In the mid-1930s, Walt Disney gathered his team at his studio and began to singlehandedly perform the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” complete with gestures and character’s voices (via The Walt Disney Family Museum). It was then that told the assembled crowd that they were going to make a feature-length animated movie.
Disney had already made a name by creating animated cartoons that were lively and inventive (via the Library of Congress). However, an 83-minute animated film in color with sound was virtually unheard of, especially in the 1930s. Even Disney’s wife, Lillian, thought there was no way anyone, let alone adults would sit through an animated movie about dwarfs (via History).
Nonetheless, Disney took the story, based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and created an astounding masterpiece. The film premiered in 1937 and went nationwide in 1938, Disney borrowed more than $1 million dollars to create the film. Moreover, it took three years to produce (via E! Online). The gamble, however, paid off and 83 years later, the film is still a marvel.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was revolutionary
According to The Walt Disney Family Museum, not only was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” Disney’s first debut feature, it was also the first feature-length animated film in the U.S. Its innovation was due to several things, one of them being something called personality animation (via The Library of Congress). In other words, each character was individualized and had their own personality (such as each of the seven dwarfs).
Furthermore, scenes were often studied, analyzed, and recreated until they were perfected (via American Cinematographer). Live actors, usually in costumes, were photographed doing the desired action. Using a Moviola (a viewing machine), this would then guide animators with their drawings. To create the illusion of depth, a multi-plane camera was used (via Filmsite). According to E! Online, the film included only 250,000 sketches of the more than 2 million that were completed.
When the film was released, it made over $8 million dollars, a previously unimaginable amount during the Great Depression (via History). Disney won an honorary Academy Award for the film and, delightfully, seven smaller ones. It was also the first film to release an official soundtrack for purchase. In 2008, AFI named “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as the best animated movie of all time.
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