Snow White Isn’t the True Star of the Snow White Franchise

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is an important film in the Disney canon. Not only is the lead character Snow White a Disney Princess, she is the first Disney Princess, with her film seeing the light of day in 1937. Walt Disney had to fight to get this movie made, but it paid off, with its earnings going to build a studio in Burbank, which eventually became the Walt Disney Studios that exists to this day.

Snow White and Seven Dwarfs is based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, and follows a young princess who lives with her evil stepmother, Queen Grimhilde. The queen is obsessed with her looks, and constantly asks a magic mirror who is the “fairest one of all.” The mirror proclaims the queen to be the most beautiful, until he decides that it is Snow White, who has skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony. Angered, she orders a huntsman to kill her.

The huntsman couldn’t bring himself to kill her, so he tells her to run as far away as she can. Snow White befriends a group of woodland creatures, who bring her to a cottage belonging to seven dwarves. She stays there until the queen discovers that Snow White is still alive.

The highlight of this film is the animation, which was so beautifully done considering the technology available at the time. You have to remember that this film was made right before the World War. The dwarves were charming and the queen was scary, but I didn’t find Snow White interesting at all. Viewers will also find that the trend of a princess wanting to marry a man she barely knows started with Snow White, but of course, you have to consider that the film is a reflection of life back then.

Perhaps in an effort to bring life to the character and prove that Snow White has more up her sleeves than the ability to clean a house, Hollywood rebooted the story twice. Curiously, both remakes were done in 2012.

The first one was Tarsem Singh’s Mirror, Mirror, a live-action adaptation starring Lily Collins as Snow White and Julia Roberts as the queen. This film is targeted more towards kids, but it adds an interesting dimension to the story by having the dwarves as bandits, and the queen wanting to marry the prince. It’s a film that’s dominated by strong women, told in a visually-stunning film styled by the late Eiko Ishioka (who also styled Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992). However, it doesn’t offer anything new, except a few laughs.

Two months later, Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman was released. This time, the roles of Snow White and the queen were portrayed by Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron. If Mirror, Mirror is a family-friendly comedic romp, Snow White and the Huntsman is a decidedly adult take, with Stewart eventually leading a revolution with the huntsman (played by Chris Hemsworth) to defeat the queen.

Stewart wasn’t believable as Snow White (I much prefer Collins’ grace) and the film was dragging, but the saving grace was Theron as the queen. The queen is an interesting character as early as the 1937 film, but Theron does justice to the role, contrasting an elegant portrayal with a piercing and maniacal stare bordering on psychotic. The film also explores the queen’s past and her growing obsession with her looks, which adds depth to the story.

In 2016, the film was followed up with a prequel and sequel, called Huntsman: Winter’s War. We are introduced to the queen’s sister, Freya (played by Emily Blunt), who builds a kingdom and styles herself as an ice queen. Snow White is no longer part of the story, and the film revolves around the huntsman who must find the missing magic mirror. Huntsman: Winter’s War tries a little too hard with a thin plot and a weak script, but it was saved again by Theron’s performance. Sadly, it wasn’t enough.

Overall, the timeless story of Snow White is part of the Disney canon because of its advances in animation. The remakes tried to add a layer of strength to the character, and while parts of it worked, I have to say that across the board, the queen is the true star of the show. Where is her origin story?

This review is part of a marathon of Disney movies called #DisneyFlicks. To read the rest of the reviews, click here.

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