Blu-ray Review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - The Signature Collection

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After several Diamond Edition Blu-ray releases of classic Disney animated films, we now have a reissue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs under a new branding: The Signature Collection. That's because the 1937 classic was already available as a Diamond Edition in 2009. If you missed that initial Blu-ray offering (as I did; it has been out of print since 2011), here's a chance to finally add it to your collection. The '09 Diamond Edition has fetched premium prices on the secondary market and, quite honestly, it will continue to have appeal for true blue fans. Not all of the special features from that version have been ported over to the Signature Collection. Completists will understandably be frustrated.

That aside, this new release marks a welcome return to the home video market for the very first (some still say best) Disney animated feature film. There's little left to say about Snow White and Seven Dwarfs nearly eight decades after its premiere. It's a cultural touchstone that earned producer and all-around visionary genius Walt Disney an honorary Oscar. It's inevitably old fashioned, with the beautiful and virtuous Snow White (voiced by Adriana Caselotti) epitomizing the cliched 'damsel in distress' just waiting to be rescued by the Prince (voiced by Harry Stockwell). However, the trappings of its era shouldn't detract too significantly, except maybe for viewers who are particularly sensitive to even a hint of sexism.

Let's face it, Snow White is young and naive and obviously isn't well suited to taking care of herself just yet. The Evil Queen (voiced to perfection by Lucille La Verne) is the perfect villain: jealous, spiteful, and fearful of her own advancing age. Snow is extremely vulnerable so the lack of the modern era's "girl power" isn't a sore thumb in this case. As memorably pure and innocent as Snow is, the film's most indelible portrait is that of the Queen and her intense denial of how age eventually robs us all of our youthful vitality.

Having not seen the previous "Diamond Edition" Blu-ray (from 2009), the jaw-dropping restoration of Snow White is an absolute treat. From what I've been able to ascertain, this is the same high-quality transfer featured on that long out-of-print edition. So if that one's already part of your collection, you shouldn't expect to be any more wowed than seven years ago. But this is truly an amazing presentation; no way does this vivid image look nearly 80 years old (well, 72 when this restoration was done).

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Similar high marks go to the DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, again the same product as first offered on the '09. Personally, I'll never be quite convinced that the relatively simple sound design of the early Disney animated films really needs the full surround treatment. But as far as these sonic expansions go, Snow can hardly be faulted. The dialogue and unforgettable music are crystalline. The original mono mix is present, though in lossy Dolby Digital form. It seems almost a foregone conclusion at this point that Disney, given their established track record, won't invest the time to include lossless versions of these classics' original mixes, which is a guaranteed disappointment for purists.

So what's new, in terms of special features, on Disney's Signature Collection? Be aware, Disney hasn't made it easy on collector's. There are supplements on the original Platinum Edition DVD (2001) that were not ported over to the Diamond Edition Blu-ray (2009). And then there were items from the Diamond Edition that were not ported over to the Signature Collection. Long story short: if you literally want it all, you'll have to hold onto all of your previous formats.

Most of the brand new material is fairly brief. "In Walt's Words: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is four minutes of audio, basically Mr. Disney talking about the film. A never-before-seen alternate sequence, "The Prince Meets Snow White," is a nice addition (featuring a "voice recreation," as the sequence was never completed). Sofia Carson (Disney's Descendants) hosts the four-minute "The Fairest Facts of Them All: 7 Things You May Not Know." Running seven minutes, "Iconography" offers a quick look at the film's most iconic aspects that have defined its place in pop culture history. "@DisneyAnimation: Designing Disney's First Princess" (five minutes) is another installment in the on-going "@DisneyAnimation" featurette series (found on earlier Disney BD editions).

Though it would initially appear to be entirely new, the 33-minute "Disney's First Feature: The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is apparently (based on a bit of research) an expanded version of the Diamond Edition's 17-minute "The One That Started It All."

Beyond that, we get what appears to be a half-hour condensed version of the Diamond's multi-part "Hyperion Studios Tour." Also carried over are several featurettes, some deleted sequences, an audio commentary, and a handful of other minor pieces. It's getting to where a guidebook is needed to keep track of the supplements that have appeared over the years.
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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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