Blog Directory CineVerse: Still the fairest of them all...

Still the fairest of them all...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Yesterday, CineVerse members got to indulge their inner child and partake in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which produced a pretty lively discussion on the film's merits and influences. A summary follows:


·       This is the first feature-length animated film in history. Previously, animated movies were shorts that typically ran prior to the main attraction.
o   This project was dubbed “Disney’s folly” because it wasn’t believed that audiences would watch a cartoon for more than a few minutes, or that adults would find them interesting at feature length.
·       Cartoons were considered kiddy fare with cruder animation and less story and character development prior to this. Snow White created a whole new world of characters, color, motion and emotion—consider how terrifying the lost in the woods sequence is, or how somber and sad Snow White’s death scene is.
o   In fact, many horror filmmakers have named Snow White as a major inspiration in their movies.
o   Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, for example, opens with a foreboding dark castle with a single lighted window, similar to the Wicked Queen’s castle.
·       It was one of the few movies made in color at a time when black and white dominated—so it would have been doubly impressive in its lively, multi-dimensional animation and its chromatic Technicolor brilliance.
·       It’s regarded as the first official movie “soundtrack”: before, soundtracks were comprised of renditions of songs featured in a movie; this one is the first to include original recordings as they actually appeared in the film. It was also the first commercially issued film soundtrack album.
·       It employed Disney’s innovative multi-plane camera, which creates the illusion of depth and three dimensions by placing several animated cells and drawings on different planes that are shot at the same time by an overhead camera.
·       It featured realistic human movements and rotoscope-drawn figures like Snow White hat are modeled on actual live actors.

·       Like many stories adapted into later Disney films, it’s a storybook, fairy tale yarn involving an orphan who is threatened by some villain (who’s often a female), befriended by wild animals, and whose wishes come true at the end by being rescued by a prince or knight.
o   Later films would include child protagonists who are traumatically separated from their parent (e.g., Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast)
·       The lead protagonist is a young, pretty, virginal girl (typically lacking any sexual or titillating characteristics) who must suffer trials and tribulations and some kind of life-threatening/life-changing transformation before she can get her Prince Charming: the same formula applies to Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, and the Princess and the Frog.
·       She is often accompanied by forest animals, scene-stealing comic relief characters (e.g., Dopey, the Genie in Aladdin), and a feisty foil who becomes a hero (e.g., Tinkerbell, Grumpy, Meriwether in Sleeping Beauty).
·       The villain in these films is usually somehow threatened by this young female protagonist, who has the ability to take away the villain’s power/prestige (a scenario which plays out in The Lion King, Aladdin, Hercules, The Jungle Book, the Little Mermaid, and Snow White).
·       As Roger Ebert put it:
o   “Walt Disney's shorter cartoons all centered on one or a few central characters with strongly-defined personalities, starting with Mickey Mouse himself. They lived in simplified landscapes, and occupied stories in which clear objectives were boldly outlined. But when Disney decided in 1934 to make a full-length feature, he instinctively knew that the film would have to grow not only in length but in depth. The story of Snow White as told in his source, the Brothers Grimm, would scarcely occupy his running time, even at a brisk 83 minutes.
o   The most important continuing element is the use of satellite and sidekick characters, minor and major, serious and comic. A frame is not allowed for long to contain only a single character, long speeches are rare, musical and dance numbers are frequent, and the central action is underlined by the bit characters, who mirror it or react to it. Disney's other insight was to make the characters physically express their personalities. He did that not by giving them funny faces or distinctive clothes (although that was part of it) but studying styles of body language and then exaggerating them.
o   Disney's inspiration (was in) providing his heroes and supporting characters with different centers of gravity. A heroine like Snow White will stand upright and tall. But all of the comic characters will make movements centered on and emanating from their posteriors. Rump-butting is commonplace in Disney films, and characters often fall on their behinds and spin around…I think Disney did it because it works: It makes the comic characters rounder, lower, softer, bouncier and funnier, and the personalities of all seven Dwarfs are built from the seat up.”

·       The first successful synchronized sound and picture cartoon (Steamboat Willie, in 1928).
·       The first feature-length animated movie.
·       The first film to use multi-channel surround sound systems (Fantasia).
·       The Circle Vision filming technique, which enabled the shooting and projection of movies in 360 degrees.
·       The development of an optical printer that allowed animation and live action to be combined (The Three Caballeros, 1945).
·       His invention of the multi-plane camera (previously mentioned).
·       Disney’s Studio was the first ever to provide regular color programming for TV (Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color).
·       Family theme parks (Disneyland, Disneyworld) and the first switch-back/interactive crowd lines (instead of straight lines) as well as the first dark rides and fully enclosed attractions.
·       The first indoor shopping mall (Main Street, USA at Disneyland).
·       Audio-animatronic figures, featured at Disneyland.

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