Let’s get to it!! After Grumpy is unceremoniously bathed and draped in flowers, we check in with the Evil Queen (not seen since she ordered the Huntsman to take Snow White away and kill her) who is eager to hear that she is once again the fairest in the land. Boy does the Magic Mirror have some bad news for her…
In part 2 I mentioned that this was ten years after the advent of sound film so they were still experimenting somewhat with synchronizing sound to movement. For a good example, listen to the music immediately after the Queen says “Then I’ve been tricked!” The orchestra begins a melody that spirals downard, matching up with the Queen’s movements as she reappears going down a spiral staircase into the dungeon. There is even a musical “slam” to match the sound of the door the Queen slams shut behind her (the raven wakes up to the sound).
What happens next is considered (for some) to be a particularly terrifying sequence: where the Evil Queen transforms into the Evil Witch. Believe it or not, they are voiced by the SAME woman. The story goes that she tried several variations on a “hag’s voice” but Disney wasn’t satisfied by any of them. Suddenly, the actress excused herself and came back five minutes later and in the next take did a perfect rendition of the witch’s voice. Stunned, Disney rushed to the recording booth and asked what she had done to change her voice so radically. “Simple,” she answered “I took my teeth out.”
The music for the scene where she actually transforms is full of suspense. It begins quietly, with a high pitched note held by the strings (beginning with the words “Now…begin thy magic spell…”) It’s only once he Queen drops her glass that things really pick up musically. As the room begins to whirl around her, the music responds in kind, almost whipping up into a frenzy, especially in the shot revealing her hair turning from black to white.
Leaving the Queen to plot her revenge against Snow White, we return to the dwarf’s cottage where a very “Silly Song” is taking place. Also known as the “Yodel song,” it features Snow White and all the dwarves dancing and singing with the animals watching. Bashful is playing an accordion, Doc is playing what looks like a cross between a bass and a dulcimer, Grumpy is playing the organ, Sleepy is occasionally playing a recorder (it’s shaped like a fish too), Sneezy is playing a small ukelele and Dopey is playing the drums while the others sing and dance. The entire song is a great example of a rustic folk melody, with two nonsensical verses (performed by Happy and Bashful respectively) in between.
“The Silly Song” is immediately followed by Snow White’s final song in the film “Some Day My Prince will Come,” where she sings to the dwarfs about how she’ll be reunited with her Prince someday and all will live happily ever after. Apparently there was supposed to be a dream sequence to accompany the song but the production either ran out of money or it wasn’t coming up to Disney’s standards, so it was cut. Musically, the song is a gentle waltz (in 3/4 time). As with other songs in this movie, the melody repeats several times (for a good example, check out the sheet music of the opening of the song below.)
Hooray the villain got what was coming to her!!! But seriously, I love watching this sequence, particularly for the music. Watch the scene as the Queen is fleeing through the storm (she gets briefly tangled up in some vines) and heads for a cliff. The orchestra is practically screaming at this point, to match the growing storm, as if everything is coming together to say to the Queen “Why did you harm the innocent Snow White?” Notice also how, as the Queen is trying to pry the boulder loose, the music begins to build to an ominous climax. The dwarfs see the boulder and as the Queen laughs the music gets louder and louder and then the lightning strikes! And the music completely stops. All you hear after the Queen’s final scream is the sound of the storm. And really what music would do the scene justice at this point?
Now comes the sad, very sad scene where the dwarfs mourn Snow White. The music for this scene is entitled “Chorale for Snow White” and was composed by Paul J. Smith. The short piece was written for the organ and fits the mood perfectly (you’ll notice there is no speaking in this scene.)
After one last piece of narration to get us through the winter and into spring, the Prince finally returns, singing one last refrain of “One Song.” Curiously, as the Prince approaches the coffin, you hear the same tentative music as when we first approach the Queen’s castle at the opening of the film. Of course the Prince gives her Love’s First Kiss and Snow White wakes up, to the joy of all. This last piece of music as the Prince leads Snow White away (on a white horse no less!) never fails to bring tears to my eyes, especially as the camera zooms in on a gorgeous castle appearing up in the clouds (maybe it’s up on a really really high mountain?)
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about and listening to the songs and music from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Please leave comments below if you liked it (or even if you didn’t like it, I’d love to know how to make it better.) Next time I’ll be looking at the next Disney Princess, Cinderella!! Until next time!
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
For more great Disney songs and films, check out the main page here: Disney Films & Soundtracks A-Z