Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow White and the seven dwarfs

The re-release of Walt Disney's “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on DVD (and first time on Blu-Ray) this month has served to reconfirm what many have said already - this is one of the best movies ever made. The film is every bit as moving and entertaining as it was when it debuted in the late 1930s. If you haven't seen it yet. . .it just means that you're very frugal. :) As far as I know the film has never been shown on television, so you won't find it on Disney channel or TCM or AMC or pay-per-view or anything like that. Your options are to see it in the theater or to buy the home video versions. I missed the first DVD release of Snow White, as did many other people, which quickly drove the price of the DVD up higher than most of us would like to pay for it. Thankfully, this re-release brings the film classic back down to fit our budgets. (It can be frustrating to not be able to buy a particular film just because they've decided to release it again five years from now.)

The quality of the DVD itself is excellent. It's hard to believe, but you really can't see too many flaws in the picture or hear too many flaws in the audio. It's as if the film were made this year. The only giveaway technically is that it remains in its standard “square” format that it was first shown in. Such was not always the case. When I first saw Snow White in the theater in 1987, they “cropped” the square so that we got a “widescreen” version of Snow White. This wasn't that bad to watch - everything important was in the picture. But time has brought out the “purist” in me that says, “we want to see it the way it was originally seen.” If that's the case for you too, please buy this DVD. (Look for the RKO logo at the end!)

I have to talk about the music. This is one of the best film soundtracks of them all. It not only matches the action and mood of the movie, it is beautiful. You could listen to the soundtrack by itself and enjoy it. If you're a casual fan, the official CD soundtrack will be fine. But if you're a nut like me (and who isn't?), you should also try to get the original LP or cassette of the soundtrack that was produced before CDs came out. Although there is less music, the recording contains slightly different music cues than can be found in the CD soundtrack. The violins before “Someday my prince will come” are heard without the dialogue, and the beautiful conclusion is presented with a different choral arrangement that is more faithful to the film version (but interestingly, still not the same!)

Prior to seeing the movie, we had seen “Snow White Live” broadcast on cable TV. It was a stage version of “Snow White” put on at Radio City Music Hall, and it was pretty terrific in its own right. It contained the best of the movie while adding a few new plot items here and there. Some of those plot points included the prince's search for Snow White and the Dwarfs ringing the bells at Snow White's wedding. And the cast was excellent. Even those who had to wear masks shone on stage. It's a real treat that has not been released on video in decades! The time has come, Disney! Don't make us wait another 20 years!

Sometime in late 1983 (I think), my dad, brother and I went to a drive-in theater to see “Return of the Jedi.” “Snow White” was playing at the same theater on a different screen. A couple of times during the movie, I would turn around and watch scenes from “Snow White.” It's kind of neat now to realize that two of my favorite films were playing at the same time in the same theater, and I sort of got to see a bit of both of them at the same time!

My brother and I were lucky enough to meet Snow White in person. It's one of my earliest memories. It was at Disneyland, and she said, “What a brave boy!” as I walked up to shake her hand. Dopey was with her, and we have photos. A very cool kid moment. It's actually pretty rare to see the dwarfs in the park these days. I got to shake hands with Grumpy once during the parade. That's the last time I recall seeing him in the park.

It's kind of difficult to believe today, but in its day, “Snow White” was likely the scariest film of its time. (I've heard it said that it would have been “PG” if there had been a ratings system at the time.) That scary aspect seems to run completely apart from the “cuteness” of the film, yet it is obviously an important element. The queen turns herself ugly so that she can become beautiful. Its lesson is that true ugliness is not physical, but spiritual. When the queen becomes a witch, it is frightening, but you later realize that this is who she truly was all along. When she cries out, “now I'll be the fairest in the land!” you can't help but realize how blind she is. Her obsession with beauty has only brought out ugliness. And as for that “cuteness”- it continues today in so many things that Disney is doing. Walt once said something like, “It may be corny, but I like corn.” And apparently many others do, too.

It's also frightening to realize that if “Snow White” had failed, as many people at the time said it would, we would not have the Disney company today – that's how much money had to be invested in it. But thankfully Walt knew his stuff, and the film basically became a cornerstone for all of the Disney movies and an inspiration for so many other films at the time, most notably “Wizard of Oz”, “Gulliver's Travels” and “The Blue Bird” with Shirley Temple. Both “Wizard” and “Gulliver's Travels” have some excellent songs, too.

I'd like to hope that people are beginning to realize what the first audience for “Snow White” realized back in 1937 or so. This film isn't just another cartoon. This film isn't just for kids, and in some cases can be too scary for kids. This film is a work of art. This film moves the heart. This film is more entertaining than most films with “real people.” This film breaks rules. This film creates rules. This film rules.


THE TERRIBLE FOE: You would think that losing some relatives to cancer would make me realize how devastatingly common it is. The news that Andrew Lloyd Webber has prostrate cancer is worrisome to say the least, knowing that many have not survived it. Thankfully it is in its early stages, and can hopefully be treated with success. Our prayers and good wishes go out to him.

THE STARS ALLIGN: When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with the Hollywood sign, we find that there is a date which stands out among sitcom fans everywhere. October 18 is the birthday of Erin Moran (Joanie of “Happy Days”), Pam Dawber (of “Mork & Mindy”) and Dawn Wells (Mary Ann of “Gilligan's Island”). I consider this too much to be a coincidence. I suggest we name October 18 as “cute sitcom girl day.” It may not become a national holiday, but it would give us a good excuse to watch “Mork & Mindy” again. For more on Gilligan's Island, enjoy my post here:

And in a post such as this, I would be amiss not to note that “Joanie” on Happy Days played “Snow White” in a Halloween-themed episode. And what a startling coincidence, but this week is Halloween as well! For us grown-ups without kids, the holiday can be more of a pain than anything else. But I still try to find the fun in it with the help of my friends – and a few pieces of extra candy here and there. You know, there's always a bit extra left over. . .especially if I happen to accidentally go out and forget about passing it out on the 31st. . .you never know. I'm a busy guy. Things happen. You know, I've often wondered. . .how many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? Perhaps this year, I will finally find out. (“The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind. . .”)