I find as I get older I appreciate Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs more and more. Part of this is intellectual; I marvel at what Walt Disney and his team of artists accomplished, with no one to guide them into uncharted territory except Walt’s amazing instincts for…
what would work. But a lot of it is emotional; I find myself disarmed by the purity, simplicity, and sheer joyfulness of the film. It actually brings me to tears.
When this landmark animated feature was first released on home video, the Disney team went overboard in sprucing it up for a modern audience, removing all evidence that it had been shot on film and pumping up the color values to an absurd degree. I’m happy to report that this new restoration—which I explored both on Blu-ray and standard DVD—is superb. They have removed telltale signs of wear and tear on the 72-year-old negative without being intrusive or excessive. It still feels like a motion picture, and it looks flawless. What’s more, the image has been “windowboxed” within the frame so no action will be lost at the edges of the screen. (On Blu-ray the film appears in its proper 1:33 ratio, while on DVD it plays wider unless you adjust the image on your TV set.)
Bonus features include a number of family-oriented games and music videos. For film buffs the main attraction is a new commentary track featuring Walt Disney himself, taken mostly from interview recordings made in the 1950s. To hear Walt talk at such length about various aspects of this groundbreaking enterprise is genuinely exciting. His remarks are bracketed by thoughtful observations from animation historian John Canemaker, who articulates many of the film’s qualities and gives credit where credit is due. The Blu-ray version features a high-tech visual essay about the Hyperion Studio where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was made. Such contemporary figures in Disney animation as John Musker, Ron Clements, Eric Goldberg, and Andrew Stanton are integrated into vintage black and white photographs, then come alive to explain the various departments at the facility and how they worked. Their introductions are then amplified by audio interviews with Disney staffers from the period, including directors David Hand and Wilfred Jackson and a number of animators.
Another feature has Disney producer Don Hahn introducing a storyboard sequence for what appears to be a “sequel” to Snow White, most likely a short subject that would have made use of two sequences Walt was forced to cut from the finished feature film. This material has only recently been unearthed at Disney’s Animation Research Library and it’s fun to see what might have been. Other featurettes, prepared for an earlier release of the film on video, trace the studio’s history and the casting of voices for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In answer to the inevitable collector’s question, “Should I buy this new edition even if I already have a copy of the film?” My answer is a resounding YES. The restored picture and sound and the Walt Disney commentary are well worth the price.
(Walt Disney Home Entertainment)