Gentle, serene, and simple, Snow White retains its majesty, even as it’s nearing 90-years-old. Its fluidity, charming beauty, and consistent gags that appreciate the medium’s freedom have lost none of their power.
Paired with the animation is that iconic fairy tale storytelling, divested from real world logic to create a fantastic fantasy led primarily by the seven dwarfs more than Snow White or even the wicked queen. For her part, Snow White, seen from the modern day, is a comical gender stereotype. Following an attempt at her life, she immediately cleans a house, cooks, waits for her male suitor, and becomes a motherly figure to the dwarfs. It’s as if being driven from her home with a death sentence doesn’t allow her a break from traditional home-bound duties. So it was in 1937.
Snow White aims for artistic spectacle first
Snow White aims for artistic spectacle first
It’s also an impossibly thin story, where for most of the runtime, nothing happens. Walt Disney’s choice to occupy viewer attention with comedy via the dwarfs is genuine genius, and done well enough that the lack of narrative value becomes irrelevant. Snow White aims for artistic spectacle first, rolling out the minimal dramatic events only as absolutely needed.
The studio-animated film’s format began here, and in most cases, hasn’t changed. Snow White leads the story while bit characters (literally, in some cases) fly in to add laughs, leading to a panicked finale where those enjoyable side players can have their say in how events play out. It’s not an unwillingness to change or alter the style so much as there’s no need to. From a marketing standpoint, the endless merchandising potential in stuffing all these characters together is masterful. To consider Walt did this while not even being the studio’s money man – yet he still created the business model – is surreal.
For Walt, it was art first. Craftsmanship on paper, pieced together to visually astound an audience within one of film’s earliest eras. If anything was lost with Walt’s passing, it was an innate ability to do what he felt was right, taking risks while worrying about financial solvency second. Believing audiences didn’t even need a consistent, deep story because of the confidence he had in his animation team is something we’ll unlikely see again, unless animation’s own fairy tale prince arrives to save us.
Marvelous. Disney’s pure restoration work gives Snow White’s animation a stunning veneer, capturing every nuance in the original animation. Unlike previous Blu-ray releases, Disney retains the film’s pinpoint grain structure without fault. The texture and clarity, whether that’s a pencil or brush stroke, is phenomenal. At times naturally softer because of the photography process, those are the only lapses in Snow White’s pure, untarnished presentation.
Splendid in color reproduction too, it’s a shame anyone saw Snow White on any other home format before this. Incredible density brings out the palette, whether Snow White’s red, blue, and yellow dress or the splashy backgrounds. Their natural look and flawless reproduction gives the visuals an undeniable zest compared to prior discs.
The HDR pass follows a subtle style, enhancing things without drawing attention to itself. Bold shadows find detail even in the artwork’s darkest areas. Contrast keeps a careful peak as to not swell brightness for the sake of it, not even the sparkling diamonds in the mine; it’s a respectful restoration.
Considering Snow White came out in 1937, still early in the sound era, the clarity is impressive, slightly detectable static aside. Songs safely reach a crisp peak without distortion.
Offered in DTS-HD 5.1 only, the mix stretches songs outward, primarily in the stereos for added pop. This doesn’t stray far from the original mono.
Initially a Disney Movie Club exclusive, Snow White is a three-disc set – 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD. On the Blu-ray, In Walt’s Words features archival interviews with Walt, running four-minutes. Iconography lasts seven-minutes, exploring the art created based on the film. A five-minute peek at the design process for Snow White herself follows. Seven facts about the movie takes less than five minutes to get through. A brief rap tells the general story for the kids. An alternate sequence leads into a bevy of making-of material that’s far more meaty, digging into the story meetings, cut scenes, the cast, and even a Hyperion Studio tour.
As a final bonus, Roy E. Disney joins historian John Canemaker on a commentary, with vintage Walt Disney clips included as needed. Note this is all on the Blu-ray. None of the extras are on the UHD.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Masterfully animated, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ rich, gentle comedy can still delight today.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: