Snow White fans are in for a treat with Disney historian, broadcaster and writer Brian Sibley bringing his wealth of knowledge to the Cinema Museum in celebration of Snow White’s 75th anniversary in Britain.
It’s easy to take film for granted these days with constantly developing technology but as the first animated feature film ever made, Snow White was particularly ground-breaking at its time of release in 1937, Brian says.
“No one believed it would be a success,” Brian reveals. “Commentators at the time called it Disney’s folly, they thought Walt Disney was going to bankrupt himself, he gambled everything he had for this, but then of course its success bankrolled a new studio for Disney and paved the way for Pinocchio and Bambi”.
Before Snow White’s release audiences had never watched cartoons longer than seven minutes. The prospect of an 80 minute feature film, all animated, was seen as unfeasible. “The critics said no one could watch drawings for that long and that there were too many bright colours. It was so revolutionary”.
When Snow White opened in Hollywood it was received not as a children’s film but a movie that everyone went to see purely for its technological innovation. “There were 24 frames a second; compare this to the Hobbit which has 48 frames in every second and then remember that all 24 of those frames were drawn and painted onto celluloid by hand; this was a production with a mass of talent and it was such a great achievement”.
Taking one of the oldest, most recognisable fairy tales, Walt Disney recreated a strongly structured story and added his own style to it, namely by giving “Dickensian” style names and identities to the seven dwarves who had formerly only been referred to as a collective, faceless group, Brian says. “He made them memorable; it was a huge creative step forward for this story”.
As part of his illustrated talk, Brian will screen clips from the film as well as original out-takes that never made it into the film. “Snow White gets overlooked but it’s a really iconic film just like the Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane or Gone with the Wind.”
Asked what his favourite Disney movie is, the film historian struggles to answer. “If I had to choose it’s Pinocchio,” he responds. “No one can ever take away the uniqueness of Snow White or its historical importance, but Disney also learned a lot of lessons from Snow White and films like Pinocchio and Fantasia continued to be more sophisticated”.
The fairest one of all: Snow White at 75 is at the Cinema Museum, 2 Dugard Way (off Renfrew Road), SE11 4TH on Tuesday March 12 at 7:30pm. Admission: £8.50/£6.50 concession in advance. £10/ £7 concession on the door. Phone: 020 7840 2200. http://www.cinemamuseum.org.uk