(It's been nearly a year and I'm only halfway through the list. Ouch.)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
"It's no sicker than your thing about dwarfs-"
"Dwarves are very upsetting..."
(Oh, Stephen Sondheim...)
So this is the movie that started it all, the first full-length color animated movie that launched the Disney empire. It's over seventy years old...how has it held up over the years?
Snow White is a princess, but her Stepmother the Queen treats her like a servant. Snow White cleans and wears ragged clothes, but dreams that one day her Prince - whom she met once when he was riding by the castle - will take her away to his kingdom. Now, the Queen has a Magic Mirror, and every day she asks it, "Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" As long as the Queen is fairest, Snow White is safe, but when the Mirror confirms that Snow White is fairer the Queen sends Snow White with her huntsman to the forest. She instructs him to kill the princess and cut out her heart. He's unable to do so, encouraging Snow White to flee instead. The princess does, eventually ending up in the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs, who befriend her and allow her to stay. But Snow White cannot flee from the eyes of the Mirror, and the Queen determines that she herself will go and end Snow White's life.
I have never liked Snow White the character. She's got an amazingly annoying voice - very high-pitched, very warbly - and her dress looks stupid. Her hair's pretty awful too. She looks like a modest Betty Boop! But she is the first Disney princess, and her movie is pretty freakin' entertaining.
Snow White's wild run through the forest scared the heck out of me as a child, and even today I have a lot of respect for the animator's use of shadow and form in that sequence. In fact, I have a lot of respect for the animators in general. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs looks really cool. The face in the Magic Mirror is a fantastic design; it almost looks 3-D! The Wicked Queen's transformation sequence from beauty to hag is some pretty wicked animation, too. (Although I can't help but wonder - if the problem was that Snow White was too pretty, why didn't the Queen just slip her some of the hag potion and take care of the problem with no fuss?) In a couple of scenes, the water's reflection looks like it was done with a computer, but of course it was done by hand like everything else in this movie. It's really impressive.
I was reading an analysis of this movie, versus the original Grimm fairy tale, and I thought one idea brought up to be quite compelling. Walt Disney vastly increased the role of the Prince in his version of Snow White. I know that sounds silly, considering all the Prince does is sing a song at the beginning and kiss Snow White at the end - but consider that his Grimm counterpart only carries away Snow White's glass coffin. As he transports it, the coffin hits a bump and the apple in Snow White's throat is dislodged, awakening her. It is a quirk of fate, and not true love's kiss that awakens her. The author of the essay - I wish I still had a copy of it so I could credit him or her properly - proposed that just as Walt Disney poked his nose into every aspect of the production of his movie, this newly active Prince was his self-insertation into the tale. Snow White needed her Prince to swoop in, give her a goal in life (waiting for her Prince to come) and to give her life once more, which Disney does by taking a dusty old European tale and fixing it up for an American audience.
Disney also greatly enhanced the roles of the dwarfs. In no prior incarnation did they have individual personalities and names. They're fun, don't you think? I often think that their presence helps to diminish the focus of the story from the mother-daughter relationship of Snow White and the Queen, but without their silly antics and comic relief this would be an extremely dark story.
It's the first, and even though it's not the best Disney movie it's prett damn good.