Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS – A Blu-ray/DVD Review by John Strange

John Strange
Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is an important part of the American film history.  The film premiered on December 21, 1937 at the Carthay Circle Theatre and was released nationwide on February 4, 1938.  The film made $8 million dollars internationally during its initial release.  That’s a lot of money for that era which was the end of America’s Great Depression.
This film took Walt Disney and his team about three years to make.  It was the first animated feature ever produced.  The early animated shorts had been wildly profitable early on but they were losing their luster.  The earnings were beginning to drop.  Walt Disney’s feature showed that animated films were not dead or even dying.
The story is taken from the tales of the Brothers Grimm.  This tale from Germany was the perfect story to give to American audiences of the time, the story of the lonely princess living with her vain and wicked stepmother, the Queen.  Each day the Queen questioned her magic mirror to verify that she was the fairest in the land.  When the day came that the mirror told the Queen that not only was she no longer the fairest but that title now resided with Snow White, the evil woman knew she had to rid herself of the young woman.  The rest of the story is cinematic history.
The story of how this film was made is told in a series of bonus features.  They begin with “In Walt's Words: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” which is told using a series of archival recordings of interviews with Walt Disney from 1956 which includes footage from 1936 when he signed a distribution agreement with RKO Pictures.  Walt tells us how the idea can about and how he got the ball rolling that would become the juggernaut that is Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  I have to admit, of all of the bonus features, this is my favorite bonus as we see and learn how the film grew from just him working on it until the entire studio was working on it.
The animators had to learn to stop working on individual pictures and work on action.  They had to learn how to make the movements mirror real life.  They had to learn to balance humor with pathos.  They learned these lessons well.
The number of bonus features has a direct correlation to the fact that Disney was a firm believer in keep records of all meetings.  He had stenographers at every meeting taking notes.  Many of the bonuses are built from these notes and narrated by the men and women who were actually there when they were taken.  These stories are filled with pieces of video/film interspersed with still images.
We also meet the people who gave us the “Animation Voice Talent”.  The animators and historians talk about how Walt found the right people to bring these characters to life.  You meet Adriana Caselotti, who won the role of Snow White, who tells us how she came to Mr. Disney’s attention.  One of the voice actors, Eddie Collins, has no words but he did some of the voice effects associated with the character.  He was primarily used to figure out how the character moved.  There was a story behind most of the selections for the talents who lent their voices to the characters.
In “Where it All Began,” we learn of the early days of Hyperion Studios.  These stories are filled with historians and the original artist each telling stories of those early days in the small one story building where the artists were all in one big room.  The artists loved it because they could collaborate so easily.
Walt and his team led the way to make the drawings better.  The technologies had to keep up with the drawings. Disney used the Silly Symphony shorts to experiment with various special effects and things such as color and 3D movement!
I spent almost two hours watching each and every bonus feature, nourishing the film lover, the nascent filmmaker in me.  Then I watched the film with the audio commentary turned on.  This version of the film uses comments from Walt and the various people involved in each scene to give us additional insights into the minds and hearts that made the film.  I have read books about the studio and what went on behind the scenes.  The view you get from these bonus features included with this film is perhaps the most comprehensive I have ever seen.
This film is a must buy for parents with young children.  Heck, this film is a must buy for everyone.  Not only do you get this wonderful story but you get a real sense of what it took to make the film including all of the innovations in drawing and shooting the film.  Most of these innovations are still in use today.  Walt Disney was a true pioneer and the Hyperion Studios where all of this happened should sit right along side Edison’s Menlo Park.
The film is being released on Disney Movies Anywhere, Digital HD & SD, Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital).  All formats are available as of February 2, 2016.
Directed By:
  • William Cottrell (Sequence Director);
  • David Hand (Supervising Director);
  • Wilfred Jackson (Sequence Director);
  • Larry Morey (Sequence Director);
  • Perce Pearce (Sequence Director);
  • Ben Sharpsteen (Sequence Director)
Voice Cast:
  • Adriana Caselotti (“The Wizard of Oz”) as Snow White;
  • Roy Atwell (“A Powder Romance”) as Doc;
  • Stuart Buchanan (“Super-Speed”) as Huntsman;
  • Lucille La Verne (“Abraham Lincoln”) as Queen/Witch;
  • Moroni Olsen (“Notorious”) as Magic Mirror;
  • Harry Stockwell (“Here Comes the Band”) as Prince;
  • Eddie Collins (“Drums Along the Mohawk”) as Dopey;
  • Pinto Colvig (“Mickey and the Beanstalk”) as Sleepy/Grumpy;
  • Billy Gilbert (“The Great Dictator”) as Sneezy;
  • Otis Harlan (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) as Happy; and
  • Scotty Mattraw (“In Old Chicago”) as Bashful
  • Bonus features available with purchase, including:
    • Iconography
    • @DisneyAnimation: Designing Disney's First Princess
    • Deleted Scene – Bed Building Sequence
    • Alternate Sequence: The Prince Meets Snow White
    • Deleted Scene – Soup Eating Sequence
    • Bringing Snow White To Life
    • Story Meetings: The Dwarfs
    • Snow White Returns
    • In Walt's Words: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
    • Hyperion Studios Tour
    • Story Meetings: The Huntsman
    • Decoding The Exposure Sheet
    • Where It All Began (Digital HD only)
    • Walt Disney Short: "Hungry Hobos" (Digital HD only)
    • Disney's First Feature: The Making Of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
    • Animation Voice Talent
    • Audio Commentary
    • The Fairest Facts Of Them All: 7 Things You May Not Know About Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
    • Snow White In Seventy Seconds
  • 83 Minutes
  • Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date:
  • 02/02/2016 on Blu-ray
  • 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
MPAA Rating:
  • G in US & Canada (bonus materials are not rated)
Selig Rating:
Selig Rating Scale:
BRAND NEW: Should add to your DVD collection at any cost
SALE ITEM: Worth owning, but try to catch it a sale
SECOND HAND: Plan to get it, but wait to buy it used
RENTAL: Worth taking a look at, but not owning
COASTER: Pick it up at a garage sale and use it for drinks
PULL!: Makes a great Trap Shooting target
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