Snow White (Disney character)

Snow White is a fictional character and a main character from Walt Disney Productions' first animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The character of Snow White was derived from a fairy tale known from many countries in Europe, the best-known version being the Bavarian one collected by the Brothers Grimm.

Snow White
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs character
Snow White as she appears in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
First appearanceSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Created byHamilton Luske (animator)
Marc Davis (animator)
Walt Disney
Portrayed by
Voiced by
Based onSnow White from the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale
OccupationScullery maid
AffiliationDisney Princesses
FamilyThe King (father)
The First Queen (mother)
The Evil Queen (stepmother)
SpouseThe Prince
NationalityGerman [3]

Snow White is the first Disney Princess and the first fictional female character with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[4] Originally voiced by Adriana Caselotti, she has also been voiced by Jane Powell, Ilene Woods, Dorothy Warenskjold, Mary Kay Bergman, Carolyn Gardner, Melissa Disney, Katie Von Til, and Pamela Ribon, and portrayed live by Stephanie Bennett (Descendants).


In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White first appears in the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). In "another land, far away,"[5] "many, many years ago," about the time of fairy tales of castles, knights, fair maidens, romance, magic and witches,"[6] a mysterious and icily beautiful woman with magical powers (a 1938 promotional brochure suggests that she is able to work her witchcraft having sold "herself body and soul to the bad spirits" of Germany's Harz mountains[7]) has gained her royal position by marrying the widowed King, giving her rule over his kingdom before he died. "From that time on the cruel Queen ruled all alone, her every word was law, and all trembled in mortal fear of her anger."[8]) The vain Queen owned a magical mirror with which she could look upon whatever she wished. The Magic Mirror shows a haunted, smokey face of her familiar demon[7] which replies to the Queen's requests. She regularly asks the mirror who is the fairest in the realm ("Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?" which is often misquoted as "Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all"[9]), and the mirror would always reply that she is. The Queen has magical power only over her own domain, which is the castle.[10]

In the film, Snow White is initially depicted as living under her wicked, vain stepmother, the Evil Queen, who forces Snow White to engage in menial labor, fearing that one day Snow White's beauty might become greater than her own. After many years, the Queen's Magic Mirror confirms Snow White as being the "fairest of them all", which causes the Queen to cast Snow White out and send a huntsman to kill her. But when he refuses to do so because she means no harm, the huntsman helps Snow White escape into the forest. Snow White stumbles upon the home of the Seven Dwarfs, who happily aid her.

The Queen discovers that Snow White has survived, so she uses magic to disguise herself as an old hag and creates a poisoned apple that will put anyone who eats it into a “Sleeping Death" from which only the kiss of true love will revive. When the dwarfs are away the hag arrives at the dwarfs’ cottage and offers Snow White the poisoned apple, unbeknownst to her that it is the Queen in disguise. Snow White bites into the apple and falls into a coma. Upon discovering what had happened, the dwarfs track down the Queen; a short fight ensues and the Queen is killed. Believing her dead too, the dwarfs build an open grave for Snow White to rest on. Time passes and the Prince comes across Snow White. Saddened by her apparent death, he kisses her, causing her to awaken. As the Seven Dwarfs dance with joy, Snow White and the Prince go off to live together happily ever after.[11]


Snow White is a princess,[11] and the "fairest of them all". She is described by her stepmother's Magic Mirror as having "hair as black as ebony, lips as red as the rose, skin as white as snow."[12] Though she is first seen in rags at the film's beginning, Snow White is most well known for her iconic dress with a blue bodice, puffy red and blue striped sleeves, an ankle-length yellow skirt with a self-sewn white petticoat and a high white collar. along with yellow shoes, a brown cape with a red interior, and a red bow in her hair.

Snow White is innocent, kind, gentle, sweet, and cheerful.[13] Her generous, trusting[13] and helpful nature can cause her trouble, as other people might take advantage of it, such as her vain and evil stepmother.[12] Although she is sensitive and soft-spoken, she can be energetic and stern, such as when she told the Dwarfs to wash their hands or when she scolded the birds for "frightening the poor old lady [the Queen disguised as an old peddler woman]".[12] Snow White is motherly, compassionate and delights in keeping house for the lovable Seven Dwarfs while she waits to meet her beloved prince again.[13] With her kindness and ethereal beauty, Snow White charms every creature in the kingdom except the Queen.[14] She also shows great resilience and an inner strength against adversity.


In the original film, Snow White is depicted with black hair and brown eyes. She wears subtle make-up and rouge. The red color of her lips and cheeks resembles the red color of the apple which sends her into a deep sleep.[15] She is not yet an adult woman, but a girl in her puberty years. She is chubby-cheeked and flat-chested.[15] Her plump face is a characteristic typically associated with good health and kindness.[15]

Snow White's legs are skinny, but her widened hips are an indication that she is a pubescent girl. She has short hair, and a curly bob hairstyle that gives her a child-like appearance. Her voice and speech patterns are also child-like. Her delicate high-heeled shoes complete her youthful appearance.[15] While the Snow White depicted by the Brothers Grimm was about 7-years-old, Disney's Snow White is about 14-years-old.[15]

When lost in the forest, Snow White appears rather clumsy. Her dress gets stuck in tree branches, and she briefly falls into a lake. Yet, other scenes depict Snow White's movements as "graceful, stately, and elegant", indicative of an aristocratic upbringing. When she joins her unnamed prince on his horse, Snow White rides sidesaddle. Another indication of her "dainty" and "ladylike" style.[15]

Snow White's clothing is traditionally feminine, and rather prudish in covering as much skin as possible. Her main costume is a long dress, with a white collar, blue and puffy sleeves, a yellow skirt, and a laced petticoat. She also wears a brown cape with a red interior, high-heeled shoes with a bow-like ribbon on each of them, and a red ribbon on her hair.[15]

Snow White's innocent-looking appearance contrasts with that her stepmother's sexual maturity, both in appearance and demeanor. Yet the narcissistic desire of the Queen to become the most beautiful woman sets the conflict between stepmother and stepdaughter. The mirror serves as the "male judge of female beauty" in this contest, and the Queen seemingly depends on the mirror's "judgmental voice" in her self-evaluation.[15] While both women are depicted as beautiful in the film, the passive, sweet young girl is evaluated as being better than her fierce and cold-mannered stepmother.[15]


Animators' initial sketches for Snow White's character, some of which bore a resemblance to Betty Boop, did not meet Walt Disney's expectations, as they were too cartoonish.[16][17] Hamilton Luske, whom Disney had selected as the supervising animator for Snow White's character, was tasked with the challenge of making Snow White more believably human and realistic than any of the Disney studio's previous animated characters. This was a challenge Luske and co-animator Les Clark had previously been asked to explore while developing the character of Persephone for the Silly Symphonies animated short The Goddess of Spring. Of that project, Les Clark later remarked, "I'm sure Walt was thinking ahead to Snow White." Though the Persephone character ended up appearing somewhat lifeless and devoid of personality, that experiment in imitating realistic human movement and anatomy was continued and its lessons were applied in the development of Snow White's animation techniques.[18] Snow White and the Queen were refined by Grim Natwick and Norm Ferguson, who would often override Walt Disney's instructions.[19]

The relatively new technique of using live-action footage as a reference for character movements was used extensively to bring Snow White's character to life. A young dancer named Marjorie Celeste Belcher (nicknamed Margie Bell) served as the live-action model for Snow White. (Margie Bell, daughter of animator Ernest Belcher, also later modeled for the Blue Fairy character in Disney's 1940 film Pinocchio.) Hamilton Luske directed her through the filming of numerous movement sequences, and then the animators studied and copied the footage to enhance the realism of Snow White's animated movements. Animator Ollie Johnston later recalled, "Ham's careful planning and shooting of the live-action footage, always with the idea in mind of how it would be used in animation, resulted in a very convincing character."[20]

Originally, Disney could not find what they thought was a suitable voice for Snow White. Around 150 girls auditioned for the role of Snow White,[21] including well-known actresses such as Deanna Durbin,[22] whose voice seemed too old to Disney.[23] One assistant to Disney called music teacher Guido Caselotti, complaining that Hollywood had no singing girls. Caselotti wanted to offer to send their best to listen to the students, but it turned out that his 20-year-old daughter Adriana overheard a conversation on another phone in the house, and she began to sing in a young girl's voice.[24] Her father was confused and told his daughter to get away from the phone, but the casting director liked her voice and invited her to audition. After Walt Disney heard her, he immediately gave her the role.[25][26][27] The studio signed a multi-page contract with Adriana Caselotti: she was forbidden to sing in a movie or on the radio before or after the movie premiered because Walt Disney did not want the voice of Snow White to be heard anywhere else. Instead, she received $970 (now worth approximately $16,905).[22]


While the film never explicitly states the location of its story, "the dwarfs’ home is decorated with carved wooden furniture and instruments". This home is surrounded by mountains and an extensive forest. These details suggest a location within the Black Forest of Germany, where there is a tradition of wood carving.[3]

BuzzFeed views Snow White as a German woman, and suggests that a "historically accurate" Snow White would have been raised within the "austere and religious" culture of the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century.[3]

Other appearances

Actress and dancer JoAnn Dean Killingsworth became the first person to portray Snow White at Disneyland in 1955.[28][29][30][31] She was hired to play Snow White for Disneyland's opening on July 17, 1955.[30] Killingsworth's Snow White was the only Disney Princess to have own float during Disneyland's first parade down Main Street, U.S.A. on opening day.[30] Since Killingsworth's 1955 debut as Snow White, more than 100 actresses have played the character at Disneyland.[28]

Snow White's Scary Adventures is a dark ride dedicated to the princess and her story at the Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris theme parks. Located in Fantasyland, it is one of the few remaining attractions operational on Disneyland's opening day in 1955. The ride was closed in Disney World in May 2012 as part of the New Fantasyland expansion.[32]

She also makes appearances at Cinderella's Royal Table in Magic Kingdom and at the Akershus Restaurant in Epcot. In California, Snow White can be found at the Princess Meet-and-Greet in Fantasyland at Disneyland Park, on Main Street U.S.A., by the Wishing Well next to the Castle or at Ariel's Grotto in California Adventure. In Disneyland Paris, Snow White can often be at the Princess Pavilion in Fantasyland or at Auberge de Cendrillon in Disneyland Park. In Hong Kong, she is often up by the Wishing Well. In Tokyo, Snow White appears often in Fantasyland or World Bazaar. On Disney Cruise Line, Snow White sometimes appears, depending on a sailing.[33]

Snow White is an official member of the Disney Princess line, a prominent franchise directed at young girls. The franchise covers a wide variety of merchandise, including but not limited to magazines, music albums, toys, clothes, and stationery.[34]

Aside from appearing in video games related to the Disney Princess franchise media as well as appearances on the television show Disney's House of Mouse, Snow White also appears in the popular Kingdom Hearts series as one of the Disney Princesses of Heart.[35] She first appears in the first Kingdom Hearts as a Princess of Heart captured by Maleficent.[36] She reprises her role from the film in the video game Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep.[37] Snow White also appears in the video game Disney Magical World which includes multiple furniture and costume items related to the character. In the 1970s musical adaptation, Snow White was portrayed by Mary Jo Salerno.

In a season six episode of the sitcom series Full House known as The House Meets The Mouse Parts 1 & 2, Snow White appeared in Part 2. Snow White also had cameos in the films Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and The Lion King 1½ (2004). In 2014, Snow White made a guest appearance on Sofia the First, in "The Enchanted Feast". She tells Sofia about how her stepmother tricked her by assuming a disguise, helping Sofia to determine that a visiting sorceress is actually an old foe, Miss Nettle. Snow White, alongside other Disney Princesses, appeared in the film Ralph Breaks the Internet.[38]

In the ABC television series Once Upon a Time, an alternative version of Snow White is the daughter of King Leopold and Queen Eva and later stepdaughter of the Evil Queen (Regina Mills).[39][40] She is the true love of Prince Charming, mother of Emma Swan and Prince Neal, and grandmother of Emma's son Henry. In Storybrooke, she appears as Mary Margaret Blanchard, Henry Mills' teacher at Storybrooke Elementary School.[39]


Critical reception

Critical reception towards the character of Snow White has been polarized. TV Guide described Snow White as iconic, unique and incomparable, writing, "never again would Walt's heroine have such a fantasy singing voice, and for that reason, she's the favorite heroine of many animation auteurs."[41] Calling Snow White a "fairy-tale princess," Otis Ferguson of The New Republic simply described the character as "just what you would have her."[42] Variety's John C. Flinn deemed Snow White "the embodiment of girlish sweetness and kindness, exemplified in her love for the birds and the small animals of the woods that are her friends and, as it subsequently develops, her rescuers."[43]

Contemporary critics felt that Snow White "lack[s] nerve, unlike many later Disney heroines,"[44] while her relationship with the Prince is void of chemistry.[45] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that had "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ... been primarily about Snow White, it might have been forgotten soon after its 1937 premiere, and treasured today only for historical reasons." Ebert continued, "Snow White is, truth to tell, a bit of a bore, not a character who acts but one whose mere existence inspires others to act," describing Disney's tendency to "confuse the titles of his movies with their subjects" as a "mistake" as the film is more about the dwarfs and the Evil Queen than Snow White.[46] The Washington Post's Desson Howe wrote, "the spirit in the mirror is dead wrong: The Wicked Queen ... is the fairest in the land" while Snow White lacks "real estate."[47] Time Out opined, "Snow White herself might be felt to be almost unbearably winsome."[48]


Snow White's big role is in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where she plays a young princess who tries and escape her evil stepmother. The character won many awards for her role like the Grand Biennale Art Trophy from the Venice Film Festival, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. There was also an honorary custom-made Academy Award with the standard Oscar statuette and seven small statuettes that represented the seven dwarfs.[49] Snow White is one of the few fictional characters with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[4]


On June 18, 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted the trademark application of Disney Enterprises, Inc. (filed November 19, 2008), for the name "Snow White" that covers all live and recorded movie, television, radio, stage, computer, Internet, news, and photographic entertainment uses, except literature works of fiction and nonfiction.[50]


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