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It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time when Disney did not completely rule the world of animation and children’s movies. Back in the 1930s, Disney was seen as a small studio that created funny cartoons, but little else. Of course Walt Disney had bigger plans, including an idea for making a full-length film that was completely animated (something unheard of at the time). What was once known as “Disney’s Folly” became known to history as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Credit to Walt Disney Co.*
Released in 1937, the titular character is voiced by the singer Adriana Caselotti. She sings several songs over the course of the film, the first of which is “I’m Wishing,” sung to her bird friends as she gets water from the well in the castle courtyard. The melody is relatively simplistic, with many leaps from the tonic to the dominant (D to A) and back again. Before the melody returns for a final reprise (just before the Prince interjects), there is a lovely interlude where Caselotti shows off her vocal prowess and sings a call and response with her “echo” in the well.
The song serves as a good introduction for the character: she’s a young (at least teenage) girl who’s clearly done her best to be happy, but still dreams of finding true love (and probably getting away from her stepmother the Queen). The music for this song (and most of the others) was composed by Frank Churchill, who’s last work would prove to be the score for Bambi in 1942.
It’s amazing how lifelike Snow White looks (and remember this was 1937, before computers, all of this was done BY HAND).
By the way, look at the Prince below, doesn’t he remind you just a little of Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty? (I love his line “Did I frighten you?” Nooo, all women like it when a strange man suddenly drops in on them.)
This charming song is immediately followed by “One Song” sung by the unnamed Prince (his role was supposed to be larger but Disney wasn’t entirely convinced that his animators could bring a male character to life convincingly so this is the first and last time we see him until the end of the movie). Like “I’m Wishing,” “One Song” is a simple melody, well-suited for a tenor’s voice, that clearly sets out what the Prince is saying (i.e. I’ve fallen in love with you at first sight). The melody is again very simple, with a medium range of notes. Disney songs have a tendency to be very simple melodically (the idea was that this made them more appealing to children).
The only question I have is, if the Prince really loves Snow White that much, why didn’t he just take her away right then and there? Where did he go after this song ends? Nevertheless, it is a sweet moment (and the look on the Queen’s face when she sees the Prince wooing her stepdaughter is priceless!)
Snow White “One Song”
Lyrics to “One Song”
Now that I’ve found you
Hear what I have to say!
One Song, I have but one song
One song, Only for you
One heart, Tenderly beating
Ever entreating, Constant and true
One love, That has possessed me
One love, Thrilling me through
One song, My heart keeps singing
Of one love, Only for you
Of course for the Queen, seeing the Prince in love with Snow White is the last straw and she arranges to have the young Princess murdered. Fortunately for us, the Huntsman has a conscience and Snow White runs deep into the forest where she encounters a large group of forest animals (interesting how they can understand humans, isn’t it?) Now trying to cheer herself up, Snow White sings “With a Smile and a Song” to remind herself how being positive can help you get through tough times. As with the earlier songs, looking at the music below, the vocal part is relatively simple.
With the end of this song, the story transitions now from Snow White to the other part of the title, the Seven Dwarfs! In part 2, we’ll pick up the story and meet the dwarfs in their mine as they finish their day and begin the long march home (but boy do they have a surprise waiting for them!!) In the meantime, enjoy the overture to the movie below and I hope you enjoyed Part 1!!
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Overture
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Part 2 (1937)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Part 3: And they all lived happily ever after!!!
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