On This Day- December 21, 1937
It’s interesting how some major things can come to us. Today, in 1937, Los Angeles’ Carthay Circle Theatre premiered a movie that would start a cultural revolution. It was done by a then-unknown animator, and would gain a nationwide release three months later, when my grandfather saw it. This film would be the first of a long line of family movies, based on classic fairy tales, and spawning one of the largest media empires in history. This film was none other than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Small time animator Walt Disney had very little success in the 1920’s. He worked for Universal, making Nickelodeon shorts for a living, when he was fired in 1928 in a payment dispute, and went on to create Mickey Mouse. Mickey would actually get him an Academy Award in Animation, starting a trend at Disney’s animation studio. Walt would spend the next decade making shorts, but he had an idea in 1934 that would forever change the game. No one had ever seen an animated feature longer than ten minutes, so Walt thought it would be groundbreaking to make a full-length film out of an animated feature, and he started by telling a classic story.
Many critics thought that the film would become “Disney’s Folly”, a flop large enough to ruin the credibility of the Walt Disney Company. In a wonderful twist of fate, many of these same naysayers would partake in the standing ovation at the end. I don’t know about you, but I’ve only been to one movie that had a standing ovation. The dwarfs were featured on the cover of Time magazine six days later, and would eventually gross more than any other film released in 1938, such as Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.
The film would go on to start a long running tradition of princess movies, using characters ranging from The Brothers Grimm, to Hans Christian Anderson, to Pyotr Tchaikovsky, to Mother Goose, to historical figures and folk legends. The Princesses would become an icon unto themselves, touching millions of children all over the world. Myself included.