Snow White was produced by Walt Disney Productions, and was released generally to theatres by RKO Radio Pictures on February 8, 1938. The film was adapted from the fairy tale Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. David Hand was the supervising director, while William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen directed the film's individual sequences.
The plot of the film involves a jealous and wicked queen's attempt to have her stepdaughter murdered, but she escapes and is given shelter by seven dwarfs who live deep in a forest. Snow White was the most successful motion picture released in 1938, and is the tenth highest-grossing film of all time within the United States when adjusted for inflation.
Walt Disney had to fight to get the film produced. Both his brother Roy Disney and his wife Lillian attempted to talk him out of it, and the Hollywood movie industry mockingly referred to the film as "Disney's Folly" while it was in production. He even had to mortgage his house to help finance the film's production, which eventually ran up a total cost of just over $1.5 million, a whopping sum for a feature film in 1937.
Snow White, which spent three years in production, was the end result of Walt Disney's plan to improve the production quality of his studio's output, and also to find a source of income other than short subjects. Many animation techniques which later became standards were developed or improved for the film, including the animation of realistic humans (with and without the help of the rotoscope), effective character animation (taking characters that look similar — the dwarves, in this case — and making them distinct characters through their body acting and movement), elaborate effects animation to depict rain, lightning, water, reflections, sparkles, magic, and other objects and phenomena, and the use of the multiplane camera. Snow White is also looked upon as a triumph of storytelling skill in animation.
Re-releases and home video
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was first re-released in 1944, in order to raise revenue for the Disney studio during the World War II period. This re-release set a tradition of re-releasing Disney animated features every seven to ten years, and Snow White was re-released to theatres in 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1983, 1987, and 1993. The film was restored for its 1987 50th anniversary reissue and a more comprehensive digital restoration was done for the 1993 reissue.
Symbolism in Snow White
Originally published on QassiaSnow White is actually an ancient fairy tale, which was documented by the Grimm Brothers in 1812. It has variations in other cultures, but the most well-known version today is likely to be the Disney version.
Many fairy tales seem to be a simple children's story on the surface, but there are messages, morals and symbolism contained within the story. A closer look a Snow White will reveal some messages that you may not have noticed before. Much of the symbolism is Christian based and there are several parallels to stories in the Bible. Other aspects of symbolism are tied to common story lines in traditional fairy tales.
The colors White, Red and Black
The colors presented at the beginning of the story (skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, hair as black as ebony) provide a direct indication that Snow White is a "coming of age" story. White represents innocence (birth), red represents life and passion, while black represents death. The story of Snow White starts out with Snow White being a young girl in the original versions, and a rather naive young woman in the Disney version (the white phase). She undergoes maturity through the movie (the red phase), and experiences death (in her sleep-like state, the black phase).
The absence of the birth mother makes it possible for storytellers to introduce the role of the evil stepmother. The evil stepmother is a common element of many fairy tales: Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel. The lack of a mother at all is also common, because if a mother were present, the series of events would not unfold as they do in stories where there is no maternal influence. People have often accused Walt Disney as being a proponent of stories without mothers (it is true that many Disney movies do not have mothers) but Disney re-created classic stories where the mother being dead was already a part of the story development. This element of story telling aims to engage the readers sympathy and it does that very well.
The poison apple:
This would seem to point all the way back to the biblical reference of the apple which was offered to Eve by the serpent (evil/Satan). The evil queen offers Snow White the apple in much the same way. Snow White knows she should not be speaking to strangers, but she does it anyway and she pays for that mistake by falling under the spell.
The significance of seven:
The number seven was used many times in the Bible for signifying perfection. The book of Revelation contains numerous groups of sevens such as angels, churches, trumpets, crowns, mountains, stars, and kings. It is one of the most significant numbers in Christianity in the sense that "God created the world in seven days", or rather he created the world in six days and on the seventh he rested.
The names of the dwarfs:
Some people have thought to correlate the seven dwarfs with the seven deadly sins, but that correlation doesn't hold water. In the Grimm version of Snow White, the seven dwarfs do not have names. In Disney's version of Snow White, the dwarfs do have names but those names were chosen out of sixty or so possible names and they do not correspond to the seven deadly sins. The names of the seven dwarfs are: Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy and Sleepy. These names are more aptly "the seven moods of man" rather than sins.
The Seven Deadly Sins:
The Seven Deadly Sins are represented in the story of Snow White, but not in the form of the seven dwarfs.
Pride/Vanity: Clearly the vanity of the Evil Queen. The mirror is clearly a direct reference to vanity.
Lust/Extravagance: Again, the Queen as royalty is extravagant
Gluttony: The seven dwarfs eating (maybe a stretch). Or in the original tale, the Queen actually eats the heart of Snow White.
Greed: The Queen again
Sloth: Originally meant sadness, melancholy,apathy, depression, and joylessness which would distract from attention to god. This applies to the dwarfs after Snow White dies and sloth in the form of sloppiness certainly applies to the seven dwarfs in their manner of housekeeping.
Wrath: The wrath of the seven dwarfs upon the witch after they discover Snow White dead.
Envy: The Queen (again)
The seven deadly sins have opposites in the seven holy virtues: Humility, Chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patiences, kindness. All of these are characteristics of Snow White.
Snow White "dies" and comes back to life. This certainly parallels the death and resurrection of Jesus from the Bible.
The hand washing:
The part of the story where Snow White demands that the dwarfs wash could be related to the cleansing of baptism. After the dwarfs have washed, they become people that seem to have a new purpose in life, except for Grumpy who protests the most. Grumpy does undergo a transformation throughout the movie though, from a skeptical dwarf into one that is very devoted to Snow White.
The Work Ethic:
Snow White cleans the little house without prompting and cooks without being asked. The seven dwarfs also are hard at work in the mines (Hey Ho...).
These are a few of the symbolisms that are the most visible in the story of Snow White, and there are probably some more!
The names of the Seven Dwarfs ("Bashful", "Doc", "Dopey", "Grumpy", "Happy", "Sleepy" and "Sneezy") were created for this production, chosen from a pool of about fifty potentials. Blabby, Jumpy, Shifty, and Snoopy were among those that were rejected.
Snow White is the second-oldest surviving film that meets the length requirement (70 minutes or more) to be considered for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The oldest is The New Gulliver from the USSR, the first feature film in history to combine live-action footage with stop motion animation. Snow White is also the first feature-length animated film produced in the United States and the oldest animated feature film in Technicolor. Six animated feature films - as defined by the AMPAS, the AFI and the BFI - were made before it: three traditionally animated films by Quirino Cristiani from Argentina; one using cut-out animation by Lotte Reiniger from the Weimar Republic; and two using puppet animation (the aforementioned-mentioned New Gulliver and The Tale of the Fox by Ladislas Starevich).
The movie's title uses the word "dwarfs" which was the traditional plural of "dwarf". The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, published the same year Snow White was released, introduced the spelling "dwarves". Both plural forms have been used interchangeably since then.
The film was also an inspiration to another beloved fantasy film, MGM Studio's The Wizard of Oz. Louis B. Mayer, the production manager of Oz, and Walt Disney were rivals; and Mayer was determined to come up with a film that would equal the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was a runaway smash and became the most successful film of all time in a matter of months.
Coincidentally, Adriana Caselotti, who provided the voice of Snow White, sings the line "Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" in the Tin Woodman's musical number "If I Only Had A Heart."
The song "Someday My Prince Will Come" has become a jazz standard that has been performed by numerous artists, including Buddy Rich, Oscar Peterson, and Miles Davis.
Because Disney did not have its own music publishing company when the earlier animated films were produced, all the rights to publish the music and songs from this film are actually still controlled by the Bourne Co. In later years, the Studio was able to acquire back the rights to the music from many of the other films, but not this one. Prior to Snow White, a movie soundtrack recording was unheard of and of little value to a movie studio.
While recording the voice of the Queen as the Witch, Walt Disney was not happy with the voice Lucille La Verne was producing. After several retakes La Verne asked if she could go to the bathroom. When she returned and tried again to do the voice, she performed it perfectly. Amazed, Disney asked how she had achieved it. La Verne replied that she had removed her false teeth.
As of 2006, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of three Disney full-length animated classics that still have never been shown complete on television. The others are Fantasia, and Song of the South.
The writers who developed the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia originally suggested that the title character be Dopey, but Walt Disney decided instead to use Mickey Mouse.