The first disney princess discussion

In 1937, Disney released the first ever feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The film was hugely successful, and has been continually re-released ever since. Despite being nearly 80 years old, it continues to be popular, and the film’s popularity has meant that it has had a tremendous influence on the life of fairy tales in American culture generally (in that it spawned the animated fairy-tale film industry, and influenced the cinematic adaptations of many other fairy tales), and on new renditions of the Snow White tale specifically.

So we’ll start our discussion of Snow White with this film, since it’s pretty much ground zero for the American image of the tale.

When we watch films in this course, our goal will be to critically examine and analyze them; in particular, we’ll want to think about how the film medium may add additional layers of meaning through it’s visual and auditory elements that do some work in communicating with the audience. When we examine a film, ask yourself:

  • How does the film try to connect with us, the viewers? What does the film assume about its audience? What does it expect us to know/understand already? What does it expect us to like/dislike or believe/disbelieve? What does all this tell you about the intended audience, and why the film is addressing that audience?
  • What, does the film want to communicate to its audience? Does it teach a lesson? Does it encourage certain beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors?

As you watch each scene, note down specific details of the film – images, sounds, music, words, and events – that you think are significant, and how they produce certain effects in the audience. Be specific!

The goal is to tie the effects that we perceive the film as having, and the ideas it communicates, to the concrete features of the film.

Let’s start by isolating a specific scene and examining it closely.

The following clip includes the opening scenes of Snow White, and the introduction of the main characters and the main conflict of the story. Watch the clip, looking out for the following:

  • Which characters do we meet? What do we think of them and why? What strategies does the film use to produce these reactions? What might these characters symbolize for the viewer?
  • What expectations does the film create about what will happen? How does it generate these expectations?


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