Cautions: violence and intensity, minced oaths and some name calling, mild ethical confusion, and brief mild sensuality
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is both light and dark, simple and complex, amusing and intense, and it has potentially the greatest range of emotions of any Walt Disney movie - happiness, loneliness, righteous anger, fear, sadness, joy, and many others. With a wisdom that has never shown up in Disney since, Snow White mixes its wonderful paradoxes and its emotional sway to piece together a fun, beautiful, timeless story that calls good, good, and calls evil - often through the use of graphic and startling imagery - evil.
1937 | David Hand, William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Ben Sharpsteen | 83 min Watch Trailer
Violence and Intensity
In Snow White, cel-animated violence and intensity spans from skeletons, to near knifings, to “bring back her heart in this.”
The villainess is a witch, and is shown using sorcery to transform from a beautiful queen into a hag. The entire scene is, for an animated film, very intense, from the mixing of the potion to the transformation, where the witch clutches her throat and the room begins spinning wildly.
The witch uses threatening phrases like “she’ll be buried alive!” “I’ll crush their bones!” “kill her!” and “her breath will still, her blood congeal!”
Spoiler Warning - Snow White is almost stabbed to death, but her would-be murderer repents at the last moment. Fleeing for her life, Snow White encounters imaginary horrors in the woods, set to intense music. When the witch offers her a poisoned apple, Snow White takes a bite, then begins breathing oddly and says that she feels strange, before collapsing, as if dead, on the ground. In the end, the witch falls off a cliff, and an enormous boulder is seen rolling off after her.
Minced Oaths and Some Name Calling
A negatively-portrayed character says “shut up”. The dwarfs call each other “doodle bug”, “warthog”, and “nanny goats”, once each. Snow White briefly imitates one of the dwarfs.
Mild Ethical Confusion
While it is clearly only the villain who uses sorcery, and the use of magic is definitely negatively-portrayed, Snow White does for a time believe the witch’s story about a “magic wishing apple”. Given Snow White’s character, she probably thinks of the apple as having grown on some kind of “magic” tree (which is an acceptable fantasy concept1), rather than as being the result of sorcery (which is biblically unacceptable2).
Snow White also pretends that a well is a “wishing well”, and sings a song about “wishing” her true love would find her today. That he does find her as she’s singing may be taken as a result of her wishing, but much more probably as a significant coincidence.
The dwarfs are portrayed as foolishly superstitious, incorrectly supposing that a mysterious person may be a ghost or a goblin.
Eleven of the dwarfs send the remaining one to investigate something, because the rest are too afraid. This is portrayed as somewhat humorous.
Brief Mild Sensuality
Snow White contains very, very little sensuality in mood, but there is some physical affection displayed, and romantic themes are a significant part of the story.
A man kisses the unconscious Snow White on the lips. Snow White kisses a bird and sends it to kiss the Prince. As Snow White kisses each of the dwarfs on the forehead, one of them tries in a silly way to get her to kiss him on the mouth, but without success.
Snow White dances with the dwarfs, touching hands only.
Non-sensual songs include lines like “one love that has possessed me,” “dreaming of the nice things he’ll say,” and “he was so romantic, I could not resist.”
Love at first sight is implied.
The witch uses magic words and magic potions, but the words are entirely dependent on inherently magical implements, the potions include impossible such as liquid hag’s cackle.
As a joke, some of the dwarfs take the lone, uncooperative dwarf and tie his hair and beard up in bows.
The dwarfs kneel by Snow White’s coffin.
A dwarf says that Snow White is “beautiful just like an angel.” Biblically, angels are masculine.
There is some mild comical pain, but no one is actually injured.
Snow White takes upon herself something of a mother’s role toward the dwarfs, making them wash before she will give them supper, and telling them to go right upstairs at bedtime.
A negatively-portrayed dwarf spits.
1 See Genesis 2:9 for a real-life example of trees with special, God-given powers
2 Deuteronomy 18:10-12