I’ve decided to watch and review all of the Disney animated classics. There are a lot of them. Most of them are great. Some of them are pretty terrible. There are a few that I’ve never seen. I’ll state right up front that I’m a Disney fan, so if you hate Disney, you might not enjoy my reviews.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs seems like the logical place to start. Made in 1937, it was the first ever full length animated feature.
Snow White gets a lot of flack for being passive and needing to be rescued. I don’t think that’s fair. While she does require rescue at the end, I think she does a great job coping with a difficult situation with the tools that she has. She’s not a badass warrior princess. She’s not incredibly clever. But she is beautiful, sweet, hardworking, and charming, and she uses those tools to her best advantage. Remember, this movie was made in 1937.
The story opens with a prologue that explains the back story. In case anyone doesn’t know, Snow White is a beautiful princess who lives with her cruel and jealous stepmother. The queen uses a magic mirror to bolster her vanity.
One day, the mirror tells the queen that Snow White has grown more beautiful than she, and that sets the events of the movie in motion.
When we first meet Snow White, she’s wearing rags, cleaning, and singing. As she sings, a handsome prince comes along, and the two of them exchange longing looks. Then the prince wanders off.
The queen orders her huntsman to cut out Snow White’s heart and bring it to her in a box. The huntsman hesitates. He’s not the queen’s assassin, after all, but he agrees to do the task. He takes Snow White out to the woods, but can’t bring himself to kill her. He warns her and tells her to flee.
Snow White, sweet and naïve as she is, doesn’t question him. She runs. She’s got no supplies and no survival skills, but she knows her stepmother and takes her chance to escape. There’s no simpering, no doubting, no denial of the queen’s wickedness. Faced with this problem, Snow White acts.
She quickly gets lost and afraid and freaks out. I can’t blame her. She’s probably never been in the woods before at all, let alone by herself and knowing that she’s fleeing for her life. She falls down crying until she’s broken out of her sobs by the cute forest animals.
They startle her, and she instantly recovers herself and apologizes to them. She asks for their help, and they take her to a cottage. Seeing it, she assumes that a bunch of children live in it. She knows that she will need shelter to survive, so she looks for a way to win the right to stay.
It’s filthy, so she rolls up her sleeves and uses her previously displayed cleaning skills to whip the place into shape. Then, exhausted, she falls asleep.
The dwarves have their musical number. When they get home, they come inside and poke around, then go upstairs and wake her up.
Snow White is yanked out of a deep, exhausted sleep and faced by a reality that she never imagined. It’s possible that she didn’t even know dwarves existed. Remember, the girl is sheltered. But even disoriented and a little confused, she turns on the charm and convinces the dwarves to let her stay.
That’s my favorite scene in the movie. Armed with housekeeping skills, optimism, and charm, Snow White has successfully found herself a place to live and people to protect her from her stepmother’s plots. Instead of mourning her lost life, she’s working to build herself something new. Really, her resilience is pretty remarkable.
Plus, this scene is a great example of showing instead of telling. The movie never tells us that Snow White is as charming as she is beautiful. It simply shows her charming the pants off of everyone she meets. No one can resist her, not even Grumpy, who tries very hard to.
Of course, the queen discovers that Snow White is still alive, and decides to leave her castle and kill her stepdaughter herself. She comes up with a plan aimed specifically at Snow White’s character strengths. Snow White is sweet and kind, so the queen makes herself pitiable. It works, and Snow White takes a bite of the poisoned apple.
The dwarves arrive in time to chase the weakened queen off a cliff, then they put Snow White into a glass coffin.
The prince reappears and kisses Snow White’s cold lips. She wakes up, and again, reacts well while sleepy and disoriented. Instead of demanding where he’s been while she was rebuilding her shattered life, she jumps at the chance to move out of the tiny cottage in the woods and into a palace. She kisses the dwarves goodbye and rides off.
Snow White doesn’t fight any monsters, and she doesn’t outsmart her stepmother. At the end, she cannot save herself from her fate. But not every character has to be strong or smart. There are lots of people out there who get by on being cute and likable. I’m confident that after she rode off, Snow White made an absolutely wonderful queen, and I think that she earned her happily ever after.