The story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and the story behind the movie are fairly well-known. As many people know, this is the first full-length animated film and the first film that Walt Disney ever did, creating what is maybe one of the most loved genres of film out there.
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” tells the story of Snow White (Adriana Caselotti), who lives with her wicked stepmother, Queen Grimhilde (Lucille La Verne), after the death of her father, the king. Snow White cleans around the castle and is treated like a servant. One day she meets a prince (Harry Stockwell) while singing, but after they sing she is sent into the forest so a huntsman (Stuart Buchanan) can kill her and bring her heart to the Queen, because Snow White is the fairest one in the land, not the queen. The huntsman can’t bring himself to kill Snow White, so she runs off into the forest where she comes across some woodland creatures that lead her to a small, untidy shack. After she cleans up, she learns that it actually belongs to seven dwarfs–Doc (Roy Atwell), Grumpy (Pinto Colvig), Happy (Otis Harlan), Sleepy (Pinto Colvig, again), Bashful (Scotty Mattraw), Sneezy (Billy Gilbert) and Dopey (Eddie Collins)–and she begins to become a mother figure to them as they let her stay in their cottage. But the evil queen finds out that Snow White is still alive and begins to plot again.
The only thing I can knock this film for is that the prince is kind of a bland character that has maybe the least interesting design. (According to my mother, the animators had a hard time designing him because they weren’t sure what handsome was.) However, the prince appears in so little of the film that I really can’t criticize the film for this.
When you consider that this was the first full-length animated film, the animation is utterly amazing. Even if you compare it to some animated films made today, the animation is still utterly amazing. What the animation also does that I managed to forget is that both Snow White and the Queen have rosy cheeks. While this is noticeable–I appreciate that they aren’t as pale as me–it looks subtle and even natural in this movie. The main characters, while sometimes bordering on tropes, have very strong characterizations. Snow White is a cheerful, but sweet and caring woman who is incredibly down to earth. The queen, vain as she is, is driven by her desire to be the most beautiful woman in the land to her (SPOILER) death. Even the dwarfs change, notably Grumpy who starts off as akin to a crotchety old man but eventually learns to like Snow White and even care for her.
The film also has many moments that work very well in terms of design, even if they could be viewed as heavy-handed by some now, such as the poison on the apple forming a skull when the queen lifts it from the cauldron. But is is clear when watching the film as to how much time, thought and effort Walt Disney and his animators put into perfecting this film, which is why this film is still worth watching today.
But is Snow White a Good Role Model for Children?: Yes and no, leaning towards yes.
Snow White is an incredibly caring person and very resourceful, defeating the idea that princesses cannot help themselves because they have servants. To be fair though, Snow White is treated as a servant, so that in itself defeats the idea that she cannot help herself. Additionally, her hope that “someday her prince will come” is not grounded in the idea that a prince will save her but that she fell in love at first sight with the prince who heard her singing. The idea that she is discontent in her life and a prince will save her from her life is also absurd since she seems to enjoy her life with the dwarfs.
However, Snow White does enter a house without permission, although this can be excused because the cottage the dwarfs lives in looks a bit abandoned due to how unkempt it is. She also interacts with the old hag and takes an apple from her, which goes against the idea of “stranger danger.” However, the queen no doubt disguised herself as an old woman figuring that Snow White would never suspect an old woman of evil.
Ultimately, I would say that Snow White falls on the side of a good role model, just as long as parents explain that you shouldn’t accept apples from strangers.