Carthay Circle Theatre, Los Angeles, 21st December 1937. The setting for a significant moment in cinematic history. Though it may not be as widely remembered as other film movements, there is no denying that the creation of the first full-length cel animated feature film is quite an astounding feat.
It’s over 75 years since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made its debut on the silver screen and since then the growth in popularity and production of feature length animated films has been quite incredible.
“…the Hollywood movie industry also questioned the first full length animated feature in motion picture history, referring to it as ‘Disney’s Folly'”
With most great achievements the path to success isn’t easy and that is certainly the case for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In an era where the idea of an animated film lasting more than 40 minutes was unheard of, it is understandable to see why so much scepticism surrounded Walt Disney’s idea. Whilst his brother and business partner Roy and wife Lillian both attempted to talk Disney out of the production of the film, the Hollywood movie industry also questioned the first full length animated feature in motion picture history, referring to it as ‘Disney’s Folly’. Disney’s passion was undeniable; taking his animators to the sound stage, telling them the story and acting out every part.
Even they doubted him.
Criticism, however, was the least of Disney’s worries; the financial aspect of the production of the film being was perhaps the biggest threat to the animated feature. The original estimated budget of $250,000 was only an ever-so-slight misjudgement of the final total cost – $1,488,422.74. Disney had to mortgage his own house to help finance the film’s production.
“Snow White really wouldn’t have had the same effect with Deafy, Hickey and Baldy would it?”
Thankfully, the success of the feature far out-weighed the struggles of production, taking the world by storm and ensuring that Disney would become a household name for generations to come. The film was bound for success with every detail carefully crafted. From animation to speech to character names, the perfect combination to create a quite magical little movie. After all Snow White really wouldn’t have had the same effect with Deafy, Hickey and Baldy would it?
“The original estimated budget of $250,000 was only an ever-so-slight misjudgement of the final total cost – $1,488,422.74”
The film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with such humble beginnings, has grown to be a global phenomenon, capturing the heart of every generation and holding many more accolades than just that of the premiere full-length animation feature in motion picture history. Having a lifetime gross of $416 million, eight re-releases and registering as one of the top 10 American film money-makers of all time, it is hard to ignore what a huge role the film plays in cinematic history. As stated at the 11th Academy Awards, where the film won an Honorary Academy Award, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is “a significant innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field”. The accolades it has received justify the way in which such a simple idea grew into one of the greatest corporations of all time, gifting future generations with the most magical world. The world of Disney.
“To quote Disney himself, “laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever”. That is what the world of Walt Disney is.”
On its re-release the film carried the tag-line, “The one that started it all”, one of the most fitting taglines coined. To suggest the impact that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has now is any less than what it had at the time would be ridiculous. In the 75 years since the film’s inception, the world has been enchanted by feature-length animations. Disney has flourished and with it has made childhood timeless. There aren’t many films made in the 1930s still watched as much as Snow White is. There are not many films that are timeless like Disney’s are. The greatest accolade, the greatest consequence of the first animated feature is the creation of a genre that warms the heart of every age, from 4 to 104. To quote Disney himself, “laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever”. That is what the world of Walt Disney is. That is what the world of animation is.
It is both unsurprising and quite fitting that the birth of the phenomenon of animated features is an accolade awarded to one of the greatest animators of all time.