Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Without question, this was the best visual representation of the film on home video to date.
Throughout most of the film, sharpness looked excellent. The majority of the movie presented nicely crisp and detailed images. At times, the picture seemed slightly soft, but these instances were rare and the fuzziness remained minor; they didn’t detract significantly from the overall level of quality. I detected no examples of jagged edges or moiré effects, and the presentation seemed to be free from edge enhancement. Snow White also demonstrated a remarkable absence of print flaws. Virtually no defects appeared during this amazingly clean and fresh image.
Colors came across as vibrant and bold. As with many animated flicks, Snow White presented a nicely broad palette, and all of the tones looked fantastic. From the purples associated with the Queen to Snow’s blue dress to the caps and garb worn by the dwarfs, the colors remained vivid and solid, with no signs of bleeding, noise, or other concerns. Black levels appeared to be deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but never excessively thick. Admittedly, Snow White wasn’t a totally flawless picture, but it came much closer than a movie of its vintage should, so I thought it fully deserved its “A+” rating.
Indeed, at times the resolution of the Blu-ray image might’ve been too good, as I noticed animation inconsistencies more easily than in the past. When Disney made Snow White, they hadn’t quite gotten human motion right yet, and that showed at times during the film. Occasionally Snow White and the Prince looked a little wobbly. Those inconsistencies existed in all prior versions of the film as well, but they were more noticeable here. I certainly didn’t fault this excellent transfer for that, though.
While the film’s DTS-HA MA 7.1 soundtrack wasn’t quite as strong, it still held up nicely for its age. Of course, the audio wasn’t always a multichannel mix; the original track offered monaural sound, which also appears on the disc. The 7.1 version moderately opened up the soundfield but it didn’t try to reinvent the wheel.
For the most part, audio stayed grounded in the center. A few ambient effects spread to the sides, but the majority of the non-central sound came from the music. The score and songs provided a gentle stereo presentation that also swelled mildly to the rears. While the audio definitely filled the forward soundstage and was reinforced by the surrounds, it didn’t show terrific delineation, so the effect seemed a little lackluster. However, I appreciated the fact the remix didn’t attempt to go nuts and create a frantic 7.1 track; the subdued approach was more appropriate, even if I wasn’t wild about the result.
Audio quality seemed to be good for its age. Dialogue sounded mildly thin and tinny, and I heard a little edginess along the way. However, most speech appeared quite distinct and clear, and I encountered no problems related to intelligibility.
Effects were also a bit flat but they sounded acceptably bright and accurate considering their vintage. The same went for the music. Songs and the score favored the higher registers, but they remained consistently crisp and relatively vivid, and they even added some fairly decent bass along the way. The soundtrack was wonderfully free of the background noise that I expect from Thirties mixes; it seemed clean almost all the time.
Although I’m fine with tastefully done 7.1 remixes - of which this was one - I must admit that I favored the monaural track in this case. As my prior comments indicated, I had no complaints about 7.1 version and think it did a nice job of mildly reimaging the sound. However, I felt that the mono edition matched the movie better.
No, that doesn’t mean that the 7.1 track suffered from any synch problems. It simply connotes that I found the mono mix to appear more natural in this instance. The additional spread of the 7.1 version appeared somewhat unnatural, as the extra breadth served to remind me that this was an old recording. Like the higher resolution of Blu-ray accentuated animation weaknesses, the additional spread of the multi-channel remix served to remind us of the source material’s weaknesses.
On the other hand, the mono mix felt right to me. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem quite as clean as the 7.1 track; I detected a smidgen of noise on a couple of occasions. It also lacked the same level of depth, though I found the bass response to still appear quite good for the era. While I preferred the mono track, in the end this was a “win-win” situation. Those who want the extra breadth will find a good 7.1 mix, while those who favor the original mono audio can listen to it. I’m sticking with the mono, but that shouldn’t be interpreted as a criticism of the nice 7.1 track.
How did the picture and sound of this 2009 “Diamond Edition” Blu-ray compare to those of the original 2001 DVD? For the most part, the audio was a wash. Honestly, a 7.1 channel remix of a 72-year-old mono film seems like overkill, and I heard nothing that made this 7.1 track superior to the DVD’s 5.1 version; lossless or not, ancient audio is ancient audio.
On the other hand, the Blu-ray offered notable visual improvements. While the DVD looked great, it still suffered from the limitations of the format. The Blu-ray took advantage of the higher resolution and provided a significantly tighter, more detailed affair. At its best, this was a simply stunning presentation.
Across this three-disc set, you’ll find a mix of old and new supplements. I’ll mark Blu-ray exclusives with special blue print.
First up we find an audio commentary. After a quick introduction from Walt Disney Company Vice Chairman Roy E. Disney, we get a piece that combines new remarks from animation historian John Canemaker and archival recordings of Walt Disney. These occasionally discuss the action onscreen, but for the most part, they remain more general and don’t attempt to provide a “scene-specific” track.
A similar style of commentary appears on the Fantasia DVD. That one is quite good, and the track for Snow White also offers a lot of interesting information. Disney covers the roots of the film and talks a lot about the challenges it offered. He also gives us details about the facets of animation required for the project; these don’t always specifically connect to Snow White, but they stay on the correct turf. He even reveals the resentment he once felt toward the film.
As for Canemaker, he goes over many production specifics such as the naming of the dwarfs and the problems encountered while animating the Spirit of the Magic Mirror. Canemaker helps put Disney’s statements in the correct frame of reference and makes the piece seem more coherent as a whole. Overall, the commentary offers a nice overview of Snow White and provides an entertaining and compelling experience.
We find something unusual under the DisneyView option. This takes the original 1.33:1 presentation and adds visual information on the sides to fill a 16X9 screen. Initially I was skeptical of this option, as I thought it’d essentially attempt to create a widescreen version of the film.
Instead, it shoots for a more modest goal. “DisneyView” simply adds simple artwork to bracket the main action. This might mean royal curtains in the palace or trees in the forest. The visuals are subdued and not particularly intrusive. Actually, I really like the curtains, as those give off the aura of a classic movie theater. I don’t “DisneyView” is a killer app, but it’s a nice alternative to the usual black bars on the side of the screen.
For a look at an upcoming Disney effort, we go to a Sneak Peek at The Princess and the Frog. Hosted by writers/director John Musker and Ron Clements, this seven-minute and 45-second piece does what we expect: it tells us a little about the film’s story and characters. It also shows the film’s first few minutes. It exists to entice us to see the flick, of course, and it does fine in that regard, but it doesn’t give us anything other than a long teaser.
A few components appear under “Backstage Disney”. Snow White Returns reveals “newly discovered storyboards”. During the eight-minute and 44-second clip, producer Don Hahn tells us about these story sketches. Hahn gives us some background for the art and then lets us see them along with his narration and other audio. This is a really cool addition to the package, as it’s fascinating to check out an abandoned short “sequel” to Snow White.
Next we get two Deleted Scenes. These include “Soup Eating Sequence” (4:07) and “Bed Building Sequence” (6:28). Both present unfinished pencil animation, though “Soup” looks a lot closer to completion; much of “Bed” actually reverts to story reels. Both sequences offer fascinating glimpses of unused Snow White material and they’re valuable additions to the package.
Only one piece appears under “Music and More”: a music video for “Someday My Prince Will Come” from Tiffany Thornton. Who’s she? I have no idea, but she appears to be another in the endless line of pretty, young Auto-tuned Disney pop singers. She provides a totally anonymous and forgettable rendition of the song, and the video itself is a bland combination of movie clips and lip-synching.
Four games and activities appear under “Family Play”. Mirror, Mirror On the Wall tells you the identity of your “inner princess”. It asks seven questions and then lets you know which Disney princess best fits you. I’m Belle – whee!
What Do You See? shows ten altered movie images and requires you to identify them as quickly as possible. Some of these are tougher than others, and occasionally the random selection of options goofs; one time Dopey was the answer but he wasn’t among the choices. Anyway, it’s mild fun at best.
For the next component, we find Jewel Jumble. I think it emulates the popular “Bejeweled” game, though I’m not sure. I do know that the execution of the Blu-ray game tends to be awkward and frustrating; I didn’t enjoy it.
“Family Play” finishes with Scene Stealer. It “allows viewers to upload a personal photo and experience life as one of the Seven Dwarfs – on-screen in the actual film”. Alas, it requires BD-Live, which I don’t have, so I can’t do this for myself.
Disc One opens with some ads. We find promos for Dumbo, The Princess and the Frog, and Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with clips for Up, Blu-ray Disc, Disney Movie Rewards, Santa Buddies, Ponyo, G-Force, Beauty and the Beast and Disney Parks.
Over on Disc Two, we get a mix of old and new components. Dopey’s Wild Mine Ride offers a game experience. You traverse through various areas in the dwarfs’ mine as you answer questions about Snow White and do a few other activities. Some of the questions about the movie are actually fair tough, but the game is forgiving and gives you extra chances without having to start at the beginning, unlike some of the other games. Unfortunately, “Wild Mine Ride” offers no reward for successful completion, but it’s a moderately fun experience.
Disney Through the Decades provides a 35-minute and 55-second romp through the history of the studio. After a brief look at the 1920s, the program begins in earnest with the Thirties and continues with segments continue through the start of the 21st century. Each decade has a different host; we hear from Roy E. Disney, Angela Lansbury, Fess Parker, Robby Benson, Dean Jones, Jodi Benson, and Ming-Na. Anyone who expects a solid account of the studio’s past will walk away disappointed, as this excessively promotional and laudatory piece contributes nothing other than accolades. It contains some decent material, but the superficial nature of the piece makes it somewhat grating.
Note that “Decades” already appeared on the 2001 DVD, but the Blu-ray version adds a new one-minute, 27-second introduction from actor John Ratzenberger. Oddly, we lose an extended segment with DB Sweeney, however. Maybe Sweeney’s contract ran out so they substituted Ratzenberger for the pre-1930s section.
In the six-minute and 21-second Animation Voice Talent, we hear from Roy E. Disney, film historians Paula Sigman, Rudy Behlmer, and John Canemaker and also see some archival - but fairly modern - footage of animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston and actress Adriana Caselotti. Overall, we get a quick discussion of how the actors got their parts and learn a smidgen about some of their careers. It should have been more detailed, but it’s an interesting introduction nonetheless.
Under Karaoke Sing-Along we can croon with “Heigh Ho”. The two-minute and 44-second piece shows the tune from the movie, and it can be watched with the original vocals or in a “Karaoke” version without singing. The lyrics bounce along the bottom of the screen.
Under “Backstage Disney”, we find some Blu-ray exclusives. Hyperion Studios provides an interaction tour of the Disney lot. After an introduction from Pixar director Andrew Stanton, we can wander the grounds and check out a variety of components split into 13 areas.
Among the participants, we hear from Clements, Canemaker, Musker, Walt Disney, art directors Ken Anderson, McLaren Stewart, Ken O’Connor and Charles Phillipi, sequence directors Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Wilfred Jackson and Bill Cottrell, gag man Roy Williams, film historian Brian Sibley, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination author Neal Gabler, sequence director Wilfred Jackson, supervising director David Hand, Up composer Michael Giacchino, Disney historians Paula Sigman and Russell Schroeder, Walt Disney Music president Chris Montan, Pocahontas art director Michael Giaimo, Pixar production designer Ralph Eggleston, stenotypist Eloise Tobleman, story man Harry Reeves, in-between artist Blaine Gibson, live-action reference actors Don Brodie and Marge Champion, ink and paint artists Lucy and Isabelle Wheaton, voice actor/ink and paint artist Marcellite Garner, multiplane camera engineer Eustace Lycett, camera operator Adrian Woolery, effects animator Edwin Parks, sound effects creator Jimmy MacDonald, sound recordist Bob Cook, background artist Maurice Noble, story man Otto Englander’s wife Erna, animators Frank Thomas, Robert Stokes, Eric Larson, Andreas Deja, Marc Davis, Ward Kimball, Art Babbitt, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Dick Lundy, Ham Luske, Leonard Sebring, Woolie Reitherman, Grim Natwick, Milt Kahl, Volus Jones, Ollie Johnston, Vladimir “Bill” Tytla, and voice actor Adriana Caselotti. (Note that some of the voices are re-enacted from meeting transcripts; I credited the actual people since the programs feature their actual words.)
Within Hyperion Exterior, we start with some general features about Disney Studios. “Family Business” (1:57) talks about the atmosphere there, while “Where It All Began” (11:48) looks at the work done there. “The One That Started It All” (17:15) also appears on its own elsewhere on this disc, so I’ll relate its contents there.
Under Story Room, we get eight components. A “Storyboard Art Gallery” includes 126 images, while “In Walt’s Words: The Huntsman” (3:25) lets us eavesdrop on a story meeting for one Snow White scene. “Walt’s Night Prowls” (0:52) discusses Disney’s nocturnal snooping, and an “Abandoned Concepts Gallery” displays 63 pieces of art with unused ideas; these all revolve around either the dwarfs or the Prince. A 1932 short called Babes in the Woods (8:04) lets us see an earlier Disney fairy tale.
Continuing in the “Story Room”, “Stories from the Story Room” (1:14) provides fun stories about working with Walt, while “Gabby, Blabby and Flabby” (1:14) looks at alternate names considered for the dwarfs. “Five Bucks a Gag” (1:46) tells us how Disney offered bounties for good jokes.
With that, we head to the Music Room and its four elements. “Music Room Host” (0:48) introduces us to the use of the “music room” in Disney flicks. “David Hand’s Dirty Trick” (1:18) provides another fun story about working with Walt, while “The Music in Snow White” (6:14) gives us a view of songs and score in various shorts and Snow White. We get another vintage short via 1929’s The Skeleton Dance (6:02), the first “Silly Symphony”.
This finishes the “Music Room” and sends us to the Art Department’s six pieces. A “Visual Development Gallery” includes 146 drawings, and “Creating the World of Snow White” (6:53) discusses the movie’s visual style and design. “The Idea Man” (1:41) gets into the contributions of character designer Albert Hurter, while “In Walt’s Words: Cleaning the Cottage” (7:03) offers another “audio recreation” that re-enacts the transcript of a story meeting. A “Gustav Tenggren Art Gallery” presents 16 sketches, and Music Land (10:15) provides a 1935 “Silly Symphony” that highlights Hurter’s work.
Next we go to the Animation Department and its six parts. “Bringing Snow White to Life (11:33) discusses the animators who created the film, while 1934’s Goddess of Spring (10:04) shows another “Silly Symphony” that connected to Snow White. “The Animators’ Favorite Animators” (2:00) lets us know what the various artists thought of each other. 1934’s Playful Pluto (8:09) shows up to demonstrate Disney’s work in character animation, and “Blowing Off Steam” (2:17) talks about stress-reducing shenanigans around the lot. An “Animation Art Gallery” includes 38 character sketches.
Over in Live Action Reference, we find four pieces. “Live Action Host” (0:5) gives us an intro to the area, while “Drawing on Real Life” (1:37) shows how the animators would use live-action to influence their art. A “Live Action Reference Gallery” presents 23 photos from the sessions along with three sketches that show connections to the live-action material. “Giving Voice to Snow White” (2:46) documents the acting behind the lead character.
From there we leap to the three components under Sweatbox. “Sweatbox Host” (0:53) introduces the domain, and “Sweating It Out” (1:09) looks at the process of reviewing completed animation. A deleted clip shows a “Bedroom Fight Scene” (2:26); it mostly consists of rough pencil animation.
Character Design splits into three areas. “Character Design Gallery” features five sketches, while “In Walt’s Words: The Dwarfs” (5:49) again allows us to sit in on a meeting to discuss the depiction of the dwarfs. “Color Tests Gallery” presents 12 pieces of art.
Within Background and Layout, we discover another three elements. During “Setting the Stage” (4:04), Don Hahn leads us through original backgrounds and discusses them. Two galleries follow: these cover “Layout” (115 stills) and “Backgrounds” (25 images), respectively.
The four parts of Ink and Paint begin with “Life in the Nunnery” (1:59), a look at the all-female nature of the department. Flowers and Trees (8:31) presents a milestone 1932 short, while “The Challenges of Ink and Paint” (1:41) looks at some of the specifics involved with those processes. Finally, a “Painted Cells Gallery” provides 14 stills.
Camera Department includes three pieces. During “Decoding the Exposure Sheet” (6:47), Don Hahn dissects the use of this document for the film. 1937’s The Old Mill is another significant short, and “Stories from the Camera Department” (2:04) offers a few thoughts about the use of the multi-plane camera.
Two components show up under Sound . We get 1928’s landmark short Steamboat Willie (8:02) and “Walt’s Early Masters of Sound” (1:51), a look at audio created for the film.
With that we head to the three parts of Walt’s Office. A “Production Photos Gallery” offers 21 images, while “Working with Walt” (1:48) lets us know what it was like to collaborate with Disney. Lastly, a “Publicity Gallery” presents 34 frames of photos and promotional art.
And that’s it! We learn a ton about Snow White here; the components cover virtually all of the production. Some of the elements receive a more superficial exploration than I’d like, but I certainly can’t fault the scope of the piece. “Hyperion” offers a very nice overview of a good array of topics.
One nice touch: “Hyperion” comes with an index. This allows you to see all the available subjects, which is very helpful given the labyrinthine nature of the standard interface; it’s very easy to miss different components as you “tour” the lot. In addition, the index keeps track of all the elements you’ve viewed; it’ll note the ones you’ve seen with a check mark. I like that, as it ensures we don’t miss anything.
Next comes a 17-minute and 15-second featurette called The One That Started It All. It includes notes from Sibley, Giacchino, Canemaker, Johnston, Goldberg, Musker, Gabler, Davis, Clements, Natwick, Anderson, Kimball, Reitherman, Sigman, and Thomas. “Started” presents a general overview of Disney’s interest in the Snow White story, related challenges, and the film’s success. “Started” feels a little self-congratulatory at times, but it gives us some decent thoughts about the project.
Note that “Started” also appeared as a component in the “Hyperion Studios” tour. I’m not sure why the disc includes it as a separate component as well.
This package also includes a Bonus DVD. This provides the feature film along with three extras already found on Disc One: the audio commentary, the music video and the Princess and the Frog sneak peek.
This means that the Snow White Blu-ray omits components from the original 2001 DVD - lots of components, as a matter of fact. We lose a documentary called “Still the Fairest of Them All: The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, a version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” from Barbra Streisand, storyboard to film comparisons, text production notes, additional deleted scenes, vintage radio programs and a few other elements.
Why did the Blu-ray – touted as the definitive Snow White - drop so much material? I have no idea. These aren’t minor cuts; it’s not like the Blu-ray just cut out some silly games or ads. The 2001 DVD offered a treasure trove of information, and the Blu-ray – while packed with good material - doesn’t equal the same level.
That’s a shame. This Blu-ray could have offered the Snow White to beat all other Snow Whites, but the absence of so much pre-existing bonus materials means it falls short of expectations.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs began Disney’s wonderful legacy of animated features, and it did so in fine style. The movie deserves attention for reasons above and beyond its seminal status, as it provides an entertaining and warm experience accompanied by excellent animation and artwork. The Blu-ray provides absolutely excellent picture quality as well as very solid sound for its era and a collection of many interesting supplements.
Snow White remains a landmark film – and a good piece of entertainment. Without question, the Blu-ray offers the strongest presentation the film has ever enjoyed on home video. I definitely recommend it to all animation fans, though I remain disappointed that it doesn’t totally replace the 2001 DVD. If you own that release, you’ll want to keep it in your collection since it includes quite a few supplements that don’t reappear here. If you only want to have one Snow White, though, the Blu-ray is the way to go, as it’s a gorgeous piece of work.
To rate this film, visit the Platinum Edition review of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS