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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (DVD/Two-Disc

Classics and Kids & Family movie directed by David Hand

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All of its original magic has been fully restored

  • Oct 3, 2009
Note: The review that follows is of the Diamond Edition of Snow White that includes DVD and Blu-Ray in a "Combo Pack," accompanied by a wealth of special features that really are special. For reasons known only to Amazon, reviews of earlier versions - those that are of significantly inferior quality in terms of production values - are recycled for inclusion with reviews of the latest version. Note that two of the first three reviews now featured were posted in 2001.

* * *

I first saw this film in the Shore Theater in the Windsor Park area of South Chicago and have since seen it several dozen times in the VHS and subsequent DVD format. Snow White and Pinocchio are my favorite Disney feature animated films. I was delighted that Disney released the Two-Disc 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition of Pinocchio earlier this year and now we have the Diamond Edition of Snow White that includes DVD and Blue-Ray in a "Combo Pack," accompanied by a wealth of special features that really are special. As a result of all-new state-of-the-art digital restoration and Disney Enhanced High Definition sound, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs once again possesses all of the magic that previous versions of Disney's first animated feature film do not.

In an article about the Walt Disney Family Museum that appeared in The New York Times (October 1, 2009), Edward Rothstein observes: "By the time [Disney] created his first feature-length work, `Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' he had transformed the very notion of animation. Disney insisted that cartoons literally animate their world, bring it so thoroughly to life that even inanimate objects would react to events. He pushed his staff to strain for realism (and sponsored drawing classes in his studios). But he was interested in something more than reality; even tables and trees would display character." I include Rothstein's insightful comments because the animation of otherwise inanimate objects is brilliantly enhanced by all-new state-of-the-art digital restoration. In the Blu-Ray format, the images in Snow White seem even more vivid than I what I recall seeing in a theater and the songs are much more enjoyable because of their presentation in Disney Enhanced High Definition sound.

The plot is based on one of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm and Jacob, and the songs were composed by Frank Churchill (who also wrote the music for "Dumbo" and "Bambi") and Larry Morey (who also wrote the lyrics for "Bambi.") Together they wrote over 25 songs for Snow White but (ironically) only seven were used. After the success of that film, Churchill was promoted to Supervisor of Music at the Disney Studios. There are several of Disney's core themes developed, notably the constant threat of evil and efforts to flee from it as well as the importance of trust and the power of faith. Moreover, whereas a castle or cottage is merely a residence, wherever one is able to be with loved ones is "home." Even the forest animals who live nearby become involved with household chores, soon after Snow White arrives at the dusty, disorganized sylvan "pad" shared by seven bachelors. Given the fact that they haul diamonds from the mine each day, you'd think they could afford a cook and maid. Apparently not.

Disney will offer this "Combo Pack" for a limited time only and it really does offer significant value-added benefits that include an all new music video performed by Sonny with a Chance's Tiffany Thornton, an exclusive sneak preview of The Princess and the Frog, "What Do You See?" and "Jewel Jumble" game exercises, newly discovered storyboards for "Snow White Returns," a tour of Walt Disney's original Hyperion studios, and "Dopey's Wild Mine Ride" game. Even without any supplementary features such as these, however, this version (in either the DVD or Blu-Ray format) is, in my opinion, the most complete masterpiece of all the great feature-length animated films. None other combines as effectively his one does both drama and delight in terms of plot, character development, and music.

In a review of Snow White for The New York Times in 1938, Frank Nugent wrote, "Wars are being fought as the picture unreels; crimes are being committed; hatreds are being whetted; riots are being brewed. But the world fades away when M. Disney begins weaving his spell and enchantment takes hold." In his biography of Disney, published in 2006, Neal Gabler observes that other critics "cited the awesome power of the sheer technical achievement: the collaboration of the nearly six hundred employees who drew, inked, and painted the quarter-million drawings in what totaled two hundred years' worth of man-hours. While no animated cartoon had ever looked like Snow White, and certainly none had packed its emotional wallop, it was also true that in none would the investment of time, energy, and devotion be so palpable. In some respects it was the cinematic equivalent of a Gothic cathedral - only in this case all the man-hours were expended in service to one man's vision rather than God's glory."

Most of those who see this film could not care less about its cultural significance, nor about its seamless integration of theme with technology, of inspiration with execution. They will almost immediately be delighted by the lead characters and enchanted by the life they share. Now restored and enhanced, Snow White once again has the technical brilliance and emotional power that were premiered at the Cathay Circle Theater on the evening of December 21, 1937. According to one observer, Bill Peet, "everyone in that first Snow White audience could have predicted the enormous success of the film. They were carried away by the picture from the very beginning, and as it went along everyone was bubbling over with enthusiasm and frequently bursting into spontaneous applause." To the best of my knowledge, no other film made more than 70 years ago continues to have the same impact that it did when first released. If that isn't "magic," I really don't know what is.

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More Snow White and the Seven Dwarf... reviews
review by . November 12, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Remastered and remarketed as the movie that started it all, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS remains a triumph of animation. Using the Brothers Grimm tale about the princess with the skin as fair as snow who is taken in by a group of seven dwarfs, Walt Disney fleshed out the characterization of most of the main players while also watering down some of the more graphic and disturbing elements of the story. The movie had been in production for years and Disney gambled his entire future on the project. …
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One of the brightest nuggets from Disney's golden age, this 1937 film is almost dizzying in its meticulous construction of an enchanted world, with scores of major and minor characters (including fauna and fowl), each with a distinct identity. When you watch Snow White's intricate, graceful movements of fingers, arms, and head all in one shot, it is not the technical brilliance of Disney's artists that leaps out at you, but the very spirit of her engaging, girl-woman character. When the wicked queen's poisoned apple turns from killer green to rose red, the effect of knowing something so beautiful can be so terrible is absolutely elemental, so pure it forces one to surrender to the horror of it. Based on the Grimm fairy tale, Snow White is probably the best family film ever to deal, in mythic terms, with the psychological foundation for growing up. It's a crowning achievement and should not be missed.--Tom Keogh

Stills from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Click for larger image)


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Director: David Hand
Genre: Classics, Family
DVD Release Date: October 6, 2009
Runtime: 83 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
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