Book Review: The Fairest One of All: The Making of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
And I mean in detail. For example, there have been reams of publicity over the decades that Snow White was the first feature-length animated film, which animation experts have known is not true. Kaufman manages to both acknowledge the earlier features and dismiss them. “Strictly speaking, of course, there had been other animated features before this one. From the beginnings of the animation industry, the sheer difficulty of producing one reel of animated cartoons had inspired ambitious filmmakers to consider the possibility of even longer subjects. One little-known animated feature had been produced in Argentina as early as 1917. […] Today the most famous animated feature of the silent period is probably Lotte Reiniger’s silhouette-animated The Adventures of Prince Achmed, produced in Germany in 1926. [….] Clearly, however, while all these films technically could be described as a) feature-length and b) wholly or partly animated, none of them was anything like the picture Walt now had in mind.” (p. 32) Kaufman convincingly explains why the 40-minute-+ animated features existing before Disney conceived of making one were not really “animated features” in the sense that the public thinks of them.
There is little new information here, but what has been mentioned briefly elsewhere is gone into in depth here. The soup sequence that was cut from the movie? Kaufman devotes several pages to it (especially pages 165 to 167, including 4 animation drawings). Walt’s worries about getting increased production funding from the Bank of America? Kaufman not only covers it, a sidebar with photos (p. 225) describes the Giannini brothers who founded the bank.
Part 3, “After 1937”, pages 234 to 283, covers how the movie did internationally; the World War II propaganda shorts starring the dwarfs; the anti-malaria The Winged Scourge showing the dwarfs vs. malaria-carrying mosquitoes; and Snow White on television in the 1950s and in the theme parks more recently; also how story sequences that were squeezed out of Snow White were used in later Disney features (notably Cinderella), and Disney’s use of Technicolor in Snow White. Part 4, “Resources”, pages 284 to 320, are the appendices: production credits, notes, bibliography, index, non-Disney images credits, and acknowledgements.
The artwork in this book cannot be praised highly enough. Practically every page has colored production art from the movie; some pages are nothing but double-page spreads. Among the more interesting artwork and text are preliminary designs for Snow White (unused) by legendary animator Grim Natwick; discarded early names and designs for the dwarfs (Deafy, Fatty or Chubby, Awful, Weepy, and over a dozen others); and other movie influences on the development of the production (Lillian Gish in the 1919 Broken Blossoms on Snow White; the shrouded mirrors in Dracula on the Queen’s Magic Mirror).
Everybody is going to want to read this book, from the casual movie fan to the serious cinema (not just animation) scholar! Libraries are going to have to either buy multiple copies (at $75.00?), or chain this to the Reference shelf.
Fred Patten has been a fan of animation since the first theatrical rerelease of Pinocchio (1945). He co-founded the first American fan club for Japanese anime in 1977, and was awarded the Comic-Con International's Inkpot Award in 1980 for introducing anime to American fandom. He began writing about anime for Animation World Magazine since its #5, August 1996. A major stroke in 2005 sidelined him for several years, but now he is back. He can be reached at email@example.com.