Before you go thinking that I am getting soft on Disney, let me offer to you some valid reasons for watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Foremost, it was the first color anything to be shown in movie theaters. Think about that for a second. Today, we take for granted that what we see on the screen is the same hue as what our eyeballs see naturally. For the first couple decades of motion pictures that was not the case. Instead, it was black and white, though a more proper way of describing it would be every shade of gray you can imagine, no pun intended (believe me). The movie also came at a time when Disney was not the planet spanning entertainment conglomerate as we now know it. In fact, the man behind the Mouse himself, Walt, leveraged practically everything he owned to make this classic. The plaudits that came his way for his biggest revolution to date in the movie industry for today’s film is really what put Disney on the map. To that point, he was a maverick animator. Afterwards, he was on his way to being Walt Disney and everything else to come with that name.
Now that I have talked around my reasons for watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, my description of the plot will probably not make it seem all that special. It is an animated musical, combining two elements that are not, to say the least, my favorite. Anyway, there is a young princess who lost her parents, and has been put in the charge of her step mother the Evil Queen (voiced by Lucille La Verne). I am talking, of course, about the title character, Snow White (voiced by Adrianna Caselotti). The Evil Queen is not just, well, evil, but also vain, particularly when it comes to her beauty. To ensure that she remains the “fairest of them all” according to the magic mirror on her wall (voiced by Moroni Olsen), the Evil Queen forces Snow White to labor in rags as a cleaning lady. This does not deter the eternally graceful and happy Snow White, singing to the birds and any other living thing within earshot while she works. She is content to do so until one day her bubble is intruded upon by Prince Charming (voiced by Harry Stockwell). In turn, he is immediately charmed despite her coyness. Whatever it is that happens between the two, it is enough to convince the mirror that the Evil Queen is no longer the fairest. She does not take this development well. Summoning the Huntsman (voiced by Stuart Buchanan), she orders him to take Snow White into the woods under the pretext of picking wild flowers. Once there, he is to murder her, cut out her heart, and bring it back in a box. So, yeah, pretty dark. Too dark as well for the Huntsman, who tells Snow White to flee into the woods. After a freak out where she sees monsters in practically everything around her, she slowly calms down and literally begins to see the forest for the trees. Sorry, I could not resist. She also sees the cute animals, with whom she can apparently communicate, and they lead her to a quaint hut. When nobody answers her knock, she decides to go inside and mistakes the abode for belonging to children. I do not understand the logic, but she decides to clean up the mess she finds. It turns out to belong to the other half of the title, the Seven Dwarfs. They mine diamonds. After their hard day at work, they sing their way home (everybody sings in this film) and are surprised to find a woman sleeping in their beds. In fact, they are about to beat her to death until her beauty is revealed to them. In order to convince them to allow her stay, she volunteers to cook and clean for them, to which they all agree. This is slightly misogynistic, of course, but it is taken to another level by Grumpy (voiced by Pinto Colvig), who just thinks all women are the worst. Anyway, she settles in with them, basically doing what she had been doing for the Evil Queen. Speaking of her, the mirror tells her that Snow White is still alive, meaning the Huntsman lied to her and that she is still not the fairest. She decides to take matters into her own hands by making her hands into those of a withered old lady. I suppose I should mention she is also a witch. She also uses those powers to make a poisoned apple she intends to give to Snow White. For whatever reason, the Evil Queen goes with the potion that will make Snow White fall into a deep sleep instead of killing the young woman. The Evil Queen also dismisses the fine print in her spell book that says that love’s first true kiss can revive the person who bites from the fruit. Anyway, things transpire as she plans. Yet, the furry creatures warn the dwarves, and they rush back to their house. While they are not in time to save Snow White, they do chase the Evil Queen into the mountains and off the side of a cliff, falling to her death. This leaves them to create a glass enclosure for Snow White in which she lies in state. This does not last as long as you might think as Prince Charming soon comes along, delivers his smooch, and they live happily ever after.
There are many directions a Catholic reviewer can go with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There is a certain parallel between the apple given to Snow White to the one consumed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Both Eve and Snow White are tricked by evil into taking the fruit, although the latter had been given no rules about avoiding the fruit. You could also talk about the Seven Dwarves as metaphors for different states of being that also have a Biblical basis. What I was drawn to more, though, is a brief scene after Snow White’s first day with her hosts. As she is about to go to bed, she prays, thanking God for them. I appreciate this for many reasons. First, it is something you see rarely in films these days. Even better, though, is the subject matter of that prayer. When Jesus commissioned His Disciples to spread the Word of God in His name, one of the things he told them to do was to bless every house they entered. Seeing Snow White talk to God in this manner makes me think of that moment.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is not a movie for me. I am also not sure how it would appeal to young people these days. It is also a film that has value. The American Film Institute (AFI) has it as #37 on its list of the 100 greatest movies of all time. There have been thousands upon thousands of films made over the years. The fact that today’s film would be recognized as such is noteworthy.