the vanity of the Wicked Queen (Lucille LaVerne), who constantly beckons her Magic Mirror (Moroni Olsen) to lavish her with compliments. When the Mirror confides that Snow White’s beauty is beyond reproach, the Queen orders her death.However, at the last minute a repentant Huntsman (Stuart Buchanan) in unable to bring himself to murder and Snow White is forced to flee for her safety into the dark woods. Frightened and alone, she eventually discovers a cottage inhabited by seven dwarfs; Doc (Roy Atwell), Dopey (Eddie Collins), Sleepy, Grumpy (both voiced by Pinto Colvig), Sneezy (Billy Gilbert), Happy (Otis Harlan) and Bashful (Scott Mattraw).
For awhile, all is well and peaceful. Ah, but then the Queen learns of the Huntsman’s treachery and vows once and for all be rid of her arch nemesis. She transforms herself into an old hag and journeys to the forest to seek out Snow White and destroy her.
No fewer than 8 scenarists were employed by Walt to adapt, rework and temper the brutalities in the original Grimm fairytale; allowing for the inclusion of songs like ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ and ‘Heigh-Ho’ – long since main staples in our collective consciousness. Perennially revived and eternally satisfying, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is, as Disney’s own publicity rightfully proclaimed so many years before – “still the fairest of them all.”
'Perennially satisfying’ is also a good way to describe Disney’s new Diamond Collector's Blu-Ray disc. The improvements to the overall image quality over Disney's own 2 disc Platinum Series DVD are marginal but evident. Sourced from a painstakingly restored camera negative, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is more vibrant and beautiful than ever before.
The original luster of the Technicolor image radiates both purity and integrity that is faithful to the original hand-drawn elements. Colors are rich and fully saturated and appear moderately more refined than on the 2 disc DVD. Contrast levels have been superbly realized.A hint of film grain, minute age related artifacts and a smatter of edge enhancement are mere quibbling on an otherwise flawless transfer. The audio is presented in both original mono (restored) and a splendid new 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that is astonishingly visceral considering that the original stems are 70 plus years old.
Extras are a tad disappointing in that they appear to be by large the SAME extras as included on the Platinum Disc while omitting several of the Platinum Edition's extra features, thereby blunting the 'comprehensive quality' that we've come to expect from Disney with regards to their animated history. New to the content are two documentaries - the first rather brief and uninspired regarding the making of the film.
The second is a rather cumbersome trip through Disney's Hyperion Studios. Remote control access takes you on an 'interactive' trip through various archival interviews, images and other special content amassed for this edition. Personally, this reviewer doesn't appreciate having to work to search for this content. There are so many alternative clicks that it's easy to overlook some in favor of others and thus miss out on the overall impact of the historical narrative.
Snow White comes in a deluxe collector's set in a burgundy velvet case with gold embossed lettering, original lithographs and animation cells, and, with a beautifully bound book detailing the film's creation; all at the rather weighty price tag of $159.99. But not to dispair. There's also a two disc Diamond Collector's set with a pocket book detailing some of the film's history for $49.99 (reviewed herein) and a bare bones two disc offering for $29.99 - minus the pocket book. The digital content on all these editions is identical. In any version, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs belongs in everyone's home video collection. Highly recommended!
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)