After nearly five years in moratorium, Walt Disney’s classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is returning to home video and for the first time ever, is available in HD Digital. Disney debuted the digital version on January 19th, two weeks before the upcoming Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack, which doesn’t arrive until February 2nd. This release also marks the debut of the Walt Disney Signature Collection, a successor to the Diamond Edition line.
As a Disney fan, it’s impossible to not put Snow White on a pedestal given its historical significance to the company and all of the great things that came from its success. But to me, the most impressive thing about it is that nearly eighty years later, the film still holds up. It’s still immensely entertaining and touching, the characters are just as charming as they were when you were a child. The songs are as catchy as you remember. But most importantly, you still root for Snow White to get her happy ending.
I remember a time when Disney claimed Snow White would never be made for sale on home video, so to think that I’m now experiencing its fourth release. It’s great to see Snow White available again and it will be interesting to see how long it remains available, given that Disney has abandoned their vault strategy in European countries.
The Signature Collection version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reuses the same restoration from the 2009 Diamond Edition, which I still award high marks seven years later. Colors feel more accurate than the 2001 restoration, with lots of pastels (there was concern that audiences would have eye strain after 70 minutes of bright animation). Detail is so vibrant that flaws in the original print can now be seen. Watching this version, its easy to understand why Walt begged to re-shoot the cels as there are several shots where an entire character or facial feature looks blurred, the result of a rush job to capture each frame to meet the film’s deadline.
Another delightful surprise with the digital edition in iTunes is that you can watch the film with Disney View where artwork by Toby Bluth fills the pillarboxes surrounding the film. And in case there’s any confusion, fullscreen (1.33:1) is the correct aspect ratio for Snow White, the film predates the widescreen format.
The iTunes digital edition is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film was originally in mono sound, and as a result most of the audio is relegated to the front speakers. However a few key moments, such as the witch’s demise, have been enhanced with some extra base where you will notice your subwoofer’s presence. iTunes advertises that the film is also available with French audio and subtitles, but on my Apple TV English was the only option for both audio and subtitles.
There is one bonus feature exclusive to the digital version of Snow White, an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon that makes its home video debut here as it was only recently discovered in 2011.
- Walt Disney Short: Hungry Hobos (5:23) – An Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short from 1928 (the same year the character was stolen from Walt Disney, also the same year Mickey Mouse debuted). It has received a wonderful restoration and orchestrations. In the short, Oswald gets into trouble with his fellow stowaways as a hobo on a train.
The following bonus features are brand-new with this release. Of the 60 minutes of new content, about 40 minutes are truly relevant to the film while the rest feel superfluous and a waste of time.
- In Walt’s Words: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (4:23) – A series of archival interviews with Walt Disney are composited with photos and artwork to present his thoughts on Snow White.
- Iconography (7:15) – An exploration into the visual imagery from the film that has influenced pop culture, including apples, magic mirrors and wishing wells. It includes Disneybounding, Lego and paper artwork.
- @DisneyAnimation: Designing Disney’s First Princess (5:15) – Disney artists Mark Henn, Michael Giaimo, Bill Schwab and Loerlay Bove look at concept art for Snow White’s design and discuss their thoughts on her final look.
- The Fairest Facts of Them All: 7 Things You May Not Know About Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (4:36) – Sofia Carson from Disney Channel’s Descendants lists seven facts that all Disney fans probably know, but they may be news to tweens, whom this feature is geared towards.
- Snow White in Seventy Seconds (1:12) – A rap that isn’t short enough retelling the story from start to finish. The young artist is not credited, but I won’t be seeking any more of her work based on this feature.
- Alternate Sequence: The Prince Meets Snow White (3:39) – Story meeting notes are read by actors who sound like Walt Disney and his story men as they discuss an earlier version of the film’s meet-cute sequence set to concept and storyboard artwork.
- Disney’s First Feature: The Making of Snow White (33:15) – Eric Goldberg, John Musker, John Canemaker, Neal Gabler and Brian Sibley lead talking-head interviews along with archival interviews from Ward Kimball, Woolie Reitherman, Ken Anderson and Frank Thomas to tell the story of how Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was made. It’s refreshing in that it focuses more on the individual artists that created the film and less on Walt Disney, who oversaw the project.
The following bonus features have been carried over from the Diamond Edition release, most of which were part of the larger Hyperion Studio experience on the second disc:
- Bringing Snow White to Life (11:36) – Modern animators and historians examine the animation styles of some of the men who animated the characters in Snow White to display their strengths represented in this film.
- Hyperion Studios Tour (30:37) – A newly edited feature that combines about half of the video features from the interactive studio tour from the Diamond Edition release. It’s a nice collection of videos, but is not as satisfying as the full experience from the Diamond Edition.
- Decoding the Exposure Sheet (6:49) – Don Hahn reviews an exposure sheet from Snow White and breaks it down into layman terms for the audience.
- Snow White Returns (8:46) – Audiences desperately wanted a sequel to Snow White and these storyboards reveal that Walt Disney was at least humoring the idea, but not much else is known. Was this a sequence from a full film, or merely a short?
- Story Meetings: The Dwarfs (5:51) – Story meeting notes are reenacted by actors to bring to life a discussion about how to tackle the dwarfs in the film.
- Story Meetings: The Huntsman (3:55) – Another recreation adds insight into the character of The Huntsman.
- Deleted Scene: Soup Eating Sequence (4:06) – This deleted song was fully animated by Ward Kimball when Walt decided to cut it. It hadn’t yet gone to color, so it is presented here in pencil animation.
- Deleted Scene: Bed Building Sequence (6:28) – Another pencil animation deleted sequence in which the dwarfs decide to surprise Snow White with a bed of her own.
- Animation Voice Talent (6:20) – Learn about the actors behind the voices in the film.
- Audio Commentary (1:23:09) – Buried at the bottom of the bonus features menu and not accessible from the audio options is this commentary from 2001’s Platinum Edition. Roy E. Disney and historian John Canemaker lead this track, which features archival audio of Walt Disney when appropriate.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs makes its triumphant debut on Digital HD with a collection of great bonus features and a wonderful video presentation. The bonus features assortment is one of the best I’ve ever seen for a digital release, even if some of the newly created features are irrelevant. But the best part is that fans get to relive the magic of these films and new generations get to experience them for the first time. With digital, they can do that pretty much anywhere you can bring your smart phone.