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SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
Signature Collection Blu-ray

Film review by Alex Haberstroh
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Adriana Caselotti, Harry Stockwell, Lucille La Verne, Moroni Olsen, Billy Gilbert, Pinto Colvig, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw, Roy Atwell
Director:  David Hand
Audio:  DTS HD 7.1, Restored Original Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  84 minutes
Release Date:  February 2, 2016

“Magic Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?”

Film ****

Before magic lamps (Aladdin), enchanted roses (Beauty and the Beast), and flying elephants (Dumbo), there was a magic apple (Snow White). 

Before its Christmas 1937 release, it’s hard to believe that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was viewed as such an absurd gamble that many in the media as “Disney’s Folly.” 

Until that time, cartoon shorts (along with movie trailers and newsreels) had been simply precursors to films.  When Disney decided to change that in the early thirties, many in the industry balked, claiming that the expense would be enormous, that people would tire of seeing a cartoon for that long a period of time, and that even if they didn’t, the bright colors would hurt their eyes. 

As I’m sure almost everyone knows, Disney would have the last laugh: his “folly” would go on to completely revolutionize the film industry, creating both a new art medium and benchmark of quality for it, as well as opening up a new financial market for “family films” that his company would dominate until recently.  Snow White also became the most watched film up to that point (and is still one of the most significant films even today, ranking number 49 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Best Films of all Time”), winning Walt Disney two Oscars out of the 32 he would receive before he died.  Moreover, Snow White would be, shortly after its American release, translated into countless languages throughout the world, and become the film the animation empire was built upon. 

So what makes Snow White so dramatically different from the other “cartoons” of the time?  For one, Disney breathes credibility into the medium by making it less about trying to just make people laugh at gags (which is what cartoons at that time were geared towards), and more about making a respectable feature film, but using ink instead of cameras.  As Disney himself said, huge amounts of attention were focused on making sure the film had elements of suspense, comedy, romance, and tragedy that would evoke the same emotion as one would feel watching any feature film. 

Moreover, the staggering budget at that time of 1.5 million allowed for the pioneering and innovating of many techniques, such as the “multiplane” camera, that made the animation of Snow White more lifelike and realistic than ever before. 

Overall, despite being over 70 years old, Snow White is truly timeless, and I’d challenge anyone to not see the power of the film (or just realize how cool those damn dwarfs are), even if it’s geared more towards children.  This is a great classic finally brought to the digital medium that should charm the next generation of kids just as much as it did their parents and grandparents (especially with the stuff they watch now like “Teletubbies” and “’Barney”…shudder). 

Video ****

This Signature Collection edition includes the Blu-ray, DVD, and for the first time, a digital HD transfer.

It's the Blu-ray I want to pay more attention to, because if you think this movie has looked glorious on past digital issues (and it certainly has), you are in for a revelation that will leave you smiling and speechless.  If you didn't know, you'd never EVER believe this was a seven-decades plus old movie.  It is absolutely pristine and spotless in a new 1080p transfer.  The colors are more vibrant and beautiful than ever before, and all the incredible detail of Walt Disney's imaginative direction renders through with a clarity I would dare say not seen since 1937 movie screens.

After a quick comparison, I cannot tell you that the effort Disney put into the DVD presentation is worth any less than four stars in its own right, but such a comparison is inherently unfair.  Or, at least it WOULD be, except that Disney gives us both in one package.  The DVD is clean, clear, and colorful, and will certainly make fans without Blu-ray exceedingly happy...but again, Disney uses Blu-ray technology to the absolute apex of its capabilities here.  There's nothing like seeing a true cinematic classic looking more stunning than ever before, and Disney and Blu-ray teamed together offer fans nothing less than that kind of experience.

Audio ****

Again, with this combo pack, you can opt for the experience your home theatre allows.  With both discs, you can experience the film with a restored original mono soundtrack...intriguing for purists, but for me, you have to go with one of the digital surround remixes.  On the DVD, you get the terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and on the Blu-ray, a brand new uncompressed DTS 7.1 offering.

Disney's use of technology for these new mixes is respectful; they don't try and create an experience that Walt never intended, but by opening up the dynamic range, giving the bigger scenes a little more space on the front and middle stages, and using the subwoofer to add a little more menace to the scarier scenes, the original experience is not lost, but simply enhanced.  And the musical orchestrations sound more vivid and lush than ever before...a wonderful audio presentation!

Features ****

This Signature Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack offers hours and hours of fun, informative and interactive features.  I'm sure to miss a few, so forgive me, but I will try to be as complete and organized as I can.

You can enjoy a commentary with animation historian John Canemaker, featuring archival clips of the late great Walt Disney offering his thoughts on his breakthrough achievement.  There is also a new music video for "Someday My Prince Will Come" from Disney Channel star Tiffany Thornton.

There is an extra that has Walt Disney himself speaking about this film, plus a discussion with modern artists on how Snow White started the whole Disney princess look.  There are also some fun facts hosted by Disney Channel star Sofia Carson.

A very cool and very new extra is the archival look at a film that was never made: "Snow White Returns".  Using recently discovered artwork and notes, we can get a feel of what a planned but ultimately scrapped sequel might have been like.  Some classic extras are here as well...two animated scenes that were never completed and cut from the film, including the famous soup bowl song and the dwarfs building a bed together.  Enhanced View mode fills the black bars at the left and right (this film is in its original 1.33:1 mode) with some lovely and comparable artwork from Toby Bluth.

Summary:

A genuine classic has gotten the kind of treatment high definition fans would hope for, but thanks to this Signature Edition combo pack, all fans of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can enjoy a beautiful and feature-packed presentation.

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