Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Most of Disney's power, which entirely informs and influences their reputation, comes from a seduction of your senses within their magical fairly tale worlds. So, it's worth noting that as a whole, Snow White
is on the weaker end of that scale. There are any number of reasons why. The music isn't quite as trippy, there's no real mystery to the story, the Dwarfs are living out an honest-to-goodness Silly Symphonies
routine. That last one is a key fact to bare in mind when discussing this film. As Disney's first, it's proven to have been cemented in history and our culture as one of their finest. However, as their first, it also has the most trouble carving out its own identity. Some people don't even look back at the Silly Symphonies
(which makes sense since Disney treated those even worse than the animated features- some of these tin DVD boxsets were only available in wide release for a month or two, then were consigned to skyrocketing prices on eBay and the like) because they regard this film as the perfected version of that formula. I don't blame them. But if you look at what Disney were able to do after this film, I think it's plain as day that an 83-minute longform Silly Symphony
is not what we should be hailing as the definitive crowning achievement of such a mammoth creative empire.
Even if it is their most stunningly iconic portrait of lazy wish-fulfillment. Snow White... doesn't do
anything. Sure, the Storybook tells us she's been a maid for her Stepmother for a long time before we're introduced but her opening scene is all about proving she's got that diva Princess behavior ingrained into her nature. She barely mops one step before stopping to take a Singing Break, serenading a wishing well, and sending out her Teenage Goddess waves to lure boys to the yard. She's not a maid, she's a proto-Diana. A traveling philanthropist and goodwill ambassador. Well, good for her. But, frankly, I'm not convinced that she's as perfect in practice as she is on-paper. She has a disturbing habit of baby-talking to almost everyone. She didn't spend enough time with the Huntsman but she moves in with the Dwarfs and, just in case you didn't realize it, these are 7 full-fledged adults. Who, apparently, haven't seen a woman in some time... oh, dear. Now, I know what you're thinking, but let me ask you a question first: when exactly did we get the idea that "being a fairy tale" means shying away from adult themes? Most fairy tales do anything but play coy with horrific or taboo concepts. All things considered, Disney are the ones with the reputation for making fairy tales so pillowy- as to soften their dark edges. To the point where their name itself is used as a bad word: Disneyfication.
You can hardly deny that it fits sometimes. In the case of Snow White
, the character can't even remain rounded in her own universe. As I hope I've made abundantly clear: it's not right to talk to grown men as though they're children just because they're short. Or, worse still, that Disney runs with this as a gimmick. They don't challenge her, stand up for themselves- they literally act like children because that's... cute, or something. It's surprisingly easy to get used to, I'll admit. Until Dopey wants a kiss. This has an effect similar to Homer in Near Dark
: he would seem to be the youngest, so he wants it badder than the others. There's no other way to classify his behavior: he is horny. But the film has no subconscious (that it's willing to own up to) and tries to set it in-line with his other hyper antics. However, she has to remind us that The Movie thinks these adults are children and have her redirect his lip kiss to his forehead. Yeah... neither of these characters are children. Think about it.
The gag nature of the film is what pretty much fluidizes the fantasy. The writing staff should have been cooking up a way to make the Prince more active, yet pretty much nothing changes between here and Cinderella
(that's about 15 years of the animators learning how to "believably animate human male figures" yet the Princes still stand around, waiting for the someday their Princesses will come). Oh, except for Brom Bones (his day will come, trust me). So, their work with the Prince here is basically "whatever works." True, this guy looks like a girl but he's still in the story. There's a version of him onscreen and it's the product of a lot of hard work for no effect. You have to admit it's shaky when he just comes in as the story requires him. Much flack as Sleeping Beauty
receives (from some) in comparison to this film, you know Prince Phillip had a lot more character and was given a lot more to do (yet, why there's more erotic fanfic art of him and not Brom Bones is beyond me). You can tell there's a lot of proud on the screen in Sleeping Beauty
but it's the Prince in Snow White
where I can certainly shout "lazy" from the mountaintops and not be busted for it. The more you think about it, the more the whole film has a real "we'll call you when we need you
" quality about it. Everything but the villain is a use of phone ordering. (Get your very own Prince in 30 seconds, guaranteed. If he's not hot, he's free
The Dwarfs do have their moments (my favorite scene was them coming home and trying to find out who's there and what's happened). But truly, if it weren't for the Evil Queen, this film would be unsalvageable. Much has been written and said about her and most of it's true. I won't bore you with anything more than: her motivation is ridiculous (a familiar trait with most of the Disney villainnesses) but she just fucking owns it. Without her, and the still impressive sequence where Snow White runs frightened into the scary woods (which of course is a series of tricks her mind is playing on her that the film doesn't exactly have the character realize... and if she does, she should be ready to have herself committed: that is a mighty long way to go into the realm of freaking paranoia because she doesn't get the concept of darkness), this film would show just about no promise for the masterworks Disney had up their sleeve in the years (decades) to follow. Though, yeah- the backgrounds are gorgeous. This is what people are really talking about when they put the phrase "quality control" in a same sentence with Disney. You can see just how much trouble this movie has with breaking away from the Symphonies
mold when Snow White knocks on a door or a deer kicks a wagon 10 times and the music has to provide corresponding notes paired with the actions. I about damn near rolled my eyes right out of my head.
And, last... but certainly not least... we come to the Elephant in the Room: Snow White is a fucking moron. What makes that statement controversial in Disney fan circles is the shocking revelation that people feel as though her reputation as Pure Sweetness, therefore = Purely Without Flaw is utterly imperative to protect in order to keep some association of themselves (why do I like her if she's so dumb?), Disney's quality (in a world full of bookish academics who don't always love the corporation so much), and the balance of inherent good in the world if we don't all view her on a "do as I say, not as I do
" basis. Because: the treating the Dwarfs like kids to their faces thing is sort of the movie's right in its own narrative. The character's latent stupidity doesn't become a pattern until she has a literal parade of Dwarfs warn her about the Queen's powers and instruct her directly: do not let anyone in the house under any circumstances. 5 minutes later, what happens? That Old Queen Hag Peddler is in the frickin' cottage. Which itself is a set-up that endangers SW in all sorts of ways. But why bother stabbing her, making a lot of noise and a mess, when she's so stupid- you can play on her idiotically misplaced sense of trust. Even when she's so put-off by this woman, she's backing up into the friggin' wall cowering.
Snow White's dumbness and the forgiveness afforded to her by Disney fans is something that really should be studied. Its existence in the film alone has so many layers. Like- why is the Old Woman in the cottage to begin with? Because Snow White is too stupid to question why the fucking Forest Animals would attack someone instinctively. Um...the movie's kind of been about how Snow White earns the trust of all who are good on the inside. Yet she can't conceive of why they would do something like this. She's scared by the idea of the Queen killing her enough for her to beg the Dwarfs to let her stay but then she laughs
at them and smiles their advice off when they remind her of the danger she's in. A smart move on their parts, considering how dense she's been so far in treating them like children (something I think that betrays the Inherent Goodness defense- like most things, it comes into play only when convenient). But she can only see this gesture for "I'm glad they care about me. I'll be alright though
." Then the Hag shows up and she is instantly creeped out. But she's so trusting that she doesn't think. I'm afraid trust is not an unconditional thing. It's not really meant to be an instinct. It's meant to be tested and enriched by experience. It's a lesson to be learned and I'm even more afraid by what we learn thanks to Disney fans blindly accepting her actions in light of how unnatural they are. Even in a fairy tale.
Oh yeah... what's up with Sneezy's Hurricane-force gusts of mouth-blown air?