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THE ART AND CREATION OF WALT DISNEY’S CLASSIC ANIMATED FILM
Written by J. B. Kaufman Foreword by Diane Disney Miller
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic November 15, 2012–April 14, 2013 The Walt Disney Family Museum San Francisco, California
6 Our Museum Collection 9 Collecting the Magic 10 Celebrating Walt’s Genius 14 A Welcome Event 28 Who Is the Fairest? 38 I’m Wishing 62 Hide in the Woods! 90 Just Like a Doll’s House 106 Seven Little Men 140 I’ve Been Tricked! 164 A Musical Interlude 184 Two Journeys 204 A Special Sort of Death 224 A Dream Comes True 238 The Ten Best Pictures 250 Glossary 252 Index 254 Artists and Animators 255 Acknowledgments 256 The Walt Disney Family Museum
Celebrating Walt’s Genius
Until Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, the world had never seen a colorful, feature-length animated film with engaging characters and stunning environments. The film marked a pivotal milestone in animation. Calling upon the experience they gained from creating the early Disney animated shorts and the awardwinning Silly Symphonies, Walt Disney and his artists defined the artistic foundation that would shape all subsequent animated films. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the film’s release, is especially significant because it is the first special exhibition organized by The Walt Disney Family Museum, which is dedicated to celebrating the genius of Walt Disney. The exhibition art is drawn from the collections of The Walt Disney Family Museum, the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, Andreas Deja, Dave Pacheco, and ardent Snow White collector Steve Ison. Since the few nitrate cel setups that remain at the Walt Disney Company are too fragile to travel, the Studio’s current ink and paint department painted replica cels. Such challenges created serendipitous opportunities to use other elements of animation to illustrate the storyline. The exquisitely drawn story sketches, for example, quite marvelously reveal the evolving vision Walt and his artists had for the film. Exhibition visitors will gain an understanding of the collaborative process that produced a creative milestone in cinematic history.
Lella Smith Creative Director Walt Disney Animation Research Library
The Fairest One
Snow White Head Model Sheet Photostat: print on paper
Snow White Model Sheet Photostat: print on paper
By comparison with some of the sketches pictured on the previous pages, the final design of Snow White was relatively realistic—although, of course, her proportions were quite unlike those of an actual human being. The differences are emphasized in the model sheet on the facing page, with its comparative poses juxtaposing Snow White, on the right, with rotoscoped tracings (see page 40) of her model, Marjorie Belcher, on the left.
Fantasy in Depth
The opening sequence is one of the special scenes that made use of the studio’s newly developed multiplane camera crane. Animated scenes were usually filmed on a camera table designed to hold the background painting and the animation cels pressed tightly together, to ensure maximum registration. The multiplane was, instead, a towering structure that allowed the camera to shoot through widely separated planes of animation and scenic elements, creating a believable sense of perspective and depth. As the camera moved through a forest toward a distant castle, the audience was not looking at a flat painting but rather was drawn into a convincing animated world.
The Disney camera department in the 1930s. At right is a standard camera table; at left is the multiplane. Disney Studio Artist Queen’s Castle on the Mountaintop Concept art: graphite on paper
Snow White, dressed in rags, scrubs the steps in the castle garden and dreams of romance. Standing by a wishing well, she wishes aloud for the Prince of her dreams—and hears her voice echoing back from the well, a sign that her wish will come true. And it does: the Prince, riding past on horseback, is attracted by her lovely voice and enters the garden. He declares his love for Snow White in song. But the Queen is listening too, and, consumed with fury, she orders her Huntsman to take Snow White into the woods and kill her.
he garden sequence, which served to introduce Snow White to the audience and depicted her first meeting with the Prince, was one of the last sequences in the picture to be developed and produced. Walt knew that this would be one of the most difficult sequences in the picture for his writers and artists to tackle, and purposely delayed work on this section until his staff had sharpened their skills and gained experience on other, less demanding parts of the story. Part of the challenge here was to determine the tone of Snow White’s first meeting with the Prince. Some early approaches to the sequence had depicted a casual, bantering, flirtatious encounter, similar to those in contemporary live-action romantic comedies. Walt eventually discarded this idea in favor of a more innocent, charming romantic scene. Even then, he and
the writers struggled to convey the necessary plot information without an excess of spoken dialogue. The simple, apparently effortless staging that audiences see on the screen took months of painstaking effort, analysis, and experimentation to create. At one point in story development, the writers suggested that Snow White, dreaming of romance, might construct an imaginary scarecrow prince by placing an inverted bucket atop a fencepost, addressing this effigy as “Prince Buckethead.” The real Prince, entering the garden unseen, would observe her charade, and Snow White would be startled to hear the real Prince’s voice apparently issuing from Prince Buckethead. This idea was eventually discarded from the film, though it later appeared in some comic and storybook versions after the film’s release.
An important turning point in story development was the idea of the wishing well, which in turn led to Snow White’s song “I’m Wishing.” These inspired inventions made the sequence far more charming and less dialogue-heavy—but they were late developments, introduced into the picture in the spring of 1937, after months of story conferences had already taken place. Of all the technical challenges in producing Snow White, none was more daunting than creating human characters who acted and moved in a convincing way. Snow White, the Prince, and the Queen were never intended to be strictly realistic characters, but they did have to represent a fantasy element that was recognizably grounded in reality, and they had to be strong enough characters to carry a feature-length story—and no animation studio had yet produced “human” characters who could do that. The Disney studio met this challenge by filming live-action reference footage of actors cast in these roles. The model for most of Snow White’s scenes was a young girl, Marjorie Belcher, daughter of a local dance instructor, who would become familiar to later audiences as part of the dance team Marge and Gower Champion. Under the direction of animators and sequence directors, she played Snow White’s scenes on the studio sound stage while a cameraman filmed her actions. Frames from this footage were then enlarged and traced onto animation paper by use of a rotoscope. Max Fleischer had invented the rotoscope in 1915, and
Fleischer’s studio had used it in creating Out of the Inkwell cartoons. In the Fleischer films, audiences saw a clown perform with uncannily lifelike movements, his actions literally traced from reality. Two decades later, the Disney studio used the rotoscope in a different way: the tracings did not appear in the film, but served as guides. After studying them, the animators could start afresh, constructing a wholly original animated performance for Snow White. They could consult the tracings for technical details: the turn of an ankle, the lift of an arm, the movement of a skirt. As production proceeded, the studio abandoned the rotoscope in favor of a less labor-intensive device, the photostat machine, which was used to enlarge and copy the frames of live-action footage. The artists worked with individual photostats as they had with the rotoscope tracings. This procedure was in place by the time the garden sequence was produced. Thanks to the technical support of the live-action reference footage, Snow White avoided problems that had plagued “human” characters in earlier cartoons: her actions were convincing and lifelike, but without the eerie stilted quality of raw rotoscope tracings. Snow White herself, in terms of design, is anything but realistic; her body proportions are not those of an actual human being, and her performance is conceived in terms of her personality, like that of other animated characters. But her walking, dancing, and other movements have the weight of human authenticity.
The images on these pages illustrate the use of live-action reference as an aid to the animators. On the opposite page, Marjorie Belcher is filmed on a studio sound stage, playing one of Snow White’s scenes while standing at a prop well. Her actions are synchronized to the song “I’m Wishing.” This image was one of dozens of photostats from this scene, blown up from frames of 16mm film so that the artists could study minute stages of the girl’s movement. On this page, the photostats are translated into three drawings that demonstrate steps in the animation process. At top, animator Jack Campbell, after studying the live action, produced one of a series of character animation drawings of Snow White playing the scene. In the center, the rope, pulley, and bucket were drawn separately by effects animator Sanford “Sandy” Strother. At the bottom, both elements were combined in a single animation drawing. These “ruff ” pencil drawings were cleaned up, then traced in ink on cels. Painted in color, the cels were combined with the background painting and photographed to produce the finished scene.
Jack Campbell (character animation), Sanford Strother (effects animation) Snow White Pulls Bucket Up from the Well Top: Cleanup animation Center: Effects animation Bottom: Ruff animation drawing All images: graphite and colored pencil on paper
Joe Grant Seated Queen Concept art: charcoal and pastel on paper
In the Grimms’ story, the Huntsman was only a minor character. Some later stage versions had greatly expanded his role in the plot, and this influenced early concepts for the Disney film. During story conferences, the writers considered giving him a name—“Humbert” was a strong contender— and possibly making him a sadistic character, one who actually relished the idea of killing Snow White.
Disney Studio Artist Early Huntsman Sketch Concept art: graphite and colored pencil on paper
As the dwarfs’ appearances became better established, the lead animators defined their facial features in meticulous detail for the benefit of assistants and cleanup artists. With hundreds of people drawing the same characters, it was important to maintain consistency, even to fine points of color shading, eyelids, and eyelashes.
Disney Studio Artist Color Model Sheet of Dwarfs Photostat: print on paper with colored pencil highlights
Like their house, the dwarfs’ workplace is filled with handcarved objects. This ingenious little clock, carved in the side of a tree, announces the end of the dwarfs’ workday. To strike the hour, little figures emerge from the doors and strike tiny hammers against a tiny anvil. The figures and the clock’s minute hand were animated on cels; note that the hour hand, which remains stationary throughout the scene, can be painted directly on this background painting. At one point late in 1936, the mine sequence was discarded from Snow White altogether, a casualty of the film’s overabundance of gag and story material. With that sequence missing, the dwarfs’ first appearance came as they marched home, singing “Heigh-Ho.” Then, late in the summer of 1937, a shortened version of the mine sequence was restored to the picture.
Disney Studio Artist Tree Clock Strikes 5:00 P .M. Cleanup layout drawing with layout slip: graphite and colored pencil on paper
Dopey’s Adventure Upstairs
Homer Brightman Dopey Searches the Premises Story sketch gags: graphite and colored pencil on paper
During the 1930s, in producing the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony shorts, the studio had developed a standard practice: each film’s story outline would be circulated throughout the studio and all personnel invited to submit gags or story situations. Anyone whose ideas were used in the film would qualify for a bonus. The invariable result was a wealth of story material from the entire studio staff, from
which the story department could select the best ideas. The same practice was followed on Snow White, and some sequences, including Spooks, elicited such a flood of ideas that only a fraction of them could be used. One of the unused ideas can be seen on page 122; another, on these pages, is a complicated series of Dopey gags suggested by story stalwart Homer Brightman.
Disney Studio Artist Dwarfs’ Kitchen with Pie Dough Background painting: watercolor on paper
Why Don’t We Make Her a Bed?
On these two pages are sketches from the Bed-Building sequence, which was filled with slapstick gags as the dwarfs enthusiastically plunged into their task. Ever ingenious, they selected four strategically placed trees in the forest and used the trunks as bedposts, constructing the bed between them. Here Dopey trims the excess branches from one of the bedposts, but overlooks an important detail.
Disney Studio Artist Dopey Chopping Down a Branch (Out of Picture) Story sketch: graphite and colored pencil on paper
Joe Grant Witch Bringing the Poison Apple to Snow White Story sketch: mixed media on paper
Disney Studio Artist Snow White on Bier, Dwarfs Around Her Grieving Story sketch: graphite and colored pencil on paper
Jack Campbell Happy Ending, the Prince Lifts Snow White onto a Horse Cleanup animation drawing: graphite and colored pencil on paper
Artists and Animators
SAM ARMSTRONG As one of the mainstays
of the background department, Armstrong painted many of the backgrounds but was also charged with supervising the color styling of the entire picture.
ALBERT HURTER Also credited for character
ART BABBITT An artist who combined a
design, Hurter contributed to the settings as well. His European sensibility influenced the film’s design and was responsible for much of its charming Old World atmosphere.
GRIM NATWICK Recruited for the feature
because of his knowledge of anatomy and his well-known knack for animating female characters, Natwick headed the secondary Snow White unit.
volatile temperament with a prodigious talent, Babbitt animated the wicked Queen before her transformation—no easy task—and also did some dwarf animation.
HAM LUSKE Second only to Walt in
CHARLES PHILIPPI The top-billed layout
NORM FERGUSON Along with Luske, Moore,
and Tytla, he was one of the studio’s Big Four animators during the 1930s. Ferguson’s versatility is evident in his assignments: previously he had specialized in Pluto and the Big Bad Wolf; here he animated the Queen after she transforms herself into the witch.
establishing the heroine’s design and determining her personality, Luske then maintained a tight level of control over her scenes, doing some of the animation himself and closely supervising a unit of animators who were assigned other scenes.
artist on the picture, Philippi served as a problem-solver on other artists’ sequences as well as supervising his own.
BOB STOKES Not usually mentioned
FRED MOORE A naturally gifted animator
JOE GRANT Credited for character design,
Grant was equally important as a member of the story team. He had worked on some of the most brilliant Silly Symphonies and contributed key ideas to Snow White.
and the studio’s resident specialist in “cute” characters. He was one of the two artists who established the look and personalities of the dwarfs, and set the standard for their animation. His touch is especially evident in Dopey.
in connection with Snow White, but a strikingly versatile animator who came in on short notice and produced key scenes of both Snow White and the Queen—and held his own with the master animators.
BILL TYTLA One of the two dwarf specialists,
the other being Fred Moore. Tytla was known for (among other things) his animation of forceful, powerful characters, and not surprisingly made a major impact on the animation of Grumpy.
President, CEO Terry Newell VP, Sales and New Business Development Amy Kaneko VP, Publisher Roger Shaw Executive Editor Mariah Bear Published by The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press®, LLC. 104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio San Francisco, CA 94129
© 2012 The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press, LLC. The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press is not affiliated with The Walt Disney Company or Disney Enterprises, Inc.
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Academy Award® and Oscar® are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Library of Congress Control Number on file with the publisher ISBN 13: 978-1-61628-437-4 ISBN 10: 1-61628-437-4 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 2014 2013 2012
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