In this essay I am going to look at “Snow White” as the first feature length animated film and what impact its production had on its audience. I will later on compare it to “Shrek” an animated film produced over two generations later. To help me do this, I will look into the background of “Snow White” and what led to its production. I will start by looking at how and when it was produced. Snow White was produced in the 1930’s by Walt Disney, and first premiered in 1937, while America was trying to recover from “The Great Depression”.
“The great depression” had left many people unemployed and millions of them were miserable. Disney aimed for the film to appeal to all sorts of audiences. The Young and the old. The release of “Snow White” was a way of raising the morale of the American people who sacrificed the little money they had to go and see the film. Disney used songs like” someday my prince will come “and” heigh-ho heigh-ho” to cheer the audience up. Therefore, “Snow White” was made as a feel good factor for the people of America. The film was based on the story by the Brother’s Grimm.
Normally, the Grimm tales are notoriously dark and unpleasant but Walt Disney, the producer, decided to change the story line to make it more appealing to the audience. This way, the story would appeal to both adults and children. The production of “Snow White” cost about i?? 1. 75million but brought out a grand total of i?? 4. 2million. It was a great risk for Disney to take and if it hadn’t been successful would have cost him his entire studio. Disney managed to capture the attention of his “folly blind” audience, as they were called, by producing thousands of individual sketches which gave the tiniest bits of detail.
The death scene as well brought out a lot of emotions in the audience and tears in people’s eyes. Dream Works made “Shrek” in 2001, over two generations later. It was a direct parody of “Snow White” and other fairy tales like “Sleeping Beauty” (when Fiona wishes to be kissed by a handsome prince) and “Peter Pan” (when Donkey flies and a voice of Peter Pan is heard). It came from a children’s illustrated book by William Steig. Unlike “Snow White”, the characters in “Shrek” do no sing in a magical style but instead carefully chosen sound tracks are used to match the different moods of the scenes.
The sound tracks also reflect the popular musical taste of time. The songs are a range of a number of American grunge. Challenging and mocking as it may be to Disney, Shrek like Snow White is a feel good film although it debunks the gentility of tradition fairy tales. Snow White begins with “Once upon a time”. It starts a long shot of the country and the castle, then zooms in to reveal the Queen dressed in black and purple. The audience first sees the back of the Queen to make her more mysterious. Only the crown on her head shows she is a Queen.
The colour of her clothes, her pale complexion, dark eyes and very red lips show that she is an evil person. When she speaks to the mirror, her accent is slightly German and in the 1930’s, the Americans did not trust the Germans. This was a deliberate way to make her seem evil and let the audience know she is an enemy towards Snow White. The mirror, who’s voice seems to echo from somewhere within, hell perhaps, seems to feel sorry for Snow White when it mentions her name: “Alas my fair lady”. The Queen however disrespects the mirror because he/she is a slave. Her voice is loud and sharp, which makes her, appear bossy.
She moves swiftly, superstitiously with long strides, which make her look dominant and overbearing. When the mirror mentions Snow White, her cat shaped eyes narrow and she hoarsely repeats it to show a malicious intent toward her. It is at this point that a dissolved shot introduces us to Snow White. “Shrek” on the other hand has a very different opening. The audience is shown a book with calligraphy writing, which is narrated sarcastically by Shrek himself. After six pages, a voice shouts “Like its ever gonna happen”, at this point, a page is torn and opening shot comes.
A hut is shown and Shrek continues, “What a lot of ****”. Just the opening scene shows it is a comedy aimed for everyone. Like the Queen in “Snow White”, Shrek is shown at a low angle shot to make him look more menacing. In contrast to Snow White, Shrek is different from a traditional type of hero. He uses the page torn out of the storybook, and holds it in content. He baths in muddy water unlike any traditional hero who is portrayed as clean. He breaks wind and kills fish, one of which floats to the surface. He has a gross mannerism and the signs next to his home says: “keep out, Ogre beware”.
Shrek is portrayed as a vicious large Ogre who is anti-social who roars and scares people with his smelly mouth. He doesn’t want people around and he scares them. On the other hand however, he is shown as a private but friendly character. His privacy is a defence mechanism because he thinks people don’t like him. He does it to make them think he doesn’t like them either. He judges people before they get to know him just like they judge him. We can see he is not as unfriendly as earlier made to look when he has a love -hate relationship with the streetwise donkey who later became his friend.
The donkey is instantly loved by the audience because of its chatter. He is not intimidated by Shrek’s size or the fact that he comes across as scary. He compliments Shrek by saying: ” I respect you Shrek, you’ve got that I-don’t-care-what-nobody-thinks attitude and I like that. ” Snow White on the other hand is everything like a fairy tale princess. She is very cheerful and unaware of what happens around her. She is dressed in white, a great contrast to the Queens clothes. Her high pitched voice and wide eyes represent her innocence. Her small and delicate body highlights her youth purity.
Her innocent, childlike behaviour makes people associate her with themselves. The well echo’s her song as she sings: “my prince will come”. She plays with doves, a symbol of purity, and runs away from the prince in embarrassment. She sends a dove to go and kiss him because she is too modest to do it herself. Even when the prince tries to entice her, she hides behind the curtains. In a dissolved shot, the camera zooms in to show her purity. He camera tilts upwards to reveal the Queen with an evil expression on her face. Mise-en-scene, all the animals like Snow White and play with her and it shows that she is a real princess.
She is gentle, shy and modest, unlike Princess Fiona in “Shrek”. Princess Fiona in Shrek reacted oppositely when attacked. She hits and kicks Shrek the first time they meet. She also kills a bird at one point. Snow White is pretty too unlike Princess Fiona who turns into an Ogre. This also shows the difference between the two films. We can see the two films have different characters and certainly different heroes. While both are feel good films and are targeted for all audiences, they show different humour and reflect the different times of their production.
This can be seen in the language the mirror in “Snow White” uses which is very out dated and humour used by the donkey in “Shrek”. We see that the music taste has changed as well since the production of “Snow White”, but also that technology has improved since then. For the production of “Shrek”, latest technology was used to create a lot of extras, which include life-like and realistic appearances like facial expressions, background, clothing etc. In the making of “Snow White” however, most of the details had to be sketched out because the technology had not advanced as much.