Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Personal Perspective

I was still a child when I saw the cartoon Snow White and Seven Dwarfs for the first time. For me, it was something amazing, and I liked it very much. My mother used to read me fairy tales in the bedtime, so I had known the tale before I saw the cartoon. Snow White was an embodiment of kindness at that time. When I saw the cartoon, I was surprised because Snow White looked very different from the image I had had in my mind. In my imagination, she would be a sweet girl with long brown hair. She would wear a crown and a gorgeous dress. Nevertheless, in the cartoon, Snow White looked differently, and the plot was changed. The cartoon looked very attractive for me, for there were many good characters in it. Most of them helped Snow White instead of doing some harm to her. What I liked more was that all the characters looked very realistic and moved in a very true-to-life manner; besides, the music and the songs were awesome. The Dwarf’s song was one of my favorite. When I saw this cartoon recently, my impression has changed a bit. In childhood, I liked this cartoon for its outside more. As I grew up, I started to pay more attention to it’s meaning. It is nice to watch this cartoon being an adult, for it is reminding me of my childhood, and it helps to forget about problems.

Historical Perspective

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This cartoon played an important role in the history of animation. It was the first sound and color animated feature film. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a strong example of Disney’s works, and it has its prehistory. Walt Disney derived the plot of the cartoon from a fairy tale by the same name by Brothers Grimm.  At the age of fourteen, Disney was selling newspapers in Kansas City. Once he saw a short silent cartoon about Snow White, and that image stuck in his head for the rest of his life. In autumn 1934, he made the first sketch of the scenario based on Grimm’s fairy tale. To make it even better, he involved other talented animators in the project. It took them three years to produce the cartoon because they had to paint a great quantity of pictures. It first appeared in 1937 and made a real splash.  This cartoon was different from all the previous animation due to its realistic characters and perfect sound. Snow White was a real success for Disney for it made him popular, bought the revenue of $ 8 million and positive critics’ reception. The movie had a profound impact on the entire Disney animation for the innovations used in there were developed in the following cartoons. Therefore, this cartoon had set new standards of quality for animation of that time. Walt Disney received Oscars for his cartoon. Particularly in 1938, he got an award for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for considerable screen innovation and pioneering a great new entertainment field for the motion picture cartoon.

Technical Perspective

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the result of the three years’ work of 570 animators, who produced more than a million pictures yearly. Many hours were spent on the design of characters. Disney demanded more than cartoonish faces, he wanted realistic ones. To make the working process as fast as possible, Disney decided to optimize it. He divided animators into two groups: the first group (leading artists) painted the keyframes, the second complemented them with in-betweens, making every scene perfect. While animators were working on the main characters, 50 decorators had to provide multiple cartoon backgrounds. A special laboratory was created on the studio to select and provide all the colors and tones for the artists-decorators. Still it was just a first step to make the cartoon bright and colorful. The next one was to transmit these colors by the cameras as sharp as possible. The previous cameras were not good for that purpose, hence a new type of multifunctional camera was established. Because it was an innovation, the engineers of the studio had to develop it constantly during the filming process. It resulted in a volumetric and colorful image. Animators also had to study human anatomy and learn how to imitate realistic human movements. They applied the technique of using live-action footage to make the Snow White's character alive. A young dancer named Margie Belcher was invited to become the live-action model for Snow White.  Doing the technical part of the job, Disney selected the voices for animated characters with a sound engineer. They had listened to nearly 150 girls for the role of Snow White. Finally, they choose Adriana Cazelotti, the daughter of a vocal music teacher Guido Cazelotti. There were many songs recorded for the Snow White. A composer named Frank Churchill wrote the music for the Snow White. He created unique musical characteristics for all the characters of the cartoon, especially dwarfs, each having his own “melody”. The working team adjusted the music to animation perfectly, though it was a challenge for them.

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Ethical Perspective

Disney realized his social responsibility for the Snow White perfectly. If Disney had stuck to the original, it may have caused some ethical issues. The original Grimm’s fairy tale contains many scenes of violence. Disney changed them, for his target audience is younger than that if Grimm. The representation of cannibalism is not tolerable in a children's movie as well. For example, there is a moment in the cartoon when the Queen asks the Hunter to kill Snow White and to bring her heart as a proof of the murder. It may appear cruel, to some extent, but in the original version, it was different. In Grimm’s tale, the Queen asks for lungs and liver as a proof; besides, these organs are supposed to be served for dinner! In the original version, after Snow White died and the Prince came, there was no kissing at all. He just wanted to grab the dead body and take it to his castle. Suddenly, a piece of apple came out of her throat while riding on the horse. The other tricky moment is the end of the fairy tale. In the original fairy tale, Snow White takes vengeance on her stepmother. The Princess prepares iron shoes, putting them onto the live coals to heat them up. When the Queen comes to the Snow White’s wedding, she has to put on the hot sizzling iron shoes and dance until she dies. Thus, to meet the needs of the viewers, Disney keeps the key elements of the fairy tale and rejects things unacceptable for children. His cartoon is promoting two ideas. The first one is that Good wins Evil. The second one is not to accept food from strangers. These ideas are essential for children’s upbringing and do not cause any harm.

Cultural Perspective

The image of Snow White represents the feminine stereotype in the society of that time. She likes to cook, clean, and take care of other people. Disney modifies this cartoon on purpose to reveal the social beliefs of the 1930s. Hence, he overstresses Snow White’s motherly attitude, domesticity, and inactiveness. Thomas Inge (2004) clarifies that Walt Disney frequently remodeled timely narratives to reveal his own image of American society values. Thus, Snow White reflects Disney’s views partially, reflecting also the common view that women are duty-bound to be mainly homemakers. As Inge claims, Snow White is described as a submissive, cute, enduring, dutiful, hard-working, and soft character (2004), so she absolutely fits the ideal of a “good woman” in accordance with the expectations of society. Thus, Snow White apparently persuades audiences that this part is desirable for every woman. On the other hand, Snow White symbolizes female innocence. Dwarfs do not touch her; they even agree to offer the girl their beds. She also plays a social role of a mother in relation to dwarfs. She encourages them to be polite, stay clean, and to go to sleep in time.

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The other aspect of Snow White is an image of wife. The movie constantly stresses the women’s need for man protection through marriage. According to the plot of the cartoon, only the side of her future husband persuades the viewers that a girl can be safe and happy. What is hidden from the public eye is that Snow White is oppressed, for she had to serve her entire life before she got married. Thus, Disney provides a domestic woman’s stereotype in the Snow White’s portrayal. She has to represent a role model for all women to follow.

Critical Perspective

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a great and unique piece of animation of its time. It is hard to overestimate the importance of it in the animation history. This movie encouraged Disney to create a number of other feature films that are considered classics of animation. Not only has this cartoon set up new quality standards for animators, but also it has shown that animated feature films are worth making. Furthermore, it revealed the audience demand for this type of films. In spite of public mockery, Disney did not give up the idea of an animated feature film. Finally, his cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs exceeded all expectations. This movie defends the Good-wins-Evil idea and has therefore educational benefits for children. Snow White serves as a role model for young girls.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is an animated film that evokes emotions. Spectators definitely cannot watch it indifferently. The cartoon has evoked amazement since its first appearance in 1937. It has been considered as Disney’s classics and is acceptable for the audience of any age. 

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