Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , 1937

A great collection of original production animation cels, original production animation drawings, and master production backgrounds for sale from the Walt Disney feature film.

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Original hand painted and hand inked production animation cels of Snow White and Dopey from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," 1937, Walt Disney Studios; Set on a hand-painted background; Size - Snow White & Dopey: 7 x 5", Image 8 x 6 1/2"; Unframed.

“Lips red as the rose. Hair black as ebony. Skin white as snow.”

―The Magic Mirror describing Snow White

 

Development on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs began in early 1934, and by June Walt Disney announced to The New York Times the production of his first feature, to be released under Walt Disney Productions. Before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Disney studio had been primarily involved in the production of animated short subjects in the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies series. However, Disney hoped to expand his studio's prestige and revenues by moving into features, and he estimated that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs could be produced for a budget of $250,000 (this was ten times the budget of an average Silly Symphony).


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was to be the first full-length cel animated feature in motion picture history, and as such Walt Disney had to fight to get the film produced. Both his brother and business partner Roy Disney, as well as his wife Lillian attempted to talk him out of it. The Hollywood movie industry mockingly referred to the film, while in production, as "Disney's Folly."

Disney ended up having to mortgage his house to help finance the film's production, which would eventually ran up to a total cost of $1,488,422.74; an absolutely massive sum for a feature film in 1937!

After a long and difficult four years, on January 13, 1938, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made its New York premiere at Radio City Music Hall. The film ran for five weeks in a row, the first motion picture to do so, and it could have played longer if not for prior commitments of the venue. It was to be the theatres' most successful engagement in all of the 1930s. The film was loved by everyone and Disney, along with his animation team, had managed to make an animated film that the audience would believe! The crowd would be sad and cry when Snow White bit the apple and was placed in a glass casket; and they would laugh, smile, and be happy during the song and dance numbers with the Dwarfs. However, Disney was criticized by some for making a very scary film for children.

When the movie was played at Radio City Music Hall on its first release, the theater managers had to replace the music played when Snow White runs into the Dark Forest; because they were nervous that the kids would be too frightened upon hearing it. Snow White's run into the Forest had another result;  young children were still so scared by the sequence, that they wet their pants. As a result, the velvet upholstery of each and every seat held by a child, had to be replaced prior to every showing of the film.

A large number of actresses auditioned for the voice of Snow White. Walt Disney listened to each audition in his office while the actress performed in another room, without any knowledge of the actress' appearance or reputation. This would insure that he would only judge based on the sound of the voice. According to later accounts, most of the voices Disney felt, did not sound young enough. Eventually, in September of 1935, Adriana Caselotti was chosen for the voice of Snow White. Caselotti was eighteen at the time and made her coloraturo soprano sound younger, knowing that the character was intended to be 14 years old. In recording sessions Caselotti found difficulty in the line, "Grumpy, I didn't know you cared"; instead of "didn't", Caselotti was only able to say "din". After rehearsing the line many times, Walt Disney eventually said "Oh, the heck with..." and "din'" remained in the final film.


Snow White's design was supervised by Grim Natwick, an animator who had previously developed and worked on Betty Boop at Fleischer Studios. It is interesting to note that early designs for the Snow White resemble Betty Boop, and some appear to be caricatures of famous actresses of the time. As development continued, Snow White became more and more lifelike. Another animator, Hamilton Luske's first designs for Snow White depicted her as a slightly awkward, gangly teenager. However, Walt Disney had a different idea in mind; he wanted Snow White to be older, and more realistic-looking. This was achieved by the use of live-action references for the animators. Also, in order for Snow White to better relate onscreen to the seven Dwarfs, it was decided that her head be slightly larger than normal. In addition, the women in the animation studio's ink and paint department felt that Snow White's black hair was too unnatural and harsh, so they drybrushed whisps of light grey over the top of each and every cel.


Although the initial concept designing of the dwarfs was relatively easy for the Walt Disney animation department, the actual animating of them proved to be difficult. The animators, already finding human figures difficult to animate, now had to animate dwarfed human figures. The great Disney animator Vladimir Tytla noted that the dwarfs should walk with a swing to their hips, and Fred Moore commented that they had to move a little more quickly in order to keep up with the other human characters.


In the pre-production stages of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Dopey was simply called 'The Seventh'. His personality and role were finalized late in the process, after it was suggested that Dopey should move like burlesque comedian Eddie Collins. Collins began his career in vaudeville and went on to become a successful comedian, actor, and singer. He helped to define the character's personality through his live action filmed sequences, as well as providing the few vocal sounds that Dopey made during the film. He also provided the sounds of a sneezing chipmunk and a squirrel.


Dopey is the youngest of the dwarfs, as proven by his lack of a beard. But perhaps his most notable trait is his lack of speech. In the film Happy states Dopey is simply unaware whether or not he can speak, as he has simply never tried. In spite of this, he can occasionally be heard making various vocal sounds such as whimpers, hiccups, and a one-shot yell. The other dwarfs seem to have no problem understanding Dopey, and Doc was able to easily translate Dopey's blathering into a cohesive sentence. Various Walt Disney artists were involved in the animation of Dopey throughout the film including: Vladimir Tytla, Fred Moore, Frank Thomas, Shamus Culhane, Les Clark, Ollie Johnston, and Art Babbit.


These original production animation cels are from the scene in the film that occurs just before the Dwarfs head off to work in the gemstone mine. They warn Snow White to be careful with Doc saying, "Now, don't forget, my dear. Th-The old Queen's a sly one. Full of witchcraft. So beware of strangers." Snow White assures them that she will be careful. Each Dwarf says goodbye to Snow White and this is an absolutely beautiful cel setup of her with Dopey, standing just outside of the Dwarf forest cottage door. Both are large full figure centered images and the piece would be a highlight for any serious animation art collection!

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