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Kevin Krock, editor
DVD Review
Snow White
(1937) | Approx. 84 Minutes
| Rated G | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
Advanced Home Theater - A cornerstone of any collection

The Movie

"The one that started it all."

That is how the Walt Disney Company currently describes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but it could also be called, "The one that might have ended it all." While Snow White was probably one of Walt Disney’s greatest accomplishments and personal triumphs, but it was also one of his greatest gambles.

In 1937, the very idea of a 90-minute cartoon was laughable by most critics of the time and many called Snow White "Disney’s folly." Contrarily, Walt insisted that he knew his public, and he expected that, done correctly, people would sit, watch, and emotionally relate to the moving drawings on the screen. Walt literally bet the studio and everything he had on the movie’s success, and upon its debut in December of 1937, the public and critics duly rewarded Walt and his stable of brilliant artists.

Publicity art © Disney Enterprises, Inc
Publicity art © Disney

Snow White was the highest grossing box-office draw in 1938, and it proved that animation could successfully be used as a forceful storytelling tool. The critical and monetary success not only saved the studio but also fueled a family entertainment legacy.

For over sixty years, this movie has delighted both young and old, and it is the perfect choice for the premier Platinum Edition DVD release. I will not belabor the story of Snow White, since I am pretty certain you have seen the movie or read the story at some point in your life. Instead, I will focus my attention on the astounding collection of supplemental material that puts this landmark film into the historical context it deserves.

The Goodies

In early 2000, Disney announced their Platinum Edition DVD program, but it was a bit of an unknown entity because no details were given. Essentially, Disney selected ten classic movies, of which Snow White was the first, and over the next ten years, one title will be released annually on DVD as a very special edition.

Each Platinum DVD was initially expected to include a definitive collection of artwork, featurettes, commentaries, etc., but accurate estimates of content were reserved until earlier in 2001 when Disney formally announced the Snow White DVD. At the time, the vague list of features looked encouraging, but as you can see from the final feature list in the sidebar, the combination of the extensive bonus material and the "immersive" user experience make for an impressive and ambitious benchmark for all future Platinum Edition DVDs.

Because of the sheer volume of bonus material between the two discs, I only have the space to highlight the more significant items.

Publicity art © Disney Enterprises, Inc
Publicity art © Disney

DISC ONE

The Guided Tour – It is a handy and quick summary of all of the features on the disc. It makes for good introductory material for those folks who are unfamiliar with the possibilities of DVD. If you are an old DVD pro, it may not be of too much interest, especially if you like to explore a disc on your own.

"Some Day My Prince Will Come" sung by Barbra Streisand – I have never been a big fan of Barbra’s music, and the remake of this song did not change my mind. I know that there are a lot of Streisand fans out there, and you may enjoy this more than me. However, if for some reason I get the urge to listen to "Some Day..." outside of the context of the movie, I would rather just chapter skip through the movie to watch and listen to the original.

"Still The Fairest of Them All: The Making Of Snow White" – This 40-minute documentary is a wonderful resource for animation fans. I ended up being totally sucked into this documentary, and there is a lot of fascinating background information that I had never heard before. The show covers everything from Walt’s original story sessions to the extraordinary efforts of the restoration team, and some of the clips and photos have never been released before.

"Dopey’s Wild Mine Ride" Game – I am not usually a big fan of set-top DVD games, but I found this one reasonably interesting. Essentially, you help Dopey through a series of tasks and challenges in order to save Snow White from the Wicked Queen. The environments are completely 3D rendered, much like the set-top game on the Dinosaur DVD.

Audio Commentary – I am a pretty big audio commentary fan, and over the past couple of years I have heard a bunch of them – some good, some bad. When the Fantasia DVD was released in late 2000, I was fascinated by the audio commentary by none other than Walt Disney himself. Culled and assembled from hours of archive recordings, the commentary provided a wonderfully unique look at how Walt conceived and developed Fantasia.

Since that time, I have always hoped that Disney would put together similar commentaries for other classic films that Walt personally touched, and my wish was granted on the Snow White DVD. This commentary is very similar to the Fantasia one, including the informative contextual comments by film historian John Canemaker, and I found listening to Walt talk about Snow White equally, if not more, informative and fascinating. There were a couple of spots that seemed a bit slow or disconnected from a particular scene, but these are few and far between and do not detract from the overall experience.

DISC TWO

THE QUEEN’S CASTLE – VIRTUAL GALLERIES & MORE

On most DVDs, development art is usually displayed as a series of thumbnail pictures that can be selected to view the full image. It is functional, but kind of boring. Additionally, most of the art is displayed without any explanation of its significance or context. In a fun departure from the norm, the development galleries for Snow White are placed in a 3-D rendered model of the Queen’s castle, and you move around the castle and view the artwork on the walls. Some of the artwork even has a brief narration that can be played. The contents of the galleries are similar to all others, but the presentation is very cool and different.

Publicity art © Disney
Publicity art © Disney

A couple of other additions of note to this area are a pair of excerpts from two Disney television shows, "The Story Of The Silly Symphony" and "Tricks of Our Trade." Both clips focus on the "Multiplane Camera," the breakthrough animation instrument developed the Disney Studio. The special camera allowed for far more depth perception in animation than was previously available. The clips are nice, but I really wish Disney had just put both of the shows on the disc in their entirety, but maybe they have plans to do that in one of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD collections. I certainly hope so, because it is a pity that these classic behind-the-scenes television shows have been chopped up into short chunks that disrupt the interesting continuity developed within the individual shows. I guess we will have to wait and see.

THE QUEEN’S DUNGEON – ABANDONED CONCEPTS

With Walt in command of the film’s story helm, he had very specific ideas about how the story should be constructed to keep it moving along. Along the way, the story team developed ideas that simply did not fit into the direction Walt wanted to take the film, so they were dropped. Several of those, including an alternate version of how Snow White meets the Prince and a "fantasy" version of "Some Day My Prince Will Come," have been reconstructed from their original storyboards. They are interesting to watch and to see how they would definitely not fit in with the final version of the story.

In addition to the abandoned concepts, this section boasts a nice featurette on the extensive restoration that was undertaken to return Snow White to its original condition. The effort involved not only cleaning up scratch and dust marks but also dealing with years of discoloration. The digital restoration has been an ongoing project for several years, and it has even involved consultations with studio veterans who worked on the original film. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, who animated Snow White, were brought in to ensure the restored images were as close to the original as possible. Seeing what was involved will make you appreciate just how challenging this effort was and how wonderful the end result looks.

35 mm film image © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
35 mm film image © Disney
VHS image © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
VHS image © Disney
DVD image © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
DVD image © Disney

THE DWARFS’ MINE – RARE TREASURES

Every movie has at least a few deleted scenes, but animated movies are usually very tightly constructed before any animation takes place. While is generally true with Snow White, there were a few scenes which had progressed fairly far along before Walt decided that the needed to be pulled. Fortunately, these scenes have been preserved, and now we can watch these partially to fully animated scenes, including "The Witch At The Cauldron," "Music In Your Soup," "The Dwarfs’ Bedroom Argument," and "Building A Bed For Snow White."

One of my absolute favorite bonuses on this disc is a section called "Disney Through the Decades." This program presents an overview of the Walt Disney Studios from the 1930’s to the present in decade chunks, and it provides a fairly engrossing insight into the events that have helped shaped The Walt Disney Studios. Here is a rundown of the various sections, as provided in the press kit:

  • Introduction: D.B. Sweeney (voice of Aladar from Dinosaur) – Presents an overview of how Walt Disney began his career, partnering with his brother Roy to produce animated shorts, including the first animated cartoon with synchronized sound, "Steamboat Willie," starring a mouse named Mickey.

Publicity art © Disney Enterprises, Inc

  • The 1930’s: Roy Disney – The decade in which Walt created Pluto and Donald Duck and pioneered further innovations in animation, leading to the world’s first full-length animated feature, Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
  • The 1940’s: Angela Lansbury (voice of Mrs. Potts in Beauty And The Beast) – The decade which saw the construction of the present Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, and a brilliant succession of Disney’s animated masterpieces. Then World War II, which threatened to bankrupt the studio and ruin the Disney brothers forever.
  • The 1950’s: Fess Parker (Davy Crockett) – The decade which saw the reverse of the declining fortunes of the ‘40s through the re-release of Snow White and the smash theatrical debuts of Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp and more. It also includes Disney’s successful forays into television and the Disneyland theme park.
  • The 1960’s: Robby Benson (voice of Beast in Beauty And The Beast) – The decade’s milestones include the huge critical and commercial success of Mary Poppins and the sad and tragic passing of Walt Disney in 1966.
  • The 1970’s: Dean Jones (The Love Bug) – The decade’s highlights include the release of the #1 film The Love Bug, the animated masterpiece The Aristocats, the opening of the incredible Walt Disney World in Florida and the passing of Walt’s brother Roy O. Disney.

Publicity art © Disney Enterprises, Inc

  • The 1980’s: Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid) – The decade which saw unprecedented new growth for Disney, including the first international theme park in Tokyo, expansion of Walt Disney World, the emergence of Walt Disney Home Video, a renaissance at Feature Animation and the opening of the first Disney Store in Glendale, California.
  • The 1990’s: Ming-Na (voice of Mulan) – The decade which saw even more expansion and a resurgence of the popularity of Disney animated films through the releases of Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan and The Lion King, which became the #1 animated film of all-time.
  • D.B. Sweeney: the new millennium – The highlights to date include the continuation of Walt’s original dream in Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, Atlantis and the explosion in home entertainment through the new medium of Disney DVD.
  • Following each of the eight segments (except the 1970’s), you have the option to watch the theatrical trailer for the release of Snow White during that decade.

While I enjoyed the segments a lot, some of them just seemed too short. Granted, they had to keep things brief to get all of them to fit on the disc, but there were several video clips that I would have loved to see more of, such as early development footage of the PeopleMover. Maybe someday Disney will expand on the idea and produce a full DVD with a more comprehensive overview of the company’s history. For now, though, this will do just fine.

THE DWARFS’ COTTAGE – WONDER OF AN ERA GONE BY

This section contains a huge amount of archive material, most from the original theatrical release. There are a couple of newsreel clips of the Hollywood premiere at the Carthay Circle Theater, and there are a number of still art galleries with photographs of original Snow White merchandise, poster art, press kits, premiere photographs, and production photos.

The section also includes a pair of vintage black and white shorts, "A Trip Through the Walt Disney Studios" and "How Disney Cartoons Are Made." The first one is a rarely seen short made exclusively by Disney for RKO exhibitors before Snow White was completed, and the second is a revised edition of the first which was shown publicly as the first trailer for Snow White.

Finally, there are a number of audio-only supplements including interviews, radio spots, and the deleted song "You’re Never Too Old To Be Young. It is a great collection, and it is certainly worth your time to check them out.

As a package, this is a fantastic assemblage of material that provides a comprehensive historical context for one of Walt Disney’s seminal works. There is a little bit of everything, and everyone in the family should be able to find something that interests them. To top it off, all of this stuff is displayed in a very user-friendly fashion that is perfect for folks new to the format but not too simplistic for old pros.

The Video, Audio and Interface

With the movie completely remastered for DVD, the movie transfer is pretty amazing when compared to previous versions. Tens of thousands of frames were digitally cleaned to remove the scratches and dirt that had accumulated over the years, and then the digital files were passed through a film grain elimination process that removed almost all the of grain artifacts that have been obvious on previous releases. The transfer to DVD was performed using the original digital files, so the image you see at home is about the best you are going to see.

The audio has also been completely restored. Utilizing patented noise reduction technology, the audio tracks were meticulously restored to levels unheard of since the original recordings. Then, the tracks were remastered to create a 5.1 channel mix, but steps were taken to ensure that the original integrity of the soundtrack remained. The end result is a very clean and well-balanced sound that should sound great on any system.

© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
© Disney

To round out this impressive collection of audio and video, Disney has produced a user interface that ought to please just about everyone. Upon putting either disc in your player, the Magic Mirror will great you and describe your options. This animated host concept is unique and a boon to new DVD users, and fortunately, it does not usually get in the way of more advanced viewers.

The Advanced Home Theater...

This is an excellent distillation of the hundred dollar plus laser disc box set - the only major element missing (which may be due to music rights, Disney does not own these songs) is the music only track (which if you own the CD soundtrack already, is an acceptable replacement).

The new full frame transfer beats both the 50th Anniversary and the later digital restoration - with a brand new digital master created especially for this DVD. They've learned a lot - plus the technology has advanced quite a bit - since the first restoration on this film, and the final product really is the best you will see this movie at this point in time.

There are also some fun things here, especially with the "magic mirror" guided menus themselves, if left playing for too long before making your selection, the mirror gets a little bitchy. For some fun comments, let the menus play for a while.

My only nitpicks?

* On the subject of menus, the rather elaborate animated ones here are always fun the first time you see them, but after owning your copy for a while, you kind of wish there was some kind of speed option to get to what you want right away. (Many times you can skip over some of the longer intros by just hitting the menu button, but there are a few areas where you cannot.)

To be fair to this release, this a problem that seems rather common on DVD nowadays, as big new showcase titles try to outdo each other with how slick they can be. It would be considerate to the consumer if in future releases companies could just allow their logo first, then go right into the movie when you first hit play, a menu made available if you then choose it by hitting the proper button on your remote or player.

* Roy Disney has a rather unfortunate funny moment in calling up the magic mirror on one of the tours offered on this disc - he's trying to do what Walt did in the "One Hour in Wonderland" TV special when casting a spell - while the effort is appreciated, they should have left this take on the cutting room floor.

* Also the Barbra Streisand rendition of "Some Day My Prince Will Come" is very misguided - with an arrangement that takes the simple charm of the original melody and tries (and keeps trying over and over again) to trick it up.

On top of that, Ms. Streisand's now expected histrionics tend to overpower this original quiet lament. After seeing a recently restored print of "Funny Girl" (her film debut) I long (as I am sure many do) for the days before she became "Barbra Streisand, professional film and recording star."

As Kevin concurs in his review - the bang for the buck on this edition (it should be available for around $20 - $25 at most dealers upon release) is outstanding on this title.

Disney has come a long way from its first rather lackluster DVDs a few years ago and should be commended on the remarkable quality of this title.

- Al Lutz

The Final Evaluation

Publicity art © Disney
Publicity art © Disney

I am going to keep this very simple: You can find this DVD for $20 - $25 at a number of outlets, and at that price you should not miss this. The movie is an absolute classic of film and animation. The audio and video transfers are better than they have ever been, the user interface is unique and fun for all levels of viewers, and the bonus material is extensive and right on the mark.

As I mentioned previously, this package sets an ambitious benchmark for all future Disney Platinum DVD releases, and I look forward the Fall of 2002 when Beauty and the Beast is due to hit the streets.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

DVD FEATURES

Goodies

DISC ONE

  • Guided Tour
  • "Still The Fairest of Them All: The Making Of Snow White" - 40-minute documentary
  • "Heigh-Ho" Sing-Along
  • "Dopey’s Wild Mine Ride" Game
  • "The Goddess of Spring" - Silly Symphony animated short
  • Audio Commentary - gathered from dozens of hours of rare archival recordings of Walt Disney himself, hosted by film historian John Canemaker.

DISC TWO

A 3-D animated map initially displays five lands to explore. The Mirror will reveal the contents of each land as you navigate over them with your remote, orr you can simply view a standard menu listing of the entire contents of Disc Two. The five lands are:

SNOW WHITE’S WISHING WELL (HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT)

  • Walt Disney Biographical Timeline
  • Snow White Production Timeline
  • Brothers Grimm Original Version of Snow White
  • Introduction To Storyboards
  • Storyboard To Film Comparisons - The Queen Orders Snow White’s Death, Snow White And The Huntsman/Forest Chase, Snow White And Animals Clean House, The Dwarfs Chase The Witch

THE QUEEN’S CASTLE (VIRTUAL GALLERIES & MORE)

  • You are transported inside a unique 3-D animated environment of the castle. You can choose to have an audio docent guide you, as this Disney DVD innovation enhances viewers’ experiences as they learn about the backgrounds of the designs they see. Or explore on your own: by using your remote, you can navigate through the castle yourself.
  • Preliminary Designs And Deleted Concepts
  • Layouts and Backgrounds Gallery
  • Camera and filter tests
  • Excerpt From "The Story Of The Silly Symphony"
  • Excerpt from "Tricks of Our Trade"
  • Camera And Filter Tests - Multi-Plane Camera tests, Technicolor model tests of animals and dwarfs
  • Character Voice Talent - Special featurette on the original voices from the film
  • Live-Action Footage
  • Character Design Galleries - Still art galleries showcase the production designs for: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Queen/Witch, Huntsman/Prince/Animals

THE QUEEN’S DUNGEON (ABANDONED CONCEPTS)

  • Snow White Meets The Prince - Storyboard reconstruction of an alternate version of Snow White’s meeting with the Prince
  • Some Day My Prince Will Come (Fantasy Version) - Storyboard reconstruction, this is the original "fantasy" version of Snow White meeting the Prince
  • The Prince Is Captured - Storyboard reconstruction of the Prince being captured by the Queen
  • Restoration - A look at how the Disney Studio used today’s technology to return the film’s picture and sound.

THE DWARFS’ MINE (RARE TREASURES)

  • Deleted scenes- The Witch At The Cauldron (Fully animated); Music In Your Soup; The Dwarfs’ Bedroom Argument; The Lodge Meeting; Building A Bed For Snow White
  • Original RKO Opening and End Credits
  • Disney through the decades - Overview of the Walt Disney Studios, looking at each decade from the 1930’s to the present. Following each of the eight segments (except the 1970’s), the viewer has the option to watch the theatrical trailer for the release of Snow White during that decade.

THE DWARFS’ COTTAGE (WONDER OF AN ERA GONE BY)

  • Los Angeles Premiere - Rare newsreel footage of the Hollywood premiere at the Carthay Circle Theater, December 21, 1937
  • Merchandise - A large selection of still photographs of original Snow White merchandise, trailers, trailers from Snow White’s various Theatrical re-releases.
  • Poster Gallery - A retrospective of different theatrical poster designs used to promote Snow White over 65 years (still gallery)
  • Publicity Scrapbook - Press kits and the original 1937 Exhibitor’s manual (still gallery), stills from the premiere, original press book, production photos, merchandise, posters
  • "A Trip Through the Walt Disney Studios" - Rarely seen black & white short made exclusively by Disney for RKO exhibitors before Snow White was completed.
  • "How Disney Cartoons Are Made" - A revised version of "A Trip Through the Walt Disney Studios," shown publicly as the first trailer for Snow White
  • Lux Radio Theater, 1936 and 1937 - Famed Director Cecil B. DeMille talks with Walt Disney about his production of Snow White on September 28, 1936; DeMille talks with Walt Disney after the Snow White premiere on December 26, 1937.
  • Radio Broadcast From Premiere of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937) - Walt Disney and an array of Hollywood stars speak to the radio audience in what was a live broadcast of the premiere on December 21, 1937
  • Mickey Mouse Theater Of The Air - Broadcast of a Disney radio program celebrating "Snow White Day" (January 9, 1938)
  • Radio Commercials - 30 and 60 second spots from Snow White Theatrical re-issues of 1958 and 1967.
  • Deleted Song: "You’re Never Too Old To Be Young" (Sung by the Dwarfs)
  • Voice Recording Session

Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 Encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • THX Certified
  • English subtitles
  • Full-Frame - 1.33:1
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