After a nearly five-year moratorium, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs returned to home video earlier this month as the debut title in the Walt Disney Signature Collection, successor to the Diamond Edition line. For fans of streaming, the digital version of the film debuted on January 19th.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tells the tale of a young maiden (voiced by Adriana Caselotti) who’s so beautiful that she incurs the wrath of her stepmother (Lucille La Verne), an evil queen with a penchant for dark magic. After fleeing her stepmother’s kingdom, Snow White stumbles upon the woodland cottage of seven diminutive men—Sleepy (Pinto Colvig), Sneezy (Billy Gilbert), Happy (Otis Harlan), Bashful (Scotty Mattraw), Grumpy (Colvig as well), Dopey (Eddie Collins), and Doc (Roy Atwell)—who agree to take her in. They quickly become enamored with their new houseguest. She cooks, cleans, and gives them everything a mother would, if they had one. Unfortunately, her stepmother learns the girl is still alive, and sets out to get her revenge. After disguising herself as a decrepit crone and tricking Snow White into eating a poisonous apple, the beautiful girl lies dead. However, the dutiful devotion of her new dwarfen friends and the arrival of a Prince (Harry Stockwell) may help the slumbering girl escape her eternal sleep.
The script is credited to eight different writers: Ted Sears, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Credon, Dick Rickard, Merrill De Maris, and Webb Smith. In many cases, that leaves you with a story that goes in a lot of different directions with no particular point or purpose; that is certainly not the case here. These individuals were able to weave the melodramatic evilness of the Queen and her unstoppable desire to destroy her stepdaughter with moments of subtle humor and occasional outright frivolity.
Aiding things tremendously is the superb voice casting. While it’s true Adriana Caselotti’s voice can sound a bit shrill at times, her soprano style is steeped in the thirties, when beltish singers like Deanna Durbin (to a lesser degree, Kay Thompson), were all the rage. There’s no question though that her voice has a sweet, soft and naïve quality that makes it just right for the part of Snow White. As her polar opposite, Lucille LaVerne has the right amount of cruelty as the mad Queen and her s hag counterpart. Famous for his long take sneezes, Billy Gilbert was perfect casting as Sneezy, and all of the other voice actors for the dwarfs etch wonderful characters with a limited number of spoken lines. Harry Stockwell’s Prince gets the least development (even the huntsman is a stronger character) by the animators, but he certainly handles the Prince’s “One Song” with the appropriate ardor.
The Signature Collection is the same transfer used for the 2009 Blu-ray release. Even in HD streaming, colors are bold and rewarding, black levels are deep and inky. The image is clean throughout. Contrast wavers slightly on just a few occasions.
I was able to watch the digital edition in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film was originally in mono sound, and as a result most of the audio is relegated to the front speakers. Nonetheless, a few moments get some extra punch from the bass.
English Subtitles are available.
One of the best things about Digital HD copy is the fact that it includes a Bonus Exclusive of “Hungry Hobos,” a 1928 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short considered forever lost until discovered five years ago. A real gem.
[Some of this review appeared in a review for an earlier release of this film.]