On December 21, 1937, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood. In the audience was the cream of Tinseltown society. Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple, Jack Benny, Marlene Dietrich, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks Junior, just to name a few. The movie cost $1,480,000 to produce. Walt was in debt up to his eyebrows and this premiere could be a “make or break” moment for his company. As we know, the audience was mesmerized and this pivotal evening catapulted Walt into the big leagues forever. Here are copies of the two original movie posters for the film.
It is often claimed that “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was the first full-length animated movie. This is not true. That honor goes to Argentine movie-maker Quirino Cristiani who in 1917 animated “The Apostle.” Not to minimize Quirino’s contribution, but an analogy similar to the discovery of the New World can be made. Yes, Leif Ericson may have been the first European to travel to the New World, but his voyage had little impact on society as a whole. Crossing the Atlantic only became significant when Columbus made the journey almost 500 years later. The same is true with animation. It took Walt’s vision to change the way audiences viewed “cartoons.”
“Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” was the most profitable movie in 1938. In 1989, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The movie is currently the only animated film on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films (#34). The movie is also ranked as AFI’s number one animated film. So groundbreaking was the movie that Walt was given a special Oscar presented to him by Shirley Temple.
Although the original Carthay Circle Theater was demolished in 1969, replicas can be seen at Disney's Hollywood Studios and soon at Disney's California Adventure.
When Walt began planning Disneyland, Snow White was an obvious choice to be included in his park. After all, without the financial success of her movie, “The Happiest Place on Earth” might never have become a reality.
When Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, the park’s attractions were not the sophisticated diversions we think of today. Rides like Dumbo and the Mad Tea Cups were simple carnival rides that Walt dressed up with his characters. This is also true of the dark rides. First patented in 1928 by Leon Cassidy, these single-rail electric vehicles were simple rides that would entertain fair-goers for many years before Walt came along. They employed sudden tight curves to both surprise the passengers and hide the next scene from view. The sights were most often two-dimensional cut-outs and black lights were frequently used to illuminate fluorescent paint. Once again, Walt dressed up this tried-and-true attraction with his well-known characters. “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” “Peter Pan Flight,” and “Snow White’s Adventure” greeted Disneyland guests on opening day.
In the beginning, guests did not see Snow White while riding on her attraction. The Imagineers wanted the guests to “be” Snow White and see the adventure through her eyes. Unfortunately, this concept was lost on most guests and they complained that the lovely heroine was nowhere to be seen. During the 1983 makeover of Fantasyland, all of the dark rides were redesigned to some degree. At this time, Snow White was added to the attraction.
The same was true at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. In the early years, Snow White was not seen on the ride. It wasn’t until December 16, 1994 that she made an appearance. The ride vehicles were also enlarged at this time to hold six guests instead of four. In addition, the attraction was renamed “Snow White’s Scary Adventures” as this ride often frightened young children and the Imagineers felt some sort of warning was necessary.
“Snow White’s Scary Adventures” is housed in a castle-like structure in the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland. Behind the boarding area is a large mural featuring the characters from the story.
The ride begins outside the Queen’s Castle. We pass Snow White’s wishing well then we find her daydreaming nearby as the Queen looks on from an overhead window.
We then enter the castle and come face to face with the magic mirror. Moments later, we see the Queen transform into the Wicked Witch. This can be a terrifying moment for young children.
We next pass through a dungeon and see skeletons, presumably the recipients of the Queen’s evilness. Then the Wicked Witch appears and offers us a poison apple.
As we leave the Queen’s castle, we enter a dark forest to find the Huntsman pursuing a terrified Snow White.
As we journey deeper into the woods, we come across the Dwarf’s cottage. We enter to find the little men engaged in song and merriment. While in this room, notice the candlelight illuminating the walls. It’s actually paint – the trick of a clever artist.
Around the corner we see Snow White accepting a poison apple from the Wicked Witch.
Outside the cottage we encounter two hungry vultures and the Wicked Witch. We escape their clutches by entering the Dwarf’s diamond mine.
Exiting the mine we find the Dwarfs pursuing the Wicked Witch up a mountain where she is trying to dislodge a boulder to tumble upon the attraction’s riders below. Just in the nick of time, a lightning bolt strikes the old hag and we hear her scream as she tumbles backwards to her death.
Around the corner we find the Prince awakening our beauty with a kiss. We then see them riding off into the sunset as Dopey waves goodbye.
To see a three minute filming of “Snow White’s Scary Adventures,” check out my video. Because of low lighting, portions of this video were shot using infrared photography.
As part of the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland expansion, “Snow White’s Scary Adventures” will be closing permanently in early 2012. “Princess Fairytale Hall” will take over this space and provide meet-and-greet opportunities with a number of the Disney princesses.
But don’t despair if you’re a lover of Snow White. A new attraction, “The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train” will take up residence on what was once the “20,000 Leagues” lagoon. This mild coaster will employ new technology that will allow the vehicles to pivot using centrifugal force, thus giving the mine cars a swinging motion. Along the fast paced journey guests will encounter the Dwarf’s cottage, their mine, and new AudioAnimatronics.
At the Magic Kingdom, “Snow White’s Scary Adventures” has always been the least popular of the three dark rides. Both “Peter Pan’s Flight” and “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” offer FastPass, but “Snow White’s Scary Adventures” never needed to. But this does not lessen this attraction’s appeal and the importance its heroine played in the building of the Disney Company. If you have a trip planned to Disney World this coming year, I strongly suggest you experience this classic attraction one last time.
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