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The Feature, Video, and Audio sections of this page have all been recycled from my original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition Blu-ray review.



Feature


I could lavish Snow White with praise or dissect it into oblivion as some kind of misguided attempt to garner attention as an internet critic, but we’re talking about one of the most enduringly popular films of all time. There’s nothing I can bring to the table in this regard. I’d rather briefly continue the thread I started with my Pinocchio Blu-ray review – that of the often overlooked straight horror elements of the film. After decades of service Disney’s product has been distilled for family friendliness, but, throughout the studio’s history, many of the best of these animated films have featured genuinely diabolical, macabre, and occasionally downright perverse elements. Starting with the first of the studio’s Silly Symphony shorts, The Skeleton Dance, Disney animators took many cues from German expressionist filmmakers, and embraced the frightful delights of Universal’s Monsters. Snow White is much more expressionistically frightening than Pinocchio, which evokes horrifying ideas as much as images.

 Snow White: Signature Collection
The film’s second scene in which Snow White is set loose into the woods by her would-be assassin is the best example of Disney’s ability to encapsulate the genuine terror that devolves the best of us into sniveling babies and is, generally speaking, the film’s best moment from a pure artistic standpoint. The sequence is a blur of obvious reality and obvious fantasy, as mundane branches become grasping fingers and leafless trees sport gaping maws and piercing eyes. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the scene is the total confusion of natural geography. In a matter of seconds, Snow White (and, in turn, the audience) becomes entirely lost in the nightmarish woods. In one shot, she drops through the floor of the forest, as if descending into hell itself. The backgrounds cut from warm to black as the descent continues, and only returns to light after Snow White has collapsed in utter exhaustion. Despite these stylistic flourishes, the scene largely encapsulates the actual experience of becoming lost through a child’s eyes.

Following this, the film is pretty much a light-hearted lark concerning itself with Snow White’s house cleaning, the dwarfs introduction, and the dwarfs’ dinner preparation (not exactly riveting drama), but, eventually, the Wicked Queen is reintroduced, and quickly transforms into the evil witch. Any scene featuring the Witch begs comparison with James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein stylistically and the Witch herself occasionally directly apes Béla Lugosi’s Dracula. The commentary track that comes with this new release verifies that the artists and animators were, in fact, inspired by Whale, Tod Browning, F.W. Murnau, and Robert Wiene when creating the film’s more frightening sequences. Disney had two clear advantages over horror’s expressionistic and Gothic forefathers – those of colour and the purity of physically-drawn shadows and characters. Colour wouldn’t be used regularly in straight horror filmmaking for decades (the genre was seen as unworthy by most studios) and more animation doesn’t require special effects. Thus, Snow White was able to engulf an apple in a bubbling vat of unspecified evil green brew, then drip off in a skull shape. One assumes that, if he had the ability, Murnau would’ve preferred this kind of control over his cinematography and optical effects. The commentary also verifies that the British censors found the film too frightening. In the UK, the film was cut and apparently given a somewhat restrictive rating.

 Snow White: Signature Collection

Video


I should be more surprised by this new 1080p transfer considering Snow White’s vintage. It’s a really old movie and it should probably look like one. But, Snow White is the studio’s flagship title, so, of course, they’ve put considerable effort into the restoration. The film is presented in its original 1.33:1 framing and full 1080p HD video. Details are so tight that we can make out the pen scratches, the brush strokes, and the dirt on the cells. We can see the subtle textural differences between cells and background elements and even the difference between stacked cells and single cells. There are some signs of DNR, but nothing excessive, as grain is still present. Colours are vibrant and consistent throughout. The backgrounds feature deep blacks that aren’t found on the ‘moving’ parts, while the straight hues of the cells lack any notable bleeding. The magic mirror effects are slightly grainier than the pen & ink drawings and reveal charming imperfections.. These occasional flutters of non-perfection appear to have everything to do with the minor errors made during the original cell photography (such as slight issues with edge doubling or focus inconsistencies).

Audio


This DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is not the studio’s strongest hi-def surround remix of a mono source. Unlike the impeccable Sleeping Beauty DTS-HD mix (which was taken from a stereo source, of course), the surround and stereo elements don’t blend into the otherwise centric mix as smoothly. The music is the most aggressive surround and stereo element and when the centric dialogue and effects come back into the mix, the otherwise well-spaced music somewhat awkwardly smoothes back into the middle. Some of the effects seem to have been updated, which sound slightly off, assuming you’re aiming to hear the difference, and the added LFE elements are a little excessive. The original dialogue elements sound their age in the form of slight high-end distortion muffling. Usually, the vocal performances during the singing bits are clearer, likely due to better upkeep, as the film’s musical soundtrack has been sold and resold for generations now. Music is the most important element, and despite some awkward cuts, the score has been perfectly preserved.

 Snow White: Signature Collection

Extras


  • Commentary with Roy E. Disney and historian John Canemaker, including audio excerpts from Walt Disney interviews.
  • In Walt’s Words: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (4:20, HD) – The first new extra is a series of video/audio clips with Disney on the subject of his first feature-length animated movie. It also includes production art and footage from the Disney lot.
  • Iconography (7:20, HD) – Another new extra concerning the iconic imagery of Snow White and its modern influences on a series of Disney artists.
  • @Disney Animation: Designing Disney’s First Princess (5:20, HD) – The latest entry in the @Disney Blu-ray series features current Disney animators and staff exploring the archive illustrations of the film’s characters.
  • The Fairest of Them All: 7 Things You May Not Know About Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (4:40, HD) – A fluff piece for kids hosted by Descendants star Sofia Carson.
  • Snow White in Seventy Seconds (1:10, HD) – A kiddie hip-hop breakdown of the film’s plot.
  • Alternate Sequence: The Prince Meets Snow White (3:40, HD) – A vocal recreation of a studio meeting with Disney and story-breakers, complete with production art and storyboards.
  • Disney’s First Feature: The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (33:20, HD) – A retrospective featurette made up of (I believe) new interviews and older footage used for the previous Blu-ray release. It covers all of the important bases, from inception history to technology, and the successful release.
  • Diamond Edition Extras:
    • Bringing Snow White to Life (11:40, HD) – The first holdover from the Diamond Edition Blu-ray explores the original Snow White animators and their legacy.
    • Hyperion Studios Tour (30:40, HD) – Here, (almost) all of the featurettes found in various sub-menus (the story room, the music room, the art department, character design, background and layout, the animation department, live-action reference, the sweatbox, ink and paint, the camera department, the sound stage, and Walt’s office) from the Diamond Edition’s interactive studio map have been collected in one 30-plus-minute piece.
    • Decoding the Exposure Sheets (6:50, HD) – Another featurette that explores the technical aspects of the animated camera work.
    • Snow White Returns (8:45, HD) – An introduction to some of the deleted scenes and abandoned concepts for a Snow White sequel.
    • Story Meetings:
      • The Dwarfs (5:50, HD)
      • The Huntsman (4:00, HD)
    • Delete Scenes:
      • Soup Eating Sequence (4:10, HD)
      • Bed Building Sequence (6:30, HD)
    • Animation Voice Talent (6:20, SD) – The only original DVD extra outside of the commentary track

Missing from the Diamond Edition disc are some still galleries, a number of HD Silly Symphony shorts, music videos, interactive games, some featurettes, and most of the DVD’s extras.

 Snow White: Signature Collection

Overall


Fans that own the Diamond Edition release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs aren’t missing a lot if they don’t buy this new release. The A/V quality is identical between releases and the extras are mighty similar. Some of this Signature Collection version’s exclusive extras are decent, but don’t feature a lot of new information not already available in the Diamond Edition’s featurettes. I prefer the extended featurette way of watching the Hyperion extras to the Diamond Edition’s menu system, I suppose, and it’s nice to have access to an HD digital copy. Still, I do miss those Silly Symphony shorts...

 Snow White: Signature Collection

 Snow White: Signature Collection

 Snow White: Signature Collection
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer. image quality.


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