The first full-length animated feature film in movie history was first brought to audiences in 1937 and, to this day, remains a relevant and impressive work that has proven difficult to top. Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” adapted the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “Snow White” and opened the door to a new genre in film. Remarkably this film easily stands the test of time and offers young children both an entertaining experience and a healthy dose of moral insight.
The familiar tale of “Snow White” explores themes of vanity, jealousy, kindness, fear, diligence, nature, the clear juxtaposition of good and evil, and the idea that good will be rewarded and evil punished. In Disney’s version (which varies only slightly from that of the Brothers Grimm) the kind and lovely young maid, Snow White, is made to work as a scullery maid by her wicked stepmother the queen. Despite her tribulations, Snow White remains kind and happy. She meets a prince and falls in love.
Conversely, the queen is a witch and is vain and jealous of her stepdaughter, fearing her beauty will one day surpass that of her own. When her magic mirror names Snow White to be the “fairest in the land,” the queen orders her killed. The huntsman cannot bring himself to harm the young girl, however, and warns her to escape to the woods and never return.
In the woods, friendly animals, which seem drawn to the princess’s kindness and gentility, lead her to the cottage of the seven dwarfs. These aptly named characters (Doc, Bashful, Dopey, Sneezy, Sleepy, Grumpy, and Happy) agree to let Snow White stay so she will be free from harm. The queen uses her evil magic, however, to locate the young girl. She creates a spell that poisons an apple and disguises her appearance to that of an old hag.
When the dwarfs are away at work, the wretched queen tempts Snow White with the apple, and Snow White falls into a deep sleep. The forest animals recognize the hag’s true identity and try to warn the dwarfs, but they are too late. Chased by the dwarfs, the queen finds herself at the edge of a cliff. A bolt of lightening strikes the rock she is standing on, and the queen falls to her demise.
The dwarfs believe the princess to be dead but cannot bury her. Instead they keep vigil over her glass coffin. Soon, the prince finds the lifeless Snow White and kisses her. To the surprise of all, Snow White awakens. She says a heartfelt goodbye to the dwarfs and the prince carries her off to his castle.
Throughout the film, Disney beautifully merges humor with the seriousness of the plot. The soundtrack includes such favorites as “I’m Wishing,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” and “Whistle While You Work.”
Since its initial release, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” has been recognized again and again as one of the best films ever made and has been re-released to theaters eight times. Its most recent iteration took the form of a newly restored, high-definition picture on Blu-ray disc. In the sea of modern offerings to children, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is square one—a must-have for any young person’s video library.