It was called "Disney's Folly." Who on earth would want to sit still for 90 minutes to watch an animated cartoon? And why pick a well-worn Grimm's Fairy Tale that every schoolkid knows? But Walt Disney seemed to thrive on projects which a lesser man might have written off as "stupid" or "impossible". Investing three years, $1,500,000, and the combined talents of 570 artists into Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney produced a film that was not only acknowledged a classic from the outset, but also earned 8,500,000 depression-era dollars in gross rentals. Bypassing early temptations to transform the heroine Snow White into a plump Betty Boop type or a woebegone ZaSu Pitts lookalike, the Disney staffers wisely made radical differentiations between the "straight" and "funny" characters in the story. Thus, Snow White and Prince Charming moved and were drawn realistically, while the Seven Dwarfs were rendered in the rounded, caricatured manner of Disney's short-subject characters. In this way, the serious elements of the story could be propelled forward in a believable enough manner to grab the adult viewers, while the dwarfs provided enough comic and musical hijinks to keep the kids happy. It is a tribute to the genius of the Disney formula that the dramatic and comic elements were strong enough to please both demographic groups. Like any showman, Disney knew the value of genuine horror in maintaining audience interest: accordingly, the Wicked Queen, whose jealousy of Snow White's beauty motivates the story, is a thoroughly fearsome creature even before she transforms herself into an ancient crone. Best of all, Snow White clicks in the three areas in which Disney had always proven superiority over his rivals: Solid story values (any sequence that threatened to slow down the plotline was ruthlessly jettisoned, no matter how much time and money had been spent), vivid etched characterizations (it would have been easier to have all the Dwarfs walk, talk and act alike: thank heaven that Disney never opted for "easy"), and instantly memorable songs (Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith and the entire studio music department was Oscar-nominated for such standards-to-be as "Whistle While You Work" and "Some Day My Prince Will Come").
by Hal Erickson synopsis