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« Madonna from "Truth or Dare" to "MDNA" | Main | Happy Birthday, Louise Lasser »
Wednesday
Apr112012

HMWYBS: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

In the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series we invite everyone to choose their favorite shot from a movie and explain why. This week's film is the impossibly influential Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) which launched Disney's feature animation empire. Given that the Snow White myth is the subject of two new films Mirror Mirror (reviewed) and the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsmen (interview tease) we thought it was time to take a look way back.

So Heigh Ho Heigh Ho, it's off to work we go.

When I think of Snow White these days my first thought is no longer the movie itself but my first trip to Disney World just three years ago with friends. On the last day of the lengthy trip my friends realized I hadn't been to the part of the park that had the oldest rides, the ones that were considered more for children and it turned out to be my favorite part. My absolutely favorite ride was Peter Pan (such gorgeous dioramas) but I remember Snow White best because I was startled by the nightmarish imagery. This is for children?

In my  last two subsequent screenings of Disney's first classic, it all made sense. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) is much more adult in its terror than modern animated films ever dare to be, raising knives and clubs at its heroine, threatening her with non-consensual heart surgery, and throwing her into a haunted forest. It repeatedly threatens her with warped and clawed hands whether they're from trees, shadows, or evil queens disguised as old crones.

So it only seemed right that the iconic shot I'm choosing as best pans diagonally down from gnarled hands to a smoother one, the fairest of them all in point of fact. 

Witch: Don't let the wish grow cold!
Snow: Ohhhh. I feel strange.
Witch: Her breath will still
Her blood congeal...

Though the entire scene is filled with implied terror this shot actually averts its gaze demurely the way the film doesn't in other scenes, unexpectedly making Snow White's poisoning by apple much scarier. Our focus here is entirely on the evil Queen's evil as it were, as her breathing and hand motions and whispering all ecstatically await Snow's demise. It's very creepy and makes Snow's collapse feel not just terrible but inevitable.

But... 

In order to live happily ever after, we close with a happier moment. My favorite shot in the film if not my choice for "best" comes in the film's very first minutes as Snow sings "♪ I'm wishing... (I'm wishing) for the one I love ♫" and listens to her own voice echoing back to her. It's an unexpected image (who thought to shoot from the well's point of view?) and it's also richly prophetic. When I see this shot I think of the movie and character echoing ever after in cinema through every princess, every "I Want" song and every fairy tale fantasy. It started everything and ripples still. 

 Heigh Hoooooooo ♫ It's Off to Blogs You Go...
In honor of Happy, Sleepy, Bashful and the like, we're giving these blogs dwarf names befitting their awesome choices for best shot. Click around to see why I chose these names.

Next on "Hit Me"...
April 18th Serenity (2005) and/or "Firefly" (2002)
With two Joss Whedon related movies about to hit theaters (The Avengers and Cabin in the Woods) let's look at his feature film directorial debut. If you've never seen Firefly, the series on which this is based you can substitute the tv pilot for the feature if you want (one time only!). Both are available on Instant Watch.
April 25th Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
I've been itching for Gong Li lately and rather shockingly I've never seen this major film in her career. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.
May 2nd Pariah (2011)
I thought we'd do something brand new on DVD (we never do that!). Mostly because I'd like more people to see this moving LGBT indie.

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Reader Comments (10)

Worth noting: the Snow White ride at Disney World, partially owing to it being just as weirdly horrifying as you observe (full name: "Snow White's Scary Adventures"), is going to be closing at the end of May, as part of a major renovation of the whole Fantasyland area. It's going to be replaced by a family-friendly roller coaster called "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train". So I'm glad you were able to get there before that happened; it's hardly the best thing on the park, but I've always had an attachment to it.

You're dead right about Peter Pan, though. So simple, but so much beauty and personality.

Forgive the threadjacking

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

I'm sorry to say that I don't have a blog, but I absolutely love this movie, so I'm going to use this space to give my reply.

Aside from the images that Nathaniel chose, which are the some of the most memorable and identifiable in all of animation-dom, these are some shots that have always gotten me.

The first is one that I always laugh at without fail, so simple in its idea but so well done and freaking hilarious.

http://hq55.com/disney/sw/snowwhite-disneyscreencaps.com-5182.jpg

Then things take a turn for the nightmare-inducing, namely that famous chase scene (though "chase" might not be the right word, she is really only running from her own fear and panic) through the woods. The closeup reaction shots during the quick-cut end of the sequence have always made my eyes widen in horror.

http://hq55.com/disney/sw/snowwhite-disneyscreencaps.com-1474.jpg

Finally, while the previous picture was an intentional scare, my choice for the best shot, and certainly my choice most memorable, is one that caused my childhood VHS to skip after being paused for so long on a single shot.

http://hq55.com/disney/sw/snowwhite-disneyscreencaps.com-12155.jpg

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBennett

Bennett -- how fun that you did this through the comments. See, you don't even need your own blog to participate. I really appreciate participation because if it doesn't happen I always feel like I should fold the series.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Musical interludes make for best shots always.

Yay, I'm Dainty. I've always wanted to know which dwarf I'd be. This almost makes me curious as to what results all of us participants would get if we did Little Women or Spice World. I'm an intelligent person otherwise, I swear.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

i love the "i'm wishing" scene. the water is so realistic looking. and i love that even though she's in rags (and wooden shoes!), she accessorized with a different colored hair bow than the one she wears the rest of the film. i used to torture my father with the soundtrack as a kid–he couldn't stand how high adriana caselotti's voice was as snow white. it was like nails on a chalkboard...

sent an email last night with my link, would you mind including it? thanks!

http://thefilmsthething.blogspot.com/2012/04/true-fairest-of-them-all.html

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

@ Paolo - seconded, especially on Little Women (ahem, 32 - Cukor, 32 - Cukor)

One of my favourite things about watching this was seeing how (inadvertently, I'm sure) it seemed to be an ad for so many of Disney's pieces. My eyes kept zeroing on hooks that they'd come to use again. Like, the talking bird in Cinderella, the deer from Bambi, the Raven in Sleeping Beauty, even the candle kept making me flash back to Beauty and the Beast (although that one's neither here nor there because also made made me think of this http://shootingthescript.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/jane-eyre-candle.jpg?w=500&h=268)

Also, I'm definitely dreamy.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

done.

it's funny how annoying people find Snow's voice.

but what do y'all think of these shots?

April 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Since my comment seems to have been swallowed (or maybe it went down the wishing well), here goes:

Sure, she's less aesthetically pleasant but the Queen's old lady garb reminds me a bit of Cinderella's fairy godmother, which brings me to my favourite thing about the movie, which might me projection on my part - but doesn't it feel like all the future hooks that would rule Disney over the next decades are set up here? For example, the Princess talking to the birds as in Cinderella, the raven reminds me of Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and there are others which I can't seem to recall.

Snow White constantly with the candle also reminded me of Lumiere just a bit, although the slight Gothic elements reminded me of this almost immediately http://shootingthescript.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/jane-eyre-candle.jpg?w=500&h=268

Also, I second Paolo's comment - especially on Little Women (Cukor, 1933!, Cukor, 1933)

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

andrews -- well, that's what i meant by the ripples! it sets up everything.

yeah, we should do a Cukor movie.

April 13, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

My first trip to Walt Disney World happened when I was not 7, but 37 years of age. Yet, the impact of Snow White Scary Adventures was nonetheless profound. Before the ride, I had only seen the film once and fell asleep half way thru. After the ride, I became a Snow White votary, blogging about Disney's "fairest one of all" almost everyday for the last 2.5 years. The influence of the ride...and of course the film...on my life has been quite astounding to me.

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