Monday, December 1, 2014

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves/Pinocchio

Well it’s December again. For this month, I had noticed that Doug Walker had been doing Disneycember for the last 3 years, this being his fourth. I had been inspired by Doug to do my own version of it, but I won’t call it Disneycember. Instead, let’s just stick with “Disney Month.” How does that sound? Everyone fine with that? Ok, for this month, I will only do the Disney Renaissance movies, so let’s get started with Walt Disney's very first animated movie, the 1937 classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

Desson Howe from The Washington Post said, “"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is an eye-opener the second time around.” Meaning, Grumpy (Pinto Colvig) obviously needs anger management and Dopey (Eddie Collins) is the obsessed one who needs to see a voice coach. Prince Charming (Harry Stockwell) looks like he’s only there to marry Snow White (Adriana Caselotti). Finally, the spirit in the mirror (Moroni Olsen) is completely wrong: The Evil Queen (Lucille La Verne), with her dearest eyes and arching body, is the fairest in the land. Snow White may be pure, but she has no real estate, is obsessed with house-cleaning and talking with animals.

Even watching it today, this first feature-length animated movie by the great Walt Disney still holds up extremely well from the post-Depression 1937. The seven dwarves (Doc (Roy Atwell), Happy (Otis Harlan), Sneezy (Billy Gilbert), Sleepy (Pinto Colvig), Bashful (Scotty Mattraw), Grumpy and Dopey) are just as charming as the “Hi-Ho” to work at the diamond mine.

In case nobody knows the story, “Snow White” (adapted from the famous Grimms’ tale) is about an evil queen whose magic mirror, which is supposed to say that she is the prettiest in the land, says that she is second next to Snow White. The queen then orders the huntsman, voiced by Stuart Buchanan, to kill Snow White, but he lets her escape into the woods, where she hides in the cottage of the dwarves. The queen then poisons her with an apple; Prince Charming brings her back to life with a kiss. Howe mentioned in his review, “They live happily ever after, taking over the dead queen's castle without so much as a second mortgage.”

This Disney movie is covered with song, visual wit and goodwill, and that children will love it forever. Many scenes stick with the adults too. Howe lists them as: “the dwarfs trudging to work against a streaky orange sky with a small waterfall in the foreground; the contorted and shrouded queen as she flees from the dwarfs up a craggy hill -- bone-white raindrops beating against the black rocks; the two vultures that spiral lazily down the hillside to feast on her fallen body; and of course the halo-lit scene where the prince administers the kiss of life.”

Like many of the Disney movies, from “Pinocchio” to “Fantasia,” this film is a cinematic ritual of passage for both children and adults. Word of advice to the parents: tell your daughters not to take the song “Someday My Prince Will Come” too seriously and not trust bearded men living in group houses.

Next up today will be the next Disney animated movie released in 1940, “Pinocchio.” This is a substantial piece of entertainment for both children and adults. Both animation and photography are largely improved over Snow White. The animation is so smooth that the cartoon figures carry personas of real people and settings rather than drawings.

Variety said in their review, “Extensive use of the Disney-developed multiplane camera (first used moderately for Snow White) provides some ingenious cartoon photography, allowing for camera movement similar to dolly shots. Most startling effect is the jumpy landscape as seen through the eyes of a leaping Jiminy Cricket.”

The opening to this movie is similar to Snow White, setting the groundwork that this is a fairy tale. Jiminy (Cliff Edwards), humorous, resourceful and effervescing cricket, shows the title cover and first illustrations of the book with a dialog description introducing woodcarver, Geppetto (Christian Rub), and his workshop. His shop has musical clocks and devices, pet kitten and goldfish, and the completed puppet that he names Pinocchio (Dickie Jones). Geppetto wishes that the puppet come to life on a wishing star, which the blue fairy, voiced by Evelyn Venable, appears and grants the puppet come to life. Jiminy Cricket is also given a guardian of latter’s conscience by the Blue Fairy. Pinocchio soon runs into villainous characters, like “Honest” John Worthington Foulfellow, voiced by Walter Catlett, and his sudden curiosity gets him into a series of dangers.

Cartoon characterization of Pinocchio is amazing, with his childish behavior and pranks maintaining complete interest. Jiminy Cricket is a fast-talking character giving great humor with wisecracks and jokes. Geppetto is a definitely drawn character while several appearances of Blue Fairy are emphasized by novel lighting effects. Variety said that, “Picture stresses evil figures and results of wrongdoing more vividly and to greater extent than Snow White, and at times somewhat overplays these factors for children.” However, this is not a big deal.

Well, that ends today’s entry on “Disney Month.” Stay tuned tomorrow.

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