Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The last time I watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was when I was 19, a freshman in college, in an Intro to Film class. It did not end well. I was having difficulty staying awake and would have fallen asleep if it weren't for Snow White's shrill, high pitched singing voice. When it was over and the class discussion began, I tore into it like a dumb teenager with something to prove.

Of course, I was wrong. Revisiting it now at the age of 30, I see now that it really is a landmark cinematic achievement. Every scene is animated with such care and craftsmanship. The amount of detail and humanity expressed in the characters is staggering. It's easy for us to take animated features for granted, but at the time Disney and Co. made Snow White, this was a huge gamble. It was unknown if audiences would be willing or able to emotionally invest in a cartoon. Nowadays, you are chided as inhuman if Up or Toy Story 3 didn't make you cry. This is all because of Snow White.

There were several sequences that struck me. Snow White fleeing into the harsh unfamiliarity of the forest, hysterically visualizing monsters in the trees where there are only gnarled branches and birds. The deep anguish of the scene of the dwarfs mourning her after being poisoned by the apple. The evil queen fleeing the dwarfs' vengeance and ultimately meeting her demise. I mean, holy crap, if falling off a cliff wasn't final enough, they really bring it home by dropping a boulder on top of her and sending a couple of vultures down to eat her remains! Disney uses the heightened world of animation to pull the audience in one direction or another, laughing one moment, crying the next, action and excitement after that.

So, I get it now. Snow White is truly a great film. It's still not my favorite Disney film. I'm still not a fan of that shrill singing voice, but I'm willing to overlook it as an artifact of the 1930's. Of the four classics I've revisited (or visited for the first time) in the last year or so, my favorite is still Sleeping Beauty. Fantasia is pretty incredible too. I plan on getting Bambi before it goes "back in the vault". It was another one I didn't much care for in my stupid days, so I'm curious to see where I stand on it.

Well, I've once again revealed myself as a complete dummy in my youth. If any of you readers have a time machine, could you travel back to that day in Film 101 and give me a swat in the back of the head, courtesy of my future self? Thanks.

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