11 April 2012

BEST SHOT: SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS

I've been playing along with The Film Experience's Hit Me with Your Best Shot all season, but even if I hadn't I'd be obliged to take part in this week's session, given that Nathanial has selected for us the 1937 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in honor of the two dueling Snow White pictures coming out this year, that film's 75th anniversary. A hint to anyone planning a blog-a-thon or multi-blog party or the like: if you want me to join in, make the subject Disney, or even just animation generally.

Anyway, that leaves us with the big question: which single frame of this absolutely gorgeous film, surely in the top 10 or even 5 most beautiful American animated movies of all time, shall I pick? This was a real nightmare for me, harder even than Moulin Rouge! week last year. Because the film is such a marvel to look at, with those soft but precise watercolor backgrounds against the bold blocks of color in the character animation; the subtle use of vertical lines in so many of the compostions; the storybook-illustration wide shots that make such outstanding use of Disney's multiplane camera to invite us in and down into the film's world; the striking Germanic flavor influenced by the legendary concept art of Gustaf Tenggren. Faced with what can only properly be called an embarrassment of riches, I can't swear that I got it right: ask me tomorrow what my favorite shot was, or even later tonight, and I might very well tell you something different.

But for right now, right at this minute, here's what I'm committing to:

It's the very last shot of the "Heigh-Ho" sequence, coming right after one of the most famous shots in the whole movie. You know the one-

That's a phenomenal shot of course, a nearly perfect moment of character personality in animation, and I love the sense it gives of a whole sprawling world that the movie takes place in, far beyond just the little slice of forest and mountain we see over the course of the narrative. But the reason I picked the one I did and not that one was because I've always loved the forward momentum of it, both in absolute terms - it is the first shot from behind the dwarfs, and thus the first that shows us where they're going, not where they've been - and in an more abstract way - they are heading down into the story, into their future destiny promised by the title. Like the previous shot, it showcases a sense that world is expansive and full of different places, though by showing us only a horizon and not a landscape, it is more mysterious and suggestive than Romantic and adventurous.

It's also just straight pretty, of course, and I would be remiss to point out that the little waterfall on the right was probably, as of 1937, the most perfect example of water animation in existence. And it's no secret that I'm head over heels in love with good water animation.

As an afterword, I present without commentary two frames from my runner-up shot:

3 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I've always been intrigued by the get-up the Queen is wearing. Of course it makes the image above that more effective because she's wearing all that cloth...but what IS it exactly?

KayMartha12 said...

Hey, Tim,

Since you're an animation fan and a favorable critic toward Brad Bird, where is your take on The Iron Giant? I personally think that is his masterpiece. I'm a long time reader; will be holding out for that!

Tim said...

Andrew- I don't know, but I've always thought that she's the best-dressed out of all Disney's villains. Maybe it's just some kind of "fuck you peasants, I'm intimidating" cape.

KayMartha12- It just so happens that this very afternoon, when I was pulling Iron Man off the shelf in preparation for my impending binge of Marvel movies in the next weekend, I tarried at The Iron Giant, and thought to myself, "I need to review that thing". Someday, and probably not someday in the immediate future. But someday, definitely. I love the hell out of that movie (though not quite as much as Ratatouille.