Certainly the film that "started it all" (including product tie-ins at the time of theatrical release), "Snow White" is a film that definitely remains one of Disney's most adored animated offerings. At this point, nearly everyone likely knows the story of "Snow White"; Snow White (voiced by Adriana Caselotti) is a beautiful, sweet young woman who becomes the enemy of the wicked Queen after the Queen's magic mirror proclaims her only the second most beautiful in the land.
Fleeing to the forest after a failed assassination attempt (and this is G-rated?), Snow White takes up with the seven dwarfs: Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Grumpy and Dopey, who help her out in-between their journeys to the mine. Of course, the Queen finds that Snow White is still alive and attempts to take care of her herself, with a poisoned apple.
I'm sure everyone knows how things work out. "Snow White", as detailed in one of the many featurettes about the film included on this DVD, was widely regarded as a high risk when it was originally concieved by the studio. People thought that no one or very few would be interested in sitting through a feature-length animated story. Still, Walt Disney and his talented group of animators were able to prove the critics wrong, as the film combined well-written stories, beautiful animation, a strong villian and the occasional touch of humor. Certainly, "Snow White" doesn't offer the same sort of quick pace that most current animated films do, but the 84 minute running time still flies by nicely.
The film's beautiful and detailed animation still stands up nicely today; although it doesn't compare to the sort of gorgeous computer animation that has become more and more popular in the past few years, the painted images appear more magnificent than ever on this new DVD presentation, which offers the film in a restored edition.
VIDEO: "Snow White" is presented by Disney in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The presentation is the result of a masterful restoration effort by the studio. Recently, it was decided that the film needed to be preserved; a first attempt at restoration was good, but dirt and other elements were still visible. It was then decided that new technology (at that time) would allow Disney to scan in each of the thousands of frames of animation and then set to work on creating a new high-definition master. Color-correcting was done, as was dirt/wear removal and restoration efforts.
The results are, as with "Citizen Kane"'s suprisingly clean state on its new DVD edition, breathtaking. Those who I've shown this new edition of "Snow White" to who saw the film when it was in theaters practically had to sit further back; they weren't used to the picture being this bright and the colors being this vibrant. Personally, I didn't know what to expect, either. Going into a film of this kind of age usually means a review is populated with "considering the film's age, film "x" looks good/bad".
With what Disney has achieved here, "Snow White" looks like it could have been produced today. Sharpness and detail are nothing short of remarkable, as the film has never looked so crisp and well-defined. All of the details of the animated scenery of the forest really are apparent and distinct in comparison to previous versions which looked somewhat soft and undefined at times.
Again, the film is exceptionally clean and clear, free of any marks, scratches or other signs of wear. Looking at the restoration documentary on the second disc shows what a massive task Disney's experts were up against and they really have done a miraculous job at bringing the picture a previously unseen level of cleanness and clarity. There were no instances of pixelation or edge enhancement, either, thankfully.
The difference in color is really what makes this the most impressive restoration that I've ever seen. I doubt the film's vibrant color palette has ever looked this strong since the film was originally animated. Colors appear beautifully well-saturated, excitingly rich and without any instances of smearing or other flaws. Black level looked strong, as well. Presentation is THX-Approved.
Disney has really put in an enormous amount of effort and the results are a triumph; they've not only preserved one of their gems, but have it looking better than I'd think it ever has.
SOUND: To be honest, I'm starting to get a little weary of older films that have been remixed for Dolby Digital 5.1. Sometimes it works and works well, but there are times when it sounds artificial and I'd rather simply listen to the original mono soundtrack. The team responsible for the audio restoration of "Snow White" have taken the original mono soundtrack and made it into Dolby Digital 5.1, but thankfully, they've remained faithful to the original soundtrack. None of the birds now fly into the surrounds or around the viewer or anything like that; really, the only element that I heard from the surrounds was the occasional piece of music. Otherwise, the sound remains in the front speakers.
The real joy of the soundtrack is simply the fact that, due to the restoration, the elements sound better than they likely ever have on past releases. Sound effects don't sound thin or harsh, vocals and singing sound natural and not strained and even the music really sounded warmer and richer than ever before. It's certainly not been brought up to the level of modern soundtracks, but it certainly does at least sound better than ever before. The original mono soundtrack is also included.
MENUS:: The film's menus are outstanding and occasionally good for a few laughs. The magic mirror is the host of both main menus; if you take too long to decide he says things like "don't mind me, I'll just hang around" or "I don't have all enternity...oh wait, I do." Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, his voice echos throughout the room. Animated transitions to sub-menus are fun, if a little lengthy and all of the menus really are cleverly animated and designed. The menus are also quite helpful, as two "guided tours" are available on the first disc. These are sort of like trailers that take you through what you can expect on both discs.
Commentary: This is a commentary from Walt Disney and historian John Canemaker. The Disney pieces of the commentary are taken from older audio interviews and provide some insight on the making of the film and its role in Disney history. Canemaker's narration is somewhat more interesting, as his newly recorded discussions provide further insight into the making of the picture, those involved in the animation, and its role in animation history.
The Making Of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: An nearly 40 minute documentary narrated by Angela Lansbury, this is an exceptionally entertaining and informative piece which takes audiences through the early history of Disney and the original idea to start production on an animated version of "Snow White". Animators and historians discuss what actually happened during the time of the film's release and how Disney's attempt to make a feature-length animated picture was met with some resistance by the media of the time. The doc also discusses and shows visuals of how the characters and story evolved along the way.
Also On Disc One: Animated short "Goddess Of Spring", Interactive Game, "Someday My Prince Will Come" by Barbara Streisand (in Dolby 5.1), Sing-along song ("Heigh Ho") and DVD-ROM Features.
Note: The main menu of the second disc is broken up into different sections, with names such as "The Queen's Dungeon". Those who prefer a simpler menu-going experience can click on the apple at the bottom of the screen to get a text menu.
The Queen's Dungeon
Abandoned Concepts: Historian John Canemaker provides an introduction for three deleted sequences from the picture. An extended version of "Someday My Prince Will Come" is preovided, as well as "Snow White Meets The Prince" and "The Prince Is Captured". These are in storyboard form.
Restoration: A short featurette, but really one of the most interesting on the disc, this 5 minute piece offers interviews with the audio and video restoration staff, who discuss in detail what was done to accomplish the film's marvelous new look.
Snow White's Wishing Well
History: This section provides timelines for both Walt Disney and the production of "Snow White". Both are simply text-based, but provide a fairly strong amount of information about both subjects. The viewer uses the remote to click forward to the next page of information. Also included in this section is the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
Storyboard-To-Screen Comparison: This section, which offers another introduction from Canemaker, provides multi-angle versions of storyboard-to-screen comparisons for "The Forest Chase", "Cleaning House", "The Dwarfs Chase The Witch" and "The Queen's Order". These sequences, using the angle button on the remote, can be presented with just the storyboards, just the final sequence or a split-screen comparison of both.
The Queen's Castle
Art and Design: This is a simple, short featurette that discusses the desired look and feel of the picture, as well as some of the original ideas about the film's visual style. A couple of minutes in length.
Visual Development: A gallery that's set up somewhat differently than usual art presentations, this allows the viewer to go down three different hallways, each of which holds quite a few concept art pieces that can be viewed in greater detail before moving on to the next set. The animation that takes the viewer around is nicely done and doesn't take too long, which could have been irritating with something like this.
Layouts and Backgrounds: A 5-minute featurette discussing the role of layouts and backgrounds in animation is provided, which also offers some visual comparisons of the early designs of a scene and the final sequence. Another gallery, similar to the "hall" design of the "visual development" gallery, is offered here, as well.
Camera Test: This section provides two short featurettes that were used as "tests" - "The Story Of Silly Symphonies" and "Tricks Of Our Trade". Also included here is a 12 minute featurette that shows many of the early animation tests for "Snow White", offering shots with different filters that gave the scene a different look. Somewhat technical, animation fans will enjoy this featurette, but children who stumble upon this section might not understand the concepts.
Animation: This section provides a fairly lengthy featurette on the voice talent and Walt's desire to get distinctive voice actors to fill the various roles. Also included here is a featurette that focuses on live-action tests that were done to give the animation a fuller and more realistic feel. Last, but not least, this section offers character design galleries for "Snow White And The Dwarfs" as well as "The Queen/The Peddler" and "The Huntsman/The Prince/The Animals".
The Dwarf's Mine
Deleted Scenes: The first section provides an introduction, as well as 5 deleted scenes ("The Witch at the Cauldron", "The Bedroom Arguement", "Music in Your Soup", "The Lodge Meeting" and "Building A Bed". These sequences are interesting to view, but they really don't push the story forward and were rightly deleted. They are pieced together from different elements - some moments of the sequences are taken from unfinished pieces, like storyboards.
RKO Title Art: The original RKO opening and end credits are presented here.
Disney Through The Decades: Several short featurettes are offered in this section, each taking a look at what has happened at Disney studios during a different period in the years since "Snow White" originally opened. These featurettes are rather promotional and although they may prove of interest once, I don't think many will return to watch them over and over. Actors DB Sweeney and Ming-Na host these featurettes.
The Dwarf's Cottage
Premiere: This section provided a short audio and short video clip of the film's 1937 premiere.
Trailers: The film's original 2 1937 trailers, 1944 trailer, 1958 trailer, 1967 trailer, 1987 trailer, 1993 trailer and 2001 trailer.
Tour Of Disney Studios: This is an early featurette that was produced at the request of distributor RKO studios, who got a massive amount of letters from the film's audience, who was curious about the animation process. A fairly interesting general overview that runs about 11 minutes. An additional featurette that runs nearly 9 minutes, "How Disney Cartoons Are Made", is also included in this section.
Scrapbook: Photo galleries broken up into 5 sections: "The Premiere", "Pressbook", "Production Photos", "Merchandise" and "Posters".
Vintage Audio: The first section of this area is Radio Broadcasts, which offers three original audio clips. Radio Commercials offers 7 radio spots, while Songs includes a recording session version of "Silly Song" and a deleted song, "You're Never Too Old To Be Young".
Final Thoughts: Easily one of the best and most beloved animated features of all time, "Snow White" has been given the royal treatment for the film's new DVD edition. The film's image quality here is absolutely stunning - an incredible restoration effort was obviously done. Sound quality is fine, as well - although there's a lot of smaller featurettes as extras, the amount of information covered is still very strong. Certainly, the wonderfully restored presentation and features make this nicely priced 2-DVD set absolutely recommended.
The Film ****
Video 99/A = (396/400 possible points)
Audio: 86/B = (344/400 possible points)
Extras: 97/A = (291/300 possible points)
Menus: 100/A+ = (200/200 possible points)
Value: 96/A = (288/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ****
DVD GRADE: A