There is a statue in the Magic Kingdom at Walt DisneyWorld, just short of Cinderella's Castle, which features Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. Accompanying that statue is a plaque that reads "Never forget that it all started with a mouse." While that is unquestionably true, in terms of feature length animated fare – something that Disney may be best known for – it all started with a princess, Snow White. Originally released in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is now making its way to Blu-ray in a spectacular three disc set.
The film is the Disney version of the classic Grimm Brothers' fairytale we all know. Snow White's stepmother, the evil Queen, angry that her Magic Mirror finds Snow White more fair than she orders the Royal Huntsman to take Snow White to the woods and kill her. Unable to, he sends her off to hide and there, deep in the forest, she comes upon the dwarfs and their home. The Queen still hunts her but in the end, Snow White goes off with Prince Charming and lives happily ever after.
Watching the film today, the ending of the film seems awfully abrupt – Prince Charming kisses Snow White, she wakes up, says a quick goodbye to the dwarfs and heads off into the sunset. These seven great friends of Snow White, men who not only shared their home with her but nearly lost their lives to save her are quickly dismissed by the princess as her prince has shown up. Overly grateful of their efforts, she is not.
Of course, as issues with a film go, that is a small one. The film is, even today, wondrous and wonderful. It is certainly a version of the story that we all know, but it is no less magical now, watching as an adult, as it was when seen as a child. The film inspires just as many laughs, smiles, and chills as it did back then (okay, perhaps not quite as many chills, but the younger set may definitely find moments frightening).
Following on the heels of Disney's spectacular Blu-ray releases of Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs features a brilliant restoration of the classic film. The quality of the print is an excellent one and features bright, wonderful colors. Imperfections do seem to exist in it, most noticeably some soft focus at points and some imprecise drawing of characters in a few scenes, but those appear to have been issues with the original animation. They do not, however, distract from one's viewing of the film. Snow White does not look like it was made in the past 10 years, but nor does it look over 70 years old. The audio on the Blu-ray can be played out as either a 7.1 channel DTS-HD one or a restored original version. In the 7.1 channel track, the surrounds don't come into play excessively, but are still present to aid with music and some basic background effects. The audio track, much like the picture itself is clear and while doesn't make the film feel new, certainly has breathed new life into it.
The film, as it is 70 years old, only comes in a 4:3 version. However, viewers with widescreen televisions are given the option of watching the film with either black vertical bars on the side or with something called "DisneyView" which features still images drawn by artist Toby Bluth on the sides. The images change with the scenes, and always compliment whatever is taking place in the story – the scary woods scene features evil looking trees, regular woods scenes feature happier looking trees, etc. Often, the pictures perfectly blend into the film itself, never distracting the viewer when they do change. One of the extras included with the set delves into how Bluth went about creating the various pictures he opted to make.
As this is a three-disc set, the amount of bonus material included is massive. From the very first moment one arrives at the Blu-ray menu, it is clear that this is not your average release. The menu is hosted by the Magic Mirror who not only knows the weather where you are and if you've watched the movie yet on that player, but seems to keep track of what bonus features you've looked at on the disc as well.
Perhaps the most impressive of the special features is the look at the storyboards for a potential film or short called Snow White Returns. As explained in the piece, until research was done for the Blu-ray release of the film, Disney was unaware that these storyboards even existed. The storyboards are put together along with some unfinished animation in order to create a basic story outline.
Other bonus features include a look at Hyperion Studios, which is where Snow White and other Disney classics were animated. This feature is on the second Blu-ray disc and is actually set up as almost a virtual studio. One can "travel" to several different rooms, select items in them, and hear accounts (first and second hand) of how the film was put together. The disc also features a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie as a whole.
The new release also contains special features from the previous DVD release (including a commentary featuring archival clips of Walt Disney himself), a "sneak peek" at the upcoming The Princess and the Frog, and some pretty impressive interactive features. One of these, Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, asks the user questions about how they would react in certain situations and based upon the answers decides which Princess the user is most like. While that seems pretty standard, upon getting the result, one can give their phone number in order for the chosen princess to call them. Yes, the call is recorded, but it is no less magical for younger viewers. There is also a feature entitled Scene Stealer, which allows, via a website, the user to upload a photograph of themselves and put it onto one of the film's characters. Unfortunately, as of the time of this review I have been unable to get the picture to upload correctly.
In the case of this release, not only is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a truly great movie with songs that still cause one to tap their toes, not only has it been beautifully updated for this high definition release, but it also features extras which don't feel as though they are included solely for there to be extras but because they are actually relevant and interesting. There may have been doubts about the wisdom of Walt Disney making this film during its production, but upon seeing the finished product — even 70 years later — there can be no doubt about his genius and foresight.