Despite the enormous success of the Mickey Mouse shorts, Walt Disney, who always seemed to know when to strike when the iron was hot realized that his famous Mouse was only just filler or an opening act for the main feature in the movies. He knew if his company was to stay a leader in the animation field he would have to come up with something more than just a short subject, no matter how popular. He had been toying for years about a full-length feature film cartoon, but at the time this was unheard of. Cartoons were just that, little 6 to 8 minute comedy fillers before the main movie. But Walt was the visionary and he knew if the feature was made to the highest standards and more importantly with the right story, he would have a winner on his hands. So, despite the critics, which included his brother Roy and Wife Lillian who tried to talk him out of it and the Hollywood film industry who dubbed it “Disney’s Folly”, Walt went ahead with the production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” The result was the most successful film of 1938 after its premiere December 21st, 1937 at the Carthay Circle Theater, the same place Walt had first shown “The Skeleton Dance” in 1929. And adjusting for inflation, it is the 10th highest grossing film in the United States.
But what made the film endearing to most was not just the fantastic talent that took three years to produce it, or the story line but the characters in the film. Many shows and films today with the leading lady and man as top billing, are not as popular as the supporting characters. The tale of Snow White, whose stepmother the wicked queen wants to kill her because the “Magic Mirror” stated she was the fairest, comes across in high style because of the “Hero’s” of the film, the Seven Dwarfs. These pivotal characters are the most loved and remembered, and their theme songs, “Heigh-Ho” and “Whistle while you Work” are still recognized and popular today as they were in 1938.
Many of the questions people still ask about the film are: “Can you name the seven Dwarfs?” Although many people can, many still can’t get the last one or two. The best way to remember them is to think: Two S’s Two D’s and three emotions. The Dwarfs are: Doc, Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, Grumpy and Happy. Doc is considered the leader of the Dwarfs. He is good-natured and always makes the decisions. Sometimes when he gets nervous, he will mix up his words. Doc is always trying to tell the rest of the Dwarfs that helping Snow White is worth the trouble.
Dopey is the only Dwarf with no beard and who never speaks, is not really Dopey as his name implies, just more like a child. When the Dwarfs were in the development stage, he was the after-thought Dwarf without a personality. But with Actor Eddie Collins who helped develop Dopey’s personality with pantomime, he soon became the favorite Dwarf.
Sleepy is best known for taking a nap almost anywhere or anytime. Although he appears to be asleep so much of the time, he is in reality twice as observant as the rest of the Dwarfs. Sneezy. Although Sneezy is known for sneezing, he is known for sneezing at the worst times. Many times the Dwarfs will tie his nose into a knot, but Sneezy is glad, he hates all that sneezing. Bashful, one of the first “Emotions” to remember is really a big sentimentalist, who blushes a lot, especially around Snow White and will lament the smallest things. Happy, as his name implies is just happy and cheerful about almost everything, except when Snow White bites into the poison apple, he now finds no happiness or cheer. And the last emotion is Grumpy. He will argue with anyone no matter what their opinion, and is a know-it-all. When he first saw Snow White across the bed, he said she was “Poison”. But like most grouches, he is really soft inside and eventually leads the way to save Snow White.
So if you happen to see Snow White again, do not be surprised if you are totally enamored with the Seven Dwarfs above the rest of the characters.