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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Diamond Edition) (1937) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 06 October 2009
ImageIt is unquestionable that Disney has made the majority of the films that have shaped modern cinema, both in technology and storytelling.  “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is Disney’s first full-length animation feature and is truly a classic.  It makes you wonder how films become classics.  There doesn’t appear to be anything made today that will become a classic.  But then again, we have no idea what the future is going to be like.  It is just difficult to see anything today carry on like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” has.

Disney has already brought to Blu-ray classics such as “Sleeping Beauty” and “Pinocchio.”  Now, it is Snow White’s turn.  Disney’s pivotal masterpiece has been fully restored.  In 1937, Snow White became the perfect female role model.  She was sweet and kind.  She continues to be one of Disney’s number one female impersonator requests.

In an era of short films and horrible sound on disc, it was predicted that Snow White would fail as a movie.  Disney ignored all negative thoughts and took his creative genius to a new level.  Snow White remains perhaps the most influential film on modern cinema.

By today’s standards, the film moves at quite a slow pace.  However, the pace was perfectly on cue for 1937.  The film has been used by feminists around the world to demonstrate how men portray women of societies as helpless.  The list goes on and on as to the problems with the film.  However, the true genius lies in Disney’s vision.  He envisioned a feature film that would capture audiences.  He envisioned a film that was full of bold and beautiful colors.  A film that was technically sound.  A film that actually had a story.  It is for those reasons that Disney has succeeded year after year.

As I mentioned earlier, the story is quite slow.  It is based on a tale by the Brothers Grimm.  Snow White is a beautiful princess that is made to work in rags and in the dungeon because of her beauty.  The wicked queen is so vain that she has forced her into servitude to try and hide her beauty, a beauty that surpasses her own.  One of the most memorable characters of the film is the Mirror on the Wall.  The queen refers everyday to this mirror asking the most memorable line in cinematic history, “mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all.”  When the mirror finally replies that at least Snow White is the fairest of them all, the queen’s jealousy rages and she orders the huntsman to take Snow White deep into the forest and kill her.  As proof, she orders the huntsman to bring Snow White’s heart back in a box.  This is rather morbid for an animated film and especially for the standards of a 1937 film.  Nevertheless, audiences seem to overlook it.

The huntsman, who is guided by his conscious, is unable to murder Snow White.  Instead he tells her to run far away.  She does as she is told and ends up making friends with the forest creatures.  She is led to a nice little cottage in the woods where she tidies up the place and falls asleep before the owners, the famous seven dwarfs, arrive home from work.  The seven dwarfs are another set of famous characters that will be remembered for all-time.  Doc, Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Happy and Bashful are all wonderful characters that each has their own identity.  The dwarfs eventually grow to befriend Snow White.
When the wicked queen finds out that Snow White is still alive and hiding in the woods, she disguises herself as an old hag in shrouded clothes.  She creates the sleeping death potion and turns it into the famous apple.  Finally, she sets off to deliver the apple to Snow White.  She, being the innocent that she is, takes a bit of the apple and falls into a sleep that seemingly nothing will wake her from.  The only remedy is true love’s first kiss.  If you are thinking that this seems familiar in modern cinema, you don’t have to look any further than “Enchanted,” which is based on the story of Snow White.

The film is rated G, but there are some frightening moments in the film.  Disney’s sound design elements and wicked voice talents see to the films evil and terrifying feel.  In fact, my father was taken by his mother to see this film when he was a kid.  It scared him so much that he had to leave before half way through the film.  I must admit, it wasn’t exactly a picnic of a film to watch.  It still surprises that kids today are not phased at all by the wickedness of the stepmother and evil laughs.  This makes a good case for the de-sensitization of our youth.

Snow White is beyond a critics’ analysis.  The film has earned the right to stand tall in cinematic history.  It can never be torn down, and will continue to be show to kids generation after generation after generation.

Expecting nothing less, Disney has delivered this film on Blu-ray with nothing but a remarkable transfer.  Period.  This film is more than 72 years old and you wouldn’t think it after seeing this Blu-ray transfer.  Are there some major issues by today’s standards?  Absolutely.  But as a restored classic, this is perhaps the definitive transfer of the film.  Each and every cell of this animation has been painfully restored.  The colors are as bold and vibrant as ever.  They look as though they were just painted yesterday.  The level of detail is simply amazing.  You can actually see the brush strokes.  Sure the shots fluctuate between sharp and soft, but seriously, give the folks at Disney a break.  There is only so much magic that can be done to a 70-plus year old film.  Black levels are terrific, providing much depth to the image.  There are virtually no digital artifacts present in the image.  There are couple instances of noise that I won’t even go into because they are so minor and 99 percent of viewers won’t even be able to see them.  I can sit and critique or criticize every shot of this film, but it is simply just amazing.  The video transfer will sure to more than just please any viewer.  It will knock your socks off it is so good.  So while in comparison with other more modern films this video transfer is not as eye pleasing, it is for that remarkable transfer that a film of such an age that this rating is as high as it is.

As for the audio, Disney has done it once again.  It sounds as if it were the original audio track over 70 years ago, plus some added benefits.  There are two audio track present on the Blu-ray, a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track and the original mono audio track restored.  The 7.1 audio track could have been easily overdone, but thankfully Disney decided not to stray from the original intentions of the sound designers.  The LFE channel is only used sparingly.  While, it is 7.1, it still remains more of a mono track.  The majority of all the sound remains in the center channel.  However, some of the music elements and ambience have been lightly sprinkled in into the surrounds and front left and right speakers.  The clarity of the audio is remarkable.  Sure there is some flutter in the audio from the original optical track, but it is still better than one would expect for its age.  The vocals of Adriana Caselotti are as brittle and piercing as ever.  Yes, this is a good thing, because it is true of the original sound design.  The clarity of the details in the sound effects is wonderful.  Every creak and cracking can be heard emanating from the speaker.  Wither audio track is a real treat to listen to.  The originally restored audio track will provide some wonderful memories for those that remember seeing the film in all its glory back in the day.  However, the 7.1 audio track may be more suitable to the modern audiences.  Nevertheless, either audio track is still very close to the original and not blown out of proportion as many restored audio tracks are.

One thing is for sure, there is no shortage of bonus materials in this Blu-ray release.  But, first an explanation of the packaging.  Disney is release several versions of this fim on a variety of formats.  There will be several collector’s and limited editions available.  However, there are two main releases to be concerned with.  There is the Diamond Edition Blu-ray and the Diamond Edition DVD.  Both are the same except for the packaging.  The DVD version comes in a DVD keepcase and states “DVD + Blu-ray.”  The Blu-ray edition comes in a Blu-ray keepcase and states, “Blu-ray + DVD.”  Other than that the contents are exactly the same.  For some reason I was sent the one in the DVD packaging, but the content remains, two Blu-ray discs and one DVD disc.  While some of the bonus materials from the platinum DVD release are missing from these Diamond Edition releases, the supplemental package is still beyond belief.

The first Blu-ray disc contains the feature film in both a 4:3 aspect ratio and a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  The 1.78:1 aspect ratio frames the 4:3 film content with artistic renderings.  The film however, remains in its 4:3 aspect ratio.  Along with the film n disc one comes an audio commentary with film historian John Canemaker.  This is an extremely insightful commentary and should definitely be viewed.  Also available on disc one is the Disneyview presentation, which puts the artist’s renderings on the left and right sides of the film instead of the black bars.  “Snow White Returns” is an interesting look at the idea of a Snow White sequel.  There are two deleted scenes.  Family Play contains three interactive games.  “What Do You See?” is a guessing game.  “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” gives you the opportunity to find out what character you would be.  “Jewel Jumble” is another interactive little gem.  There is a music video of Tiffany Thorton’s rendition of “Some Day My Prince Will Come.”  Lastly, disc one contains a promo for Disney’s upcoming release of “The Princess and the Frog.”

The second Blu-ray disc contains the wealth of the supplemental materials.  “The One That Started It All” is an important piece in understanding the impact of Snow White on cinema.  The Classic DVD bonus materials section includes four reused features: “Dopey’s Wild Mine Ride Game,” “Heigh-Ho;” a karaoke feature, “Disney Through the Decades;” about the history of Disney, and “Animation Voice Talent;” which examines the voice of Adriana Caselotti.

The biggest part of disc two is “Hyperion Studios.”  This is an interactive tour of the old Hyperion Studios, in which each room presents different material.  While it is a bit clunky, it has a great marking feature that helps you keep track of where you have been and what you have seen.  Okay, so here we go.  The Hyperion Exterior contains three features, each of which describes the history of Disney, the importance of Snow White and the notions of filmmaking.

In the Story Room there are eight mini segments and features.  There are about 200 images of concepts and art.  “Babes in the Woods” is an early Disney film.  “Gabby, Blabby and Flabby” is an extremely brief look at the naming of the dwarfs.  “Walt’s Night Prowls,” “In Walt’s Words: The Huntsman,” “Five Bucks a Gag” and “Stories from the Story Room” are all brief segments that deal with the humor and quarks of the story of the film.

The Music Room has four segments, none of which really go into what I would have liked to know about the music of the film.  There are three brief segments that talk about the music, and “The Skeleton Dance,” which is a classic cartoon.

Next is the Art Department.  Here there are another 200 art gallery images.  There are also four segments.  “Creating the World of Snow White looks at the set design and inspiration.  “Music Land” is another Silly Symphony production.  “The Idea Man” is a brief interview with Albert Hurter.  Lastly, “In Walt’s Words: Cleaning the Cottage” is a discussion between Walt and his creative team.

Character Design is a brief room that contains a couple sections of images and another “In Walt’s Words: The Dwarfs,” which is another reenactment of story meetings.

The Background and Layout Room contains another 150 images and “Setting the Stage,” which discusses the animation process.

The Animation Room is a big section.  Surprisingly there are only about 40 images in the gallery.  “Bringing Snow White to Life” talks about the animators’ inspirations.  “Blowing Off Steam” is a humorous bit.  “Goddess of Spring” is another Silly Symphony production.  “Playful Pluto” is an animated short film.  Lastly, “The Animators’ Favorite Animators” is an acknowledgment feature.

The Live Action Reference Room is an oddity.  “Live Action Host” is an introduction to the section, while “Giving Voice to Snow White” covers the process of being a voice talent.  Lastly, “Drawing on Real Life” is more about the inspiration for the film and there is another photo gallery.

The Sweatbox Room goes behind the scenes of the different screenings of the film.  There are three mini features, each about a minute in length.

The Ink and Paint Room contains more photo galleries as well as features about applying finishing touches to the animation cells.  There is also another Silly Symphony product.

The Camera Room goes behind the technology of animation and also includes another Silly Symphony product.

The Soundstage Room has two features: a brief introduction to early sound designers and “Steamboat Willie,” which was the first film to feature synced audio laid back to an optical track.

Finally, Walt’s Office, contains a brief feature on Walt Disney, the man as well as a couple sections of photo galleries.

This is quite the supplemental package.  The Disney team worked hard on this release and I do have to give them a round of applause for the job they have done.  The audio and video restorations and transfers are absolutely terrific.  While they might not be as good as “Pinocchio” or “Sleeping Beauty,” they are certainly approaching the point of being the definitive transfer.  This package is highly recommended for every movie, audio, art and animation enthusiast out there.  There is something to enjoy in this release for everyone.  Two thumbs way, way up.

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