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Disney's Folly Seventy Five Years Later-The Snow White Story

Posted by on December 7, 2012 at 4:15 AM

This December 21st will mark the 75th anniversary of the world premiere of Walt Disney’s first full length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. After three years in the making, Walt Disney chose the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles to host a star studded showing of his “cartoon”. Hollywood royalty of the day such as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Jack Benny, Milton Berle and Burns and Allen attended the invite only premiere while approximately 30,000 fans gathered outside. The journey to reach this day was a long one for Walt Disney and one that both inspires me and that I felt should be shared to a generation of movie goers that don’t know the “rest of the story” as the late Paul Harvey would say. Walt Disney was already a famous man in the winter of 1937. From his midwestern upbringing, to the development first of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse in the 1920‘s. He graduated from six minute silent short cartoons to 1928‘s Steamboat Willie, the first sound cartoon. He began producing his Silly Symphony cartoons in the early 1930‘s, winning Academy Awards for the first color cartoon Flowers and Trees in 1932 and for his adaptation of The Three Little Pigs in 1934. Although popular, Disney needed to find a better source of revenue for his growing studio. As he added characters to his animated corral (Goofy in 1929, Donald Duck in 1934), he found that the profitability of the six to seven minute short was inadequate. The Three Little Pigs, for example earned $64,000 at the box office, but cost $60,000 to produce. Disney approached his brother Roy, who handled the company’s finances and his wife Lillian in August 1934 with the first draft of Snow White. He had decided on using the fairy tale, originally written by the Brothers Grimm around 1812, as he was fascinated by the story ever since seeing a live action version during his childhood in Kansas City in 1916. Both Roy Disney and Walt’s wife were against the idea. Walt had proposed a budget of $250,000 to make the film which would be four times what each Silly Symphony was costing the studio to produce. This figure staggered the financially reserved Roy Disney and scared Lillian. But one of the things that I admire most about Walt Disney was that he was never satisfied. As soon as he had accomplished one thing, he was on to something bigger and better. Eventually, he got backing of his family and began to “sell” his animation team on the concept of the Grimm brothers story. Throughout the fall of 1934, and all through 1935 and 1936, Disney and his team labored through, tinkered with, and re-hashed the story of the beautiful princess. As production costs blew past the $250,000 mark and on past $500,000, the new Disney project became known around Hollywood as “Disney’s Folly”. Keep in mind that during the time of production on Snow White, Disney animators were still making 14 shorts per year. Things were hopping at the Disney Studio. Financers were getting nervous as production cost began to grow. Finally, Roy approached his brother and said that a representative from the bank would be coming to see what Walt had put together so far. Walt complained that he had very little completed animation and a lot of pencil drawings. He pieced together what he had, and showed the representative from the bank, Joseph Rosenberg the basic storyline. As a nervous Walt walked Rosenberg to his car, Rosenberg turned to Disney and said “That thing’s gonna make you a hatful of money!”. With his financing secured, Disney turned to completing his project. Eventually, the production budget of $1,488,423 surpassed the cost of any movie up to that time. In the end, however, “Disney’s Folly” grossed over 9 million dollars in it first release. And keep in mind, that was in the day of tickets costing at most 75 cents. Meanwhile, back at the Carthay Circle in December of 1937, Hollywood’s elite laughed, wept and at the end stood in applause at Disney’s Snow White. Many called it the greatest movie they had ever seen. One week later, Walt Disney appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Disney’s Folly had become Disney’s Genius. Released just after New Years 1938, 20 million people lined up during the height of the Depression to see Snow White. Now 75 years later, the film continues to hold up. In the 2007 edition of the American Film Institutes 100 greatest films, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ranks #49, the ONLY animated film on the entire list. When first released on DVD on October 5, 2001, 1 million copies were sold the FIRST DAY! If it has been awhile since you have put Snow White into the DVD player, pull it out and enjoy. It is the first full length animated feature, the first using the multiplane camera to provide a three dimensional appearance to the background and the first animated movie to have a soundtrack album. Below I’ve listed some interesting statistics on the film, as well as a couple of trivia facts. Let the kid inside of you re-live some Disney magic. You’ll be glad you did. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs : By the Numbers - Over 50 different dwarf names were discussed including Gaspy, Thrifty and Biggio Ego,who eventually became Doc. - Disney artists produced over 1,500,000 individual drawings by hand to put together the story - 362,919 individually handpainted cels were produced using 1500 different colors - 500 voices were tested to voice the different characters - Run time: 84 minutes - Premiere: December 21, 1937 Carthay Circle Theater - General Release: February 4, 1938 - $2,000,000 in toys were sold in the first year after release of film Trivia - Pinto Colvig who also voiced Mickey Mouse's pal Goofy, was also the voice for Grumpy and Sleepy - Adriana Caselotti, the 19 year old selected after dozens of voice tryouts, was paid $970 for recording the voice of Snow White.

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