Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – a restored classic resets the bar for animation on Blu-ray

An enduring classic, appropriately listed on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest American films of all-time, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs makes the highly anticipated leap to Blu-ray as the flagship title for Disney’s new Diamond Collection.

And I’m happy to say it doesn’t disappoint.

Much like another reissued classic, The Wizard of Oz, Disney’s Snow White is influential landmark title that has survived for over seventy years.

Buoyed by an astonishing restoration effort and a wealth of supplemental material, this three-disc Blu-ray is everything Disney promised and more.

Storytelling: 5/5

Based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale, although slightly sanitized for mid-’30s Americana, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a game changer. It was the first full-length, cel-animated feature in motion picture history, the first animated feature released in America and – perhaps most importantly – the first feature film produced by Walt Disney.

Grossing over $10 million in global box office receipts (paltry by today’s take, but unprecedented in 1937), Snow White silenced cynics and put Walt Disney on the map.

It’s safe to say, animation has never been the same since.

Snow White works because of Disney’s wonderful attention to world building and character design, crafting an inhabitable world through animation that is as dark and mysterious as it is beautiful.

Disney also trusted his gut instinct, and never leans too heavily on the comic relief, saving that for his motley crew of dwarfs. Rather, Disney presents a faithful adaptation of the classic fairytale.

The result is a very compelling film.

And despite being in my mid-twenties, I still find the Queen rather creepy. Good villains never age, and the Queen’s spiteful nature makes her a potent one in the annals of cinema history.

Perhaps only more enduring than the film itself is the soundtrack, composed by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey. There are songs in Snow White that stick with you throughout your childhood, and conjure up fond memories far into adulthood – like a cinematic olfactory sense.

Together, it all just clicks; Snow White’s simplicity and genuine soul make many modern day animated films look manufactured in comparison. Over seventy years later, it’s difficult not to be impressed with the attention to detail and deft storytelling that continues to make Snow White a joy to watch.

If every animated feature was this good, we’d have no reason to watch live action films.

Video: 5/5

Digitally restored by Lowry Digital, the same company behind the upcoming Gone with the Wind restoration, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a show stopper on Blu-ray.

The 1080p, 1.37:1-framed transfer breathes new life into a timeless classic, and at many points, looks like a living watercolor portrait – it is that astonishing.

The colors are bold, and the picture is unbelievably sharp, imbuing the film an inky look – as if each frame was painted from Disney’s brush itself. This is complimented by a transfer with no glaring flaws either; artifacting, noise reduction and bending are completely absent. The result is a pristine image that shows off the handcrafted animated feature like never before.

The technique of cel animation really comes to the forefront, with Disney’s beautiful, hand painted backgrounds – all 729 – looking incredibly vivid on Blu-ray. The technique also creates a unique depth of field, all but erased in modern day animated features, but gives Disney’s classic a persistent film-look that has aged very well.

Simply beautiful frame to frame, Snow White makes one yearn for that classic, handcrafted animated look of days past, and sets the bar for any future reissues.

Audio: 5/5

Disney’s restoration efforts don’t end with the visual presentation, as Snow White also boasts a remastered Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless surround track.

The new surround package really does more for the vocal recordings and musical score than anything else, giving a new clarity to the 1937 original recordings that simply outshines similar restoration efforts.

To truly contrast this reissue from previous releases, Disney has also included a restored version of the film’s original mono soundtrack for proper authenticity.

And the difference is staggering.

Now, neither track will blow out your speakers, simply because of the natural age of the original recordings, but the clarity and fullness of the soundtrack must be appreciated.

Good stuff, Disney.

Package: 5/5

Arriving as a three-disc set – with the third disc being the standard digital copy – Disney has included a mammoth amount of supplemental material that respectfully celebrates Snow White’s storied history, providing hours of content to hungry fans.

And if this is to stand as the benchmark for the rest of Disney’s Diamond Collection, color me impressed.

The first disc, besides housing the wonderfully restored version of the beloved classic, also sports an audio commentary with film historian John Canemaker, a featurette on Snow White’s sequel prospects, a hokey music video, a teaser for Disney’s next animated feature, and an interactive suite of games and activities.

Moving on to the second disc, we get to the meat of the supplemental material with Disney’s all-new Hyperion Studios – an interactive tour that covers almost every aspect of production. Separated into rooms, you get an overview of the studio history, writing process, art design, sound design, detailed information on Walt Disney and pretty much anything and everything about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Hyperion Studios is an exhaustive, impressive look at both the studio and film’s intertwined history, complete with storyboards, never-before-seen footage and retrospective commentary. All of which made more impressive by the fact that all the footage is in HD.

Disney tops off the second disc with a couple of retrospective features on the studio and Snow White’s cultural significance, including the all-new documentary, “The One That Started It All”, produced exclusively for this re-release.

Bias:

Over seventy years later, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a rite of passage for all children. How many times in your youth have you heard a parody of the memorable “Heigh Ho” melody?

Probably too many.

The film, while aged, stands the test of time. The filmmaking is sound and the art is impressive; the sheer craftmanship makes one appreciate a style of animation long since extinct.

Disney has painstakingly restored the picture to never-before-seen heights, bestowing it with vivid color and dark blacks that positively shine on Blu-ray. Similar care has been put into remastering the film’s soundtrack, with a surround mix that is leagues better than its original mono track.

You have never seen or heard Snow White quite like this. It’s almost like a whole new movie.

Couple with the newly created Hyperion Studios (which will hopefully make its way into future Disney releases), and a wealth of supplemental material, there is simply too much content here for enthusiasts to ignore.

And while we have seen a rash of classic films restored and remastered for Blu-ray releases, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can stand tall as one of the best – a classic animated tale given the outstanding release it so rightfully deserves.

Be a kid for a few hours, and pop it in your Blu-ray deck. You owe it to yourself.

Verdict: 5/5 – “TREASURE”

 

Read More About... , .