There remains and deserves little to be said about Disney’s own Pandora’s Box, their inaugural feature-length animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Not necessarily because its status as a first of its kind has rendered its reputation beyond reproach, but in addition to that, more than 70 years’ worth of ridicule and superior cartoon fairy tales have eclipsed the nature of Walt Disney’s achievement here. If the runaway success of Snow White opened the door for the production of Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Fantasia (made, respectively, with significantly more intelligence, heart, and élan than their predecessor), it also provided the aesthetic left with an easy scapegoat for all that’s crass and artless in Hollywood filmmaking, thereby rendering many unable to appreciate the likes of…Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Fantasia.
It is Snow White‘s afterbirth that merits both canonization and destruction. The child itself remains an underwhelming underachiever awarded undue merit simply for being first born. And yet, the fact that Snow White as an artifact is anything but impenetrable now emerges as its sole saving grace. The movie’s (and, consequently, Disney’s) legacy stresses the supremacy of craft over art, of labor over style. Far from simply elongating their Silly Symphonies into 80-plus minutes, the animation team labored over technical innovations like multiplane cel animation, which simulated depth of perception. The film took a painful three years to piece together, and the exertions are plainly visible in the callow final product. Like Snow White herself careening fearfully through menacing woods, Disney’s team understandably missed the forest for the individually animated trees in their first time at bat. Snow White fails to transcend its insipid characters, kitschy setting, and abysmal pacing, lollygagging on exposition and incident and misplacing what dramatists refer to as the inciting incident by placing it roughly 20 minutes from the end. It almost feels as though the animators truly didn’t grasp the duration of how 24 frames would play when jammed into one second.
But it’s precisely because Snow White‘s seams are so retroactively apparent that it deserves a break from our Disney Demolition Derby. As a model of craft and entertainment-product, it’s the antithesis to Disney’s later, equally retrograde but dangerously efficient indoctrinations. (Not for nothing was Battleship Potempkin workhorse Sergei Eisenstein a major fan of the Mouse House.) And so far as the potential for Snow White herself to teach yawning young female minds to accept their lot in life as domestic goddesses goes, the brunette princess doesn’t register enough as a human to serve as an inspiration. Thanks to the maladroit animation, she isn’t even pretty enough to engender instinctive parroting. Nor are many girls or gay boys likely to accept noted tenor Prince Charming’s ability to catch a tune, straddle a pony, or perch atop a stonewall as any sort of treatise on masculinity. If it’s possible for a parable to be too simple to even qualify as a parable, the convincingly dim Snow White represents the dopey standard.
Disney loves to trot out Snow White whenever they debut a new home video line, and this time they're using it to set their "Diamond Edition" franchise into motion. As a flagship, they could do worse. Snow White is undoubtedly one of the most well-protected properties in the Disney fold (both physically and legally, as both Allan Carr's Academy Awards and various playschools can attest), and the results are predictably eye-opening here. Far from the Shriny Dink effect that has marred some of their other restorative overhauls, Snow White on Blu-ray looks remarkably filmic. The flaws of the original source material have been somewhat minimized but thankfully not totally eradicated in the quest for plastic perfection. I know not everyone will take it as a compliment when I say some of the process shots show double vision, but the people who care about image quality in the first place probably fetishize the "original experience" to the same extent us home video reviewers do. As for the 7.1 surround remix, Disney's gotten much better at using mono elements to suggest stereo, but they can't seem to let the image of a whirlpool go by without sending everything into an aural tailspin.
For the time being, consumers will apparently just have to accept that Disney doesn't trust Blu-ray enough as a format to simply release the high-definition discs alone. This three-disc edition comes with both Blu-ray and a completely superfluous, bare-bones DVD version. I guess when we get to the point that movies are released on flash drives, Disney will duct tape them to old VHS tapes just in case? Vestigial discs aside, Disney inaugurates their Diamond line with a few genuine carats and more than a few pieces of cubic zirconia, quite a bit of it recycled. The repurposed bonus features include a Walt Disney zombie commentary stitched together from years and years of interviews with the mogul, as well as a collection of insultingly easy games. As a measure of just how loudly Disney touts its own horn, the outdated DVD games are collected here under the banner "Classic Bonus Features," along with a karaoke sing-along, a featurette about the vocal talents, and a look at how Disney marketed the film through decades of rereleases. Chief among the indispensible new bonus features is a sneak peek at the forthcoming The Princess and the Frog. (I'm only being partly facetious, as it's illuminating to compare Snow White with the fact that, more than 70 years down the road, Disney's finally getting around to its first black princess heroine.) The "Hyperion Studios" feature proves surprisingly interactive and stuffed with worthwhile historical footage, including a few bonus Mickey Mouse shorts (among others, the uncut, pig nipple-tickling "Steamboat Willie"). Compared with their legacy of tired kids games and quizzes, "Hyperion Studios" feels like the studio's first reasonably thought-out stab at interactivity. Last and least is a music video for airbrushed Disney Channel chanteuse Tiffany Thornton's superfluous cover of a classic tune. She sings "Someday My Prince Will Come," but her delivery suggests that, until he does, she'll just stick with her two fingers, thanks.
Sure it's technically essential, but kids won't notice the stunning video presentation of Disney's Blu-ray release, and adults are referred to R.S. Gwynn's "Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins."