The Magic of Disney
1 In 1934, after nineteen years of making animated short cartoons, which introduced the world to Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney was ready to make his first full-length animated feature film. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was based on the German fairy tale "Snow White" by the Brothers Grimm. The film was the first animated movie produced in full color and produced by Walt Disney Productions. It was also the first film to have an official soundtrack and a soundtrack album.
2 The animation process in 1934 meant that all drawings were done by hand, and it took three years for Disney and the animators to finish the movie. It was very important to Disney to keep the main idea of good versus evil from the original Brothers Grimm story, so he insisted that the main characters be Snow White and the Evil Queen. The dwarfs were to be entertaining and silly to make the movie seem less violent. Don Graham, head of design, taught the other animators how to make drawings look solid by drawing tension points, like bent knees and elbows, and drawing wrinkles on clothing.
3 Very few of the animators had past artistic training. In fact, most of the animators had been newspaper cartoonists before working for Disney. Art Babbit, an animator who had artistic training, created an art studio for the other animators to learn about human anatomy. Later, an art teacher was hired to teach the animators the art of drawing human and animal anatomy, movement, and action. Babbit hired real models to pose while the animators drew the storyboards so that character’s anatomy and movement would look as realistic as possible.
4 No one, except Walt Disney, believed the movie would be successful. In fact, he had to fight to get the film produced. His own wife, Lillian, and his brother, Roy, tried to talk him out of making the movie because they thought the movie would fail, and no one would pay to see it. People in the movie industry referred to the film as "Disney’s Folly" while it was in production because they thought Disney was wasting his time. But Disney refused to give up and struggled for three long years to turn his idea into reality. Disney had spent $1.5 million dollars of his own money by the time the film was completed in 1937.
5 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles, California, on December 21, 1937. The film received a standing ovation at the end by a star-studded audience, which included Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and Milton Berle. Six days after the premiere, Walt Disney and the seven dwarfs appeared on the cover of Time magazine. The film was "recognized as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field for the motion picture cartoon" ("Honorary Award," The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences).
6 In February 1938, the film was released to the general public and went on to become a major box office success. The film made more money than any other major motion film released that year. By May 1939, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs generated $6.5 million dollars, making it the most successful sound film at that time. For the movie’s "remarkable achievement in the art of animation," Walt Disney was awarded an honorary Oscar. He used most of the profits from the film to build a new $4.5 million dollar studio in Burbank, California, where it is still located today.
7 In 1989, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was added to the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." It was one of two animated films to rank in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films of all time (the second being Disney’s Fantasia). In 1994, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released on VHS home video and laser disc and sold ten million copies in the first week. It eventually sold fifty million copies worldwide. The success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs changed animation forever, and for over eighty years, it has delighted and entertained millions of people of all ages.