When Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1937, it made history as the first full-length cel-animated film, the first animated feature film to be produced in America, the first animated film produced in full color, and the first animated film produced by Walt Disney Productions.
Over the past nine decades, Snow White has been celebrated for its enchanting story, but some of the behind the scenes moments were less than magical. Here are seven things you probably didn’t know about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
1. Some original Dwarf names were super weird
Let’s face it, the Dwarfs are the real stars of the show. Every telling of the story has its own interpretation of the Dwarfs but, Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and Dopey are still the most iconic versions. However, the original proposal for Snow White listed fifty ideas for the Dwarfs’ names including Biggy-Wiggy or Biggo-Ego, Blabby, Deafy, Dirty, Gabby, Gaspy, Gloomy, Hoppy-Jumpy, Hotsy, Jaunty, Nifty, and Shifty. Other names considered for the dwarfs included Busy, Crabby, Daffy, Dumpy, Flabby, Helpful, Lazy, Scrappy, Sniffy, Snoopy, Stubby, Thrifty, Wheezy, and Awful (who apparently “steals and drinks and is very dirty”).
In fact Deafy, was originally supposed to be the seventh Dwarf, but was replaced at the last minute by Sneezy, probably because no one knew what “Deafy” meant. Additionally, animators were really opposed to the name Dopey, because they felt such a modern term was anachronistic in a timeless fairytale. Walt Disney was only able to convince his team after he lied to them and told them the word “dopey” was coined by William Shakespeare.
2. It scared the piss out of little kids (No, like literally)
From the get go, censorship was a real issue with the production of the film. It may not seem like it now, but Snow White really pushed the envelope for its time. A scene where Snow White’s mother died had to be cut to avoid the hammer of the censor and upon the film’s release, Snow White sparked a nationwide controversy about whether or not the enchanted forest and the wicked witch were too scary for young children.
In fact, the theater managers at the Radio City Music Hall (where Snow White premiered) were nervous that the movie would be too scary for kids. These fears proved to be well founded. After the the movie’s premiere, the velvet upholstery on the seats had to be replaced. Kids were so frightened by the scene where Snow White gets lost in the forest, that they wet their pants.
3. Disney never let Snow White sing again
It took a long time to cast Snow White, because Walt Disney was very particular about the voice of his star. For example, actress Deanna Durbin auditioned for the part, but Disney turned her down because he felt her voice was “too mature.” Durbin was 14 at the time. The part later went to classically trained singer Adriana Caselotti and it was the only major role of her career. Walt Disney wanted to preserve the sound of Snow White’s voice, so Caselotti’s contract prevented her from ever singing again.
4. Snow White’s original design was much “sexier”
The original design for Snow White was created by the same artists who designed Betty Boop. Snow White was drawn with red pouting lips, long eyelashes, and a much more provocative outfit (just look at that ankle!). Disney rejected the original design because he wanted Snow White to be wholesome and innocent, not “sexy”. The original artwork was kept by one of the animators and later sold at auction for only £2,793 ($3003.95).
5. “Dwarfs” is not a misspelling
The spelling of the movie’s title has always bothered us. Why is it “Dwarfs” and not “Dwarves”? Well at the time, the generally accepted plural for “dwarf” was “dwarfs”. It wasn’t until J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series gained in popularity that “dwarves” became the more common variant.
6. Nobody believed in the movie
At the time, nobody believed a full length animated feature would be successful. Hollywood referred to the movie as “Disney’s Folly” and Walt’s own brother Roy Disney tried to talk him out of the movie. The film’s initial budget of $250,000 was ten time more than anything Disney had ever produced. The final budget reached more than $1.4 million (a massive sum today and an absolutely astounding number in 1937) and Disney had to mortgage his house to complete production. After the film was a success, Disney used the profits to build Disney Studios. So, you can think of Disney’s castle as a giant middle finger to everyone who didn’t believe in him.
7. It has some pretty high profile fans
In 1989, the United State Library of Congress selected Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for preservation in the National Film Registry. Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (director of Battleship Potemkin, the movie that all your film major friends won’t stop talking about) called it the “greatest film ever made.” More infamously, Adolf Hitler called the Disney classic one of his favorite films, which doesn’t help fight the “Disney was anti-semite” rumor.
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