Censoring Snow White: How Disney Softened the Cornerstone of his Empire
The dwarves allowed the prince to take the body of Snow White, encased in a glass coffin, to his castle where he and his servants cleaned and cared for her. After time passed, the servants grew tired of wasting time pampering the corpse. When the prince had left the room, the servants removed Snow White from the coffin and began slapping and punching her. One violent punch suddenly landed on her back and the chunk of poisoned apple shot out of her mouth, breaking the spell. She instantly woke up.
When she told the prince what her mother, the evil queen, had done, the prince announced their wedding and invited the queen. When the evil queen arrived and saw her daughter alive and well, she realized the invitation was a trap. The prince then ordered the evil queen’s death.
(Wait for it)
Soldiers gingerly lifted a pair of iron slippers from a roaring fire. The slippers glowed cherry red with heat. The queen was held down and her feet shoved into the slippers. As the flesh of her feet boiled and sizzled, the screaming queen was forced to dance to death surrounded by the delighted faces of the prince’s court.
Can’t unsee that, can you?
Disney’s Animation Secret
Few of Disney’s army of animators were professional artists, at least in the formal sense. Animation of this caliber was in its infancy, and much had to improvised as the film developed. One of the most difficult aspects of the film was animating realistic human motion. Snow White wasn’t Mickey Mouse. She had to move and dance like a real girl. If her movements were herky-jerky, the audience wouldn’t notice.
Actors were brought in and filmed acting out the scenes, which the animators played over and over and over… Some of the motion they were able to duplicate, but the most difficult scenes they could not, and as the film’s budget grew, time did not. Eventually, Disney had the animators use rotoscoping for those scenes. That’s a fancy word for tracing, a fact Disney kept secret for a long time. Yes, portions of Snow White were simply traced onto paper from a screen.
Few today can understand the risk Disney took with this film. No one had ever created an animated feature-length film before, and no one knew if an audience would even want to watch one. It’s budget started at a hefty $250,000 to a mind-numbing $1.4 million before it was completed. Walt Disney had to mortgage his own house to receive the final funds to complete the film. The literally had everything riding on it, even after friends, family and colleagues told him to abandon the project.
After its first round of theatrical release, the film made almost $8 million. It would be released eight more times in the theaters, and made available for purchase for the first time in 1994. To date, “Disney’s Folly” has grossed nearly a half billion dollars and served as cornerstone for the Disney entertainment empire.
No Happily Ever After
The stellar success of Snow White did not benefit everyone involved. Young actress Adriana Caselotti, who provided the iconic voice behind Snow White, thought the film would bolster her career in films and radio, but that was not the case. Although she received a thousand dollars for her work on the film, a sizable sum in 1937, she did not receive a much-coveted screen credit. After the initial press run of the film, Adriana became a peon of Disney and her film career fizzled.
She attempted radio work and received an offer from Jack Benny, but Disney used his influence to squash that, not wanting the recognizable voice of Snow White to shill for cigarette companies or floor cleaners. For the remainder of her life, Adriana Caselotti lived in the shadows of Snow White, living off appearance fees and autograph sessions. She died in 1997 at the age of 75.
No Offense to Disney Disciples
I love many Disney films and, yes, I get teary-eyed when Mufasa falls to his death(!!!), but I don’t ingest all things Disney. No offense, but some of you are, uh, kind of weird about it, especially those that have been to Disney World over and over…and over. That’s a little strange, considering there’s so much to see and do in the United States, but to each his or her own.
I hope I haven’t offended any hardcore Disney fans with this article. If I have, I apologize, but gladly point out I can backup everything I’ve said here and have included many links. First and foremost, as a writer myself, I can’t discount the so-very-human failings of Walt Disney.
The man dreamed out loud and in Technicolor. That’s really something.