Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, and is the first full-length cel animated feature film and the first Walt Disney animated feature film.
Snow White premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937, followed by a nationwide release on February 4, 1938. It was a critical and commercial success, and with international earnings of $8 million during its initial theatrical release briefly held the record of highest-grossing sound film at the time. The popularity of the film has led to its being re-released theatrically many times, until its home video release in the 1990s. Adjusted for inflation, it is one of the top-ten performers at the United States movie box office and the highest-grossing animated film of all time.
Snow White was nominated for Best Musical Score at the 1938 Academy Awards, and the next year, producer Walt Disney was awarded an honorary Oscar for the film. This award was unique, consisting of one normal-sized, plus seven miniature Oscar statuettes. They were presented to Disney by Shirley Temple.
In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The American Film Institute ranked it among the 100 greatest American films, and also named the film as the greatest American animated film of all time in 2008.
Everything you need to know about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:
Snow White is a lonely princess living with her stepmother, a vain Queen. The Queen worries that Snow White will be more beautiful than her, so she forces Snow White to work as a scullery maid and asks her Magic Mirror daily “who is the fairest one of all”. For years the mirror always answers that the Queen is, pleasing her.
One day, the Magic Mirror informs the Queen that Snow White is now “the fairest” in the land. The jealous Queen orders her Huntsman to take Snow White into the forest and kill her. She further demands that the huntsman return with Snow White’s heart in a jeweled box as proof of the deed. However, the Huntsman cannot bring himself to kill Snow White. He tearfully begs for her forgiveness, revealing the Queen wants her dead and urges her to flee into the woods and never look back. Lost and frightened, the princess is befriended by woodland creatures who lead her to a cottage deep in the woods. Finding seven small chairs in the cottage’s dining room, Snow White assumes the cottage is the untidy home of seven orphaned children.
In reality, the cottage belongs to seven adult dwarfs—named Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey—who work in a nearby mine. Returning home, they are alarmed to find their cottage clean and suspect that an intruder has invaded their home. The dwarfs find Snow White upstairs, asleep across three of their beds. Snow White awakes to find the dwarfs at her bedside and introduces herself, and all of the dwarfs eventually welcome her into their home after she offers to clean and cook for them. Snow White keeps house for the dwarfs while they mine for jewels during the day, and at night they all sing, play music and dance.
Meanwhile, the Queen discovers that Snow White is still alive when the mirror again answers that Snow White is the fairest in the land and reveals that the heart in the jeweled box is actually that of a pig. Using a potion to disguise herself as an old hag, the Queen creates a poisoned apple that will put whoever eats it into the “Sleeping Death”, a curse she learns can only be broken by “love’s first kiss”, but is certain Snow White will be buried alive. While the Queen goes to the cottage while the dwarfs are away, the animals are wary of her and rush off to find the dwarfs. Faking a potential heart attack, the Queen tricks Snow White into bringing her into the cottage to rest. The Queen fools Snow White into biting into the poisoned apple under the pretense that it is a magic apple that grants wishes. As Snow White falls asleep, the Queen proclaims that she is now the fairest of the land. The dwarfs return with the animals as the Queen leaves the cottage and give chase, trapping her on a cliff. She tries to roll a boulder over them, but before she can do so, lightning strikes the cliff, causing her to fall to her death.
The dwarfs return to their cottage and find Snow White seemingly dead, being kept in a deathlike slumber by the poison. Unwilling to bury her out of sight in the ground, they instead place her in a glass coffin trimmed with gold in a clearing in the forest. Together with the woodland creatures, they keep watch over her. A year later, a prince who had previously met and fallen in love with Snow White learns of her eternal sleep and visits her coffin. Saddened by her apparent death, he kisses her, which breaks the spell and awakens her. The dwarfs and animals all rejoice as the Prince takes Snow White to his castle.
Adriana Caselotti as Snow White: Snow White is a young princess. Her stepmother has forced her to work as a scullery maid in the castle. Despite this, she retains a cheerful but naïve demeanor. Marge Belcher served as the live-action model.
Lucille La Verne as Queen Grimhilde / Witch: The Queen is the stepmother of Snow White. Once her magic mirror says that Snow White is the “fairest” instead of her, she immediately enlists Humbert the huntsman to kill her in the woods. After she discovers that Snow White did not die, she disguises herself as an old hag and uses a poisoned apple to remove Snow White from her path without killing her.
Harry Stockwell as The Prince. He first sees Snow White singing at her wishing well. The prince immediately falls in love with her and her voice. He later reappears to revive her.
Roy Atwell as Doc: The leader of the seven dwarfs, Doc wears glasses and often mixes up his words.
Pinto Colvig as Grumpy and Sleepy in a dual role: Grumpy initially disapproves of Snow White’s presence in the dwarfs’ home, but later warns her of the threat posed by the Queen and rushes to her aid upon realizing that she is in danger, leading the charge himself. He has the biggest nose of the dwarfs and is frequently seen with one eye shut. Sleepy is always tired and appears laconic in most situations. Sterling Holloway, who would later voice many other characters for future Disney films was originally considered to voice Sleepy by Walt Disney.
Otis Harlan as Happy: Happy is the joyous dwarf and is usually portrayed laughing.
Scotty Mattraw as Bashful: Bashful is the shyest of the dwarfs, and is often embarrassed by the presence of any attention directed at him.
Billy Gilbert as Sneezy: Sneezy’s name is earned by his extraordinarily powerful sneezes (caused by hay fever), which are seen blowing even the heaviest of objects across a room.
Eddie Collins as Dopey (vocal effects and live-action reference only): Dopey is the only dwarf who does not have a beard. He is mute, with Happy explaining that he has simply “never tried” to speak. In the movie’s trailer, Walt Disney describes Dopey as “nice, but sort of silly”. Mel Blanc was considered to voice Dopey by Walt Disney.
Moroni Olsen as The Magic Mirror: The Slave of the Magic Mirror appears as a green mask in clouds of smoke. The Queen regularly asks him who is “the fairest” in the land.
Stuart Buchanan as The Huntsman: Despite his status as the Queen’s assassin, the Huntsman cannot bear to kill Snow White, even when the Queen orders him to take the princess’s heart.