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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition Blu-ray & DVD Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) movie poster Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Theatrical Release: December 21, 1937 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: David Hand / Writers: Ted Sears, Richard Creedon, Otto Englander, Dick Rickard, Earl Hurd, Merrill De Maris, Dorothy Ann Blank, Webb Smith (story adaptation); Wilhelm & Jacob Grimm (fairy tales)

Voice Cast (uncredited): Adriana Caselotti (Snow White), Lucille LaVerne (The Queen/Old Peddler Woman), Pinto Colvig (Sleepy, Grumpy), Billy Gilbert (Sneezy), Otis Harlan (Happy), Scotty Mattraw (Bashful), Roy Atwell (Doc), Eddie Collins (Dopey), Harry Stockwell (The Prince), Stuart Buchanan (The Huntsman), Moroni Olsen (The Magic Mirror)

Songs: "I'm Wishing/One Song," "With a Smile and a Song," "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh-Ho", "Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Dum (The Washing Song)", "The Silly Song," "Someday My Prince Will Come"

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Blu-ray Packaging • Deceptive DVD Packaging • Collector's Book Set • Seven Dwarf Plush Set • Limited Edition Collector's Set
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By Kelvin Cedeno

It's a bit overwhelming to sit and ponder how much influence Disney has over modern day pop culture. It's prevalent in our everyday lives to the point where one can't go without running into something pertaining to this company.
Their animated features have become so ingrained in our minds that most think of the Disney version when the title of a fairy tale or classic work of literature is referenced. With several theme parks, a plethora of television shows and films, and enough merchandise to fully furnish a home with, it's easy to forget the studio's ragtag beginnings.

Walter Elias Disney opened the company's legacy with short subjects. What were charmingly crude cartoons soon developed into more finely-tuned miniature films. Knowing that they couldn't just thrive on these shorts, Walt had the idea to create a full-length animated feature film. Like Disney's power over pop culture today, one can take for granted just how radical an idea this was, especially with new animated features being sent to theaters every couple of months. There were many stories he considered for this innovative treatment, but Walt finally settled on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Most should already be familiar with this tale, but for those who aren't, the story obviously concerns itself with a princess named Snow White (voiced by Adriana Caselotti). Her stepmother, the Queen (Lucille La Verne), is so obsessed with her own beauty that when a Magic Mirror (Moroni Olsen) reveals Snow White to be the fairest in the land, the Queen goes into a jealous rage. She arranges for her stepdaughter to be killed, but Snow White manages to escape deep in the forest, stumbling upon the home of seven dwarfs. The residents are Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey. The story follows these title characters as Snow White acts as a maternal figure towards them, and they, in return, protect her from the Queen's murderous grasp.

Forest animals are somehow drawn to Snow White's singing, a concept that's easier to believe with Cinderella and Aurora than her. As Snow White checks on the soup downstairs, the Seven Dwarfs gaze in awe.

What stands out most about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is its simplicity. There really isn't much to the story outside of the above synopsis, with most scenes existing to establish the characters. The locations are limited to the Queen's castle, the Dwarfs' cottage, and the forest that links them. In an era where rapid editing is all the rage, it's interesting to see just how long scenes go before the next one finally comes. For the most part, such a straightforward approach works in the film's favor. It gives the audience time to truly get to know the cast of characters, especially since the cast is slight in number compared to other features.

The relaxed pacing does have one unflattering side effect, however. In allowing the audience to spend so much time with Snow White, it becomes more apparent how little there is to her character. She doesn't actively take the story anywhere, and she doesn't seem to change or develop as a person at all throughout the story. Her purpose is merely to stand as a catalyst for those around her. Her existence allows for the Dwarfs to protect her and (for Grumpy, at least) to change themselves, and it gives the Queen a motivation. It seems the Disney team was so unsure of how an audience would sympathize with an animated character that they over-applied her sweetness. She comes across as more pandering and naοve than she probably ought to, and this causes the "With a Smile and a Song" and "Whistle While You Work" sequences to drag somewhat with no humans to offset her extreme kindness. It can be debated that the polar opposite approach taken in 1959's Sleeping Beauty (where the heroine barely has any screen time) is more effective since the audience can project whatever they want onto the brief, blank canvas on screen rather than being force-fed a one-note personality.

Thankfully, the other characters are rendered more evenly. This is ironic for the Dwarfs since they're supposed to be one-note personalities, but there's something oddly human about them. It's apparent that the animators were in their comfort zone with this group, as each one makes an indelible impression. Grumpy in particular holds more of the film's weight on his shoulders than one might notice at first. Being the antithesis of Snow White, he reacts to her cloying manner in a way that makes the cynics in the audience identify with him. As such, Snow White herself becomes easier to buy into when she's sharing screen time with the Dwarfs. As for the Queen, it's remarkable to note how little time is spent with her and yet those few scenes are powerful enough to keep her presence felt while she's off screen.

On the night her potion needs lightning for mixing, the Queen luckily encounters a lightning storm. The Dwarfs hold a candlelight vigil for their newfound friend.

Both the animation and music are of such high quality that it's hard to believe how little time separated this from something like the rubbery Silly Symphony Goddess of Spring. Snow White, the Queen, the Prince, and the Huntsman are all animated to a realistic degree. There's subtlety in their movements and expressions not often found in today's character animation. The Dwarfs offer an interesting middle ground, where they're not animated too realistically nor too cartoonishly, and this gives the audience a good idea of how much they're supposed to invest in them.

The usage of the multiplane camera is quite effective and is especially noticeable thanks to the clarity of this Blu-ray Disc. The songs and score are unique in how tightly they're woven into the story. Characters often speak dialogue in rhyme leading into a song, and the score is directly timed to on-screen action rather than just evoking a general mood.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs certainly deserves its status as a classic, but not just because it was, as Disney puts it, "the one that started it all." Innovation can only carry a picture so far before it's lost to time. Snow White is a classic because it still holds up well today. While not everything about it has aged well, most of it has to an astounding degree. The supporting characters are charming, the animation is aesthetically pleasing and immersive, and the score is memorable and effective. This satisfies on all levels and is impressive not just as a "first try" for Disney features, but as a film, period.

Snow White made its DVD debut in 2001 as the launch of Disney's prestigious Platinum Collection. This line was made up of the company's 10 best-selling video titles (later expanded to 14) and designed to offer the most state-of-the-art presentations possible. Snow White's bountiful set made good on that promise, though Platinum Editions dwindled and became less groundbreaking as the series went on. When all was said and done, there were 13 films, with the 14th (Fantasia) moved to the replacement series: the Diamond Collection. Once again, Snow White kicks off that lineup. For all intents and purposes, this seems to be the Platinum Collection re-released to Blu-ray, with the key difference being Aladdin's ousting and Fantasia 2000's granted access. Will the Diamond Collection live up to what the Platinums started but couldn't finish? How does this Diamond Edition release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs compare to what most considered to be its definitive edition eight years ago? Read on to find out.

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Blu-ray Disc Details

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio (Windowboxed) or 1.78:1 with DisneyView
DTS-HD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital Mono (English),
Dolby Digital 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Extras Subtitled and Captioned
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Three single-sided discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Also available in Collector's Book Set, Seven Dwarf Plush Gift Set,
Limited Edition Collector's Set, Deceptive DVD Packaging,
and, starting November 24th, New 2-Disc DVD
Previously Released as 2-Disc Platinum Edition DVD


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs comes to Blu-ray in 1.33:1, approximating its original Academy aspect ratio. The film was given a lavish restoration back in 2001 for its Platinum Edition release, and the results were stunning for their time. They still hold up well today, but this new 2009 restoration presents the film as flawlessly as it possibly can be now. The transfer features a more subdued color scheme that fits with reports of the filmmakers not wanting this to be too colorful as they weren't sure how long the human eye can sustain watching animation.

Still from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition DVD - click to view screencap in full size. Snow White is quick to forget the seven men who risked their lives for her once she gazes into her prince's eyes. Still from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition Blu-ray's Bonus DVD - click to view screencap in full size. Snow White is quick to forget the seven men who risked their lives for her once she gazes into her prince's eyes.

Screencap from Snow White's 2001 Platinum Edition DVD

Screencap of same frame from Snow White's
2009 Diamond Edition Blu-ray's DVD copy

With that said, the color palette is still vivid and tight, lacking the contrast issues of the previous version. Sharpness and detail are immaculate, perhaps almost too much so. The BD transfer is so polished that it reveals cel shadows, out-of-focus elements, and ink and paint inconsistencies. These source-based imperfections should come as a relief, since they prove the film hasn't been overly scrubbed the way other Disney restorations have been suspected of. Because of how strong the 2001 restoration was, this 2009 one isn't as dramatic as the Blu-rays for Sleeping Beauty or even Pinocchio, nor should it be. This is not only an older film, but one that was filled with experimentation and artists trying to hone their craft. This is, without a doubt, the best Snow White has ever looked on home video.

The DTS-HD 7.1 track is less impressive, but more because of the source limitations than the mixing itself. In fact, it's difficult to even discern this as a surround track. It's mixed with such reverence that the sound field is firmly front and center. The surrounds lightly expand for effects and more so for score, but not to a great degree. These elements are noticeably clearer than previous incarnations, but the speech is a bit hollow. Thankfully, a mono track is offered, as well, and the differences between the two tracks are surprisingly few. It's a step up from what most are accustomed to hearing with the film, but not much more than that.

Charlotte and Tiana react quite differently to The Frog Prince’s ending in this clip from the opening of "The Princess and the Frog." Tiffany Thornton takes time off from prima donna character on "Sonny with a Chance" to perform her own cover of "Someday My Prince Will Come" in this music video.


This Diamond Edition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs comes with an extensive array of supplements, some of which are carried over from the 2001 Platinum Edition DVD, but most of which are new. Disc One begins with a special sneak of The Princess and the Frog (7:45) (HD). After a rapid-fire introduction by directors John Musker and Ron Clements, the film's opening sequence is shown. Half of it features finished animation, but the other half mixes in both rough and clean-up animation. It may be yet another case of Disney cross-promotion, but the clip shown is charming, nonetheless.

Under Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition is the new featurette "Snow White Returns" (8:44) (HD). Don Hahn explains how storyboards were unearthed for an unused short sequel to the feature film and narrates how they would've appeared. What's interesting here is that the proposed short would've utilized two deleted sequences from Snow White itself that had been partially animated. No explanation is given as to why the project was shelved, but it may have been a mix of the short not having much new to say and keeping the integrity of the feature film itself.

The two deleted Snow White bits shown briefly in the above feature are also presented in full on their own. "Soup Eating Sequence" (4:07) (HD) presents the famous "Music in Your Soup" musical number meant to come after the washing sequence. "Bed Building Sequence" (6:28) (HD) shows the Dwarfs building a bed for Snow White while she's at home baking them pie. "Soup Eating" made it to clean-up animation while "Bed Building" is a mix of rough animation and storyboards. Both scenes are quality pieces in their own right, but their self-contained nature made the decision to cut them a sensible one.

Music & More is misleading as it holds one sole feature: a music video for Tiffany Thornton's "Someday My Prince Will Come" (3:34) (HD). Appropriately shot in front the Team Disney Burbank building (also known as the "Seven Dwarfs" building), the video features Thornton (of "Sonny With a Chance") performing with movie clips projected around her as well as a few prop trees and brook. Both the video and rendition itself are not bad, but they're not terribly memorable, either.

The Dwarfs are excited to learn the way proper gentlemen eat soup in the deleted "Music in Your Soup" sequence. In the deleted "Building a Bed" scene, Dopey presents Happy with Doc's undergarments for use in Snow White's quilt. The Queen's palace and the kingdom beneath it experience different lighting conditions as the main menu of the DVD copy progresses.

Family Play contains four set-top games. "Mirror Mirror on the Wall" is a princess personality quiz hosted by the Magic Mirror. It's more than obvious which answer is attached to which princess, and it's only the presentation that mildly sets it apart from the dozens of similar quizzes easily found online. For those curious to know, this reviewer is most closely associated with Belle, which seems an apt enough result.

"What Do You See?" shows blurred headshots of different characters and requires the viewer to select who is being presented. Points are assessed for correct answers and speed. It's simultaneously boring and frustrating, boring in the sense that it's quite easy to tell who the character is before the image clears up. As for the frustrating part, the load time just to move the cursor from one answer to another is slow and clunky, resulting in lowered points.

"Jewel Jumble" is easily the most fun game in this section. Essentially a Snow White version of Bejeweled, the player must help Grumpy collect falling gems in his mine cart. Three gems in a row will wipe each other out and award points, and the player must skillfully do this before the gems pile up so high that they crash into an overhead lantern. It's a well-executed game, and despite being more complex, gameplay is a lot smoother than in "What Do You See?".

The last game, "Scene Stealer", allows users to upload a photo of themselves and have it placed over a Dwarf's face. The user can then watch the main feature with them as that particular dwarf. Because this can only be done via BD-Live, the effectiveness of this technique could not be properly measured for this review.

Next comes a port-over from the Platinum Edition: an audio commentary with Walt Disney and film historian John Canemaker. The track mixes various archival interviews with icon, usually relating to what's on screen, though not exclusively. Some of these portions are surprisingly honest as Walt reveals certain production problems and dealing with the aftermath of the film's success. Canemaker ties these interviews together, giving a thoroughly scripted breakdown on the making of the feature. Canemaker's somewhat monotone approach is easier to swallow than it should be and is informative, but Walt's portions truly make this special.

The final feature on disc one is "Learn How to Take Your Favorite Movies on the Go" (1:04) (HD). This tutorial explains, via WALL-E and Bolt clips, how to use DisneyFile digital copies. While it's surely useful for those new to this, its inclusion here seems futile seeing as Snow White doesn't include a digital copy.

While more of a viewing mode than a bonus feature, "DisneyView" fills the empty side gaps left in the 16:9 frame by the film's 1.33:1 ratio with artwork by artist Toby Bluth. Just like on the Pinocchio release, these columns are designed to blend with the backgrounds, so forest scenes feature trees, while the Dwarf's cottage contains European wood carvings. It's done in a tasteful way that doesn't compromise the original aspect ratio, but one can't help but wonder how those annoyed by black gaps would find these less distracting. A short text biography of Bluth is included, and a brief video introduction from him is played alongside this.

Disc One of the Blu-ray opens with trailers for Dumbo: Special Edition, The Princess and the Frog, and Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. Additional previews can be found for Disney Blu-ray, G-Force, Up, Santa Buddies, Ponyo, Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition, and Disney Parks. The DVD copy this set includes features all of these ads along with additional ones for D23, "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse": Mickey's Choo Choo Express, Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, and Disney Movie Rewards.


Buy Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition Blu-ray from Amazon.com in...

Blu-ray Packaging • DVD Packaging • Collector's Book Set • Plush Gift Set • Limited Edition Collector's Set

Buy from AmazonBuy New Standard 2-Disc DVD

Check out our top picks for Disney collectibles

Related Reviews:
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Platinum Edition DVDs - 1950s & '60s: Peter Pan (1953) • Lady and the Tramp (1955) • 101 Dalmatians (1961) • The Jungle Book (1967)
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Reviewed October 5, 2009.

Screencaps of film and common bonus features are taken from 2009 Diamond Edition Blu-ray's Bonus DVD; others taken from 2001 Platinum Edition DVD.