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Walt Disney Home Video presents
"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, NOW who's fairest of them all?"
DVD ReviewWith all of the animated features that are now available on home video, it's sometimes hard to realize that when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was in production, Hollywood thought that Walt Disney had completely lost his mind. A full-length animated feature? What a crazy notion. At most, a cartoon was a one-or-two reel piece of filler, and couldn't possibly support an audience on its own. But Disney saw that the only way to be financially successful in animation was to make features, because otherwise one was stuck in the fixed-rate amount that was set for animated shorts. Needless to say, Walt was proven right, and Snow White formed the basis of the mighty Disney empire.
Accordingly, the Disney Platinum Edition DVD of this seminal feature befits the epochal nature of the picture. Not only is the film given a gorgeous facelift, but it's absolutely crammed with an astonishing array of extras.
The story follows the bare outline of the story by the Brothers Grimm. Princess Snow White (Adriana Caselotti) is hated by the Evil Queen (Lucille LaVerne), whose Magic Mirror (Moroni Olsen) advises that it is not she, but the girl, who is the fairest of them all. The Queen has her huntsman take Snow White away to slay her, but he cannot do it and sends her off into the woods, where she makes friends with the animals and meets seven funny little men who work in a diamond mine. But the Queen and her Mirror are not easily deceived, and she plans to put Snow White out of the way for good with a poisoned apple.
The picture still holds up extremely well; the songs are brief, fit the story and contain some beautiful melodies. The story is edited to the bare bones, so that there is almost nothing extraneous to the film. Since it was important to Disney to make a big splash with this picture, he spared no expense and pulled out all stops in making the film beautiful to look at. The painted backgrounds are drop-dead gorgeous, the animation is still unsurpassed and there is little bad to say about the film, other than the rather colorless nature of the prince whom Snow White loves. But that's endemic in the nature of fairy tales heroes; at least Snow White herself has a personality and a charm that is quite special.
Still probably the greatest animated feature ever, there's plenty to enjoy here for the entire family, as the saying goes. Music, humor, romance, song, and gorgeous animation; it's probably one of the most perfect movies ever made.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Disney did a full restoration here with the input of the surviving animators, and did further video sprucing up, and it shows. The picture is outstanding in nearly every respect. Color is gorgeous, the backgrounds have good warmth and beauty. There's hardly a speckle or spot to be seen. The line work is clean and gorgeous. Two small (and not terribly egregious) problems: Snow White's terror-filled flight through the woods seems to be a trifle dark and some detail is lost. The other issue is the presence of some compression artifacts on the storybook page that opens the film. The background of the page seems almost alive with artifacts. But these issues are fleeting, and the overall impact is fabulous. For instance, the Queen's throne has a detail and vibrancy that I don't remember ever seeing, even on the big screen. The multiplance sequences have an incredible depth that is breathtaking. This is (with the two noted problems) a gorgeous transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The audio track is rather limited due to the problematic recording technology available when the film was begun in 1935. There is thus some unfortunate, minor crackle and distortion heard in the dialogue and the vocals. But the audio track is clean and quiet otherwise. There are 5.1 English and French tracks, both of which are subtly derived and effective while not at all overpowering. The original mono is also included, and it sounds great. Either will be very pleasing. It's not perfect, but it sounds much better than I've ever heard this sound and frankly, it's quite a lot better than I ever expected it to be. The grade takes into account the nature of the source material. The only drawback is that the audio is not changeable on the fly, for no apparent reason.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
8 Original Trailer(s)
2 Multiple Angles with remote access
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Walt Disney
Layers Switch: 01h:08m:36s
A well-done documentary on the making of the film contains numerous vintage interviews with Disney and the animators. Although a little light on information about the voice actors, there is still plenty of content packed into its 38m:52s.
One of the testing grounds for animating Snow White herself was The Goddess of Spring, the Silly Symphony retelling of the myth of Persephone. Clearly a great deal of progress was made here; while Snow White moves naturally, Persephone flaps about almost as if she had no bones! Not fully restored, but it looks quite good.
For fans of the picture, there is a trivia game, "Dopey's Wild Mine Ride", where you must answer the questions correctly in order to collect the dwarfs and save Snow White. It's not terribly difficult, but it's well put together and entertaining. For those with a taste for a different kind of entertainment, there is a karaoke version of the song Heigh-Ho, which can also be played as a sing-along. Barbra Streisand also performs an overorchestrated version of Someday My Prince Will Come. When this feature was announced, there was fear that it would be edited into the movie. Not to worry; the song comes at the end of the film, after the credits, with an introduction by Michael Eisner himself. Streisand annoys me so I didn't enjoy it much, but certainly her many fans will welcome the performance, set to clips from the movie. These are clips from before the video restoration was done, pointing up just how gorgeous the restored version of the picture is.
There's also some DVD-ROM material, but not having a DVD-ROM, I'm not entirely sure what's there. Two guided tours provide a tantalizing taste of the various extras to be found on each disc.
Had enough extras? Well, too bad for you, because that's ONLY DISC ONE!!! Disc two contains a plethora of artwork, concepts, storyboard comparisons of four scenes, camera tests of the multiplane camera, several abandoned concepts, five deleted scenes, the original RKO opening and end credits, a history of the Disney studios, materials relating to the premiere, a radio broadcast from the premiere, reproductions from the pressbook, stills, posters, merchandise, promotional films, radio broadcasts, radio commercials, recording sessions from The Silly Song and the deleted song You're Never Too Old to Be Young. Wrapping up the whole ball of wax are eight trailers from the original release and rereleases, as well as a program on the restoration of the picture. This easily adds up to more than three more hours of material on the second disc alone. The host for both discs is the Magic Mirror himself. Failing to make a choice on various menus will cause him to make a variety of droll remarks that are entertaining in and of themselves. The only thing that I can think of that's missing is an isolated score. That omission does not, however, deter me from awarding this disc an A+.
Extras Grade: A+
Final CommentsA wonderful movie gets a wonderful special edition. The transfer is fabulous for the most part, the sound is very good considering the limitations of the source material, and the extras are incredible. Out of over 300 reviews, this is only the third disc that I've award straight A's. This is a DVD that belongs in even the smallest collection. Very well done!! My highest possible recommendation.
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