On December 21, 1937, Walt Disney premiered an amazing new film, entitled "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood. For the first full-length animated film, more than 10,000 fans were on hand, including the greats of the industry. Fifteen hundred people actually got in to the theater to the watch the film, and they loved it.
Reviewers variously described it as "perfectly delightful," "exquisite imagery, delicate charm, breathtaking beauty" and "an inspired and inspiring work." At age 36, Disney had created, with a lot of help, a movie masterpiece. Time magazine put him on the cover with the seven dwarfs. In its first three months, 20 million people came to see the film, bringing in $8.5 million.Although it took three years to make the film, the magical story has lived on for eight generations. A veritable army of talented people worked on the production. Approximately 500 animators and inkers were involved in "Snow White" in assembly line fashion. They included assistant animators, "in-betweeners" who filled in pieces of action between animators' drawings, layout men, background artists, special effects animators who drew smoke, water, clouds, and other effects, and many inkers and painters who inscribed the drawings on celluloid sheets for reproduction.
In the end, there were a quarter million inked drawings used in "Snow White," all designed to portray personality in the princess and the dwarfs. The animators tried to communicate such emotions as love, dejection, hate, jealousy and fear, and they succeeded to a remarkable extent. Who could forget Sneezy with his giant ker-choos, or the awkward Doc, the stuttering leader of the group of dwarfs? Their character traits were well-drawn, and the audience identified with them.
The music in the film has become as unforgettable as the characters. There were eight songs, including "Some Day My Prince Will Come," "One Song," "Heigh-Ho," "Whistle While Your Work," "With a Smile and a Song," and "I'm Wishing" - all written by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey. Eighty musicians rendered the score for the sound track.
A 21-year-old coloratura soprano named Adriana Caselotti, a daughter of Guido Caselotti, a Los Angeles voice coach, was chosen to be the voice of Snow White. She was thrilled with the role and has remained proud of her work even though Disney chose not to recognize roles of participants in the credits, and she only made $980 for the film.
Disney's famous comment about the film suggests the real motivation that guided his work: "I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be 6 or 60. Call the child innocence. The worst of us is not without innocence."
Interestingly enough, Disney Studios rereleased "Snow White" in 1987 to mark the 50th anniversary of the film's opening. It was shown at 4,000 theaters in 60 countries, and its success was just as monumental as its original opening. Variety called it a "mega-hit." In 50 years, the film has earned about $375 million, and its latest release brought in $43 million alone.
Although Disney Studios have made almost 30 animated full-length films since the debut of "Snow White," none has compared to that original triumph. This year it was appropriate that Touchstone Pictures, a modern Disney studio, combined efforts with another movie giant, Steven Spielberg, to produce a film that combines animation with flesh and blood characters. It is called "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and is billed as a story of a man, a woman and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble.
Spielberg and the director, Robert Zemeckis, regard the film as a celebration of animation and, in particular, as a tribute to Disney animation. It has received mixed reviews, and some are not sure whether the new film captures the spirit of Disney in recognizing "the child in all of us." But the film is packed with most of the important animated characters of the last 50 years, undoubtedly hoping for a major box office draw. It is doubtful that they will succeed on the same level as "Snow White," but they have realized how much the public still loves animation. It seems a significant bench mark of Disney's original accomplishment.