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Previously, Snow White had just escaped to the forest and made friends with the animals therein. Now she needs a place to stay and the animals are more than happy to help out.
Unbeknownst to everyone (including the animals apparently), this cottage is actually the home of the seven dwarfs: Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Grumpy and Dopey. Based on the evidence, that house was never cleaned a day in its life:
Snow White, of course, has a plan to fix all that so she and the animals decide to clean the house for the “children” so that when they come back, maybe they’ll let her stay. This idea serves as the introduction for “Whistle While You Work.”
I can’t tell you how many times I sang this song to myself as a child while I cleaned my room or did a chore. It was funny because at the time I couldn’t whistle so I’d sing the verse and then blow air frantically to try and whistle the tune (but I digress…). Look at the sheet music above and you can see how simple the melody is: lines 1 and 3 are identical, as are lines 2 and 4, the only thing that changes are the words (this is the epitome of strophic form).
Of course in the movie the song is joined by funny scenes of the animals (along with Snow White) cleaning the filthy cottage. My particular favorite is seeing the chipmunk winding up the spider’s web like a ball of yarn only to have the spider come down to object! This is where we leave Snow White for now, as it’s finally time to meet the seven dwarfs.
(Above clockwise: Bashful, Happy, Grumpy and Sneezy)
Appropriately enough, as we meet the dwarfs in their incredibly sparkly mine, they’re singing about….digging!!! This cute little ditty actually doesn’t have too much in the way of melody going on, as the notes are mostly in sync with their picks. What is cool though is the introduction before the song starts (the first four measures): it’s musically recreating the sound of the dwarves mining!
Below is the full sequence that introduces the dwarfs, from “We dig dig dig” to “Heigh Ho” which starts the dwarfs on their journey home. The latter technically begins with a call and response as it is Doc who sings out the first “Heigh Ho!!” And all the dwarfs (minus Dopey who doesn’t talk) respond with their own “Heigh Ho” which leads into the beginning of the song where they all sing and whistle in unison, basically singing the same verse over and over again (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Disney songs at this point are designed to be relatively simplistic in terms of melody and lyrics). Sound film had only existed for about ten years at this point so filmmakers and animators were still showing off how closely they could synchronize sound to movement.
Of course, once the dwarfs get home, they quickly realize that something is amiss because their entire house is CLEAN!! (To which Grumpy retorts: “There’s dirty work afoot!!”)
Finally though, Snow White and the dwarfs formally meet and they realize that the princess has been cooking dinner in a big pot. But before they can eat, everyone has to go wash up for dinner. “The Dwarfs Washing Song” or “Bluddle-Uddle-Um-Bum” is early Disney silly at its finest. The song (led by Doc) is juxtaposed against the stubborness of Grumpy (who notably refuses to sing and speaks his lines during this sequence). Actually, compared to the other songs in the movie, this almost isn’t a “song” at all, as the dwarfs aren’t actually “singing” so much as “speak-singing” the lyrics with musical accompaniment.
This has nothing to do with music, but one of my favorite scenes is when the other dwarfs ambush Grumpy after the main song ends and drag him to the wash tub. Be honest now, at some time or other you’ve fantasized about getting to do that to someone (I confess: I wanted to!) That’s all for now, Part 3 will conclude the film, I hope you’re enjoying!
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
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See also: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Part 1 (1937)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Part 3: And they all lived happily ever after!!!
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