HOLLYWOOD -- A world premiere which left Hollywood slightly groggy over the statistics today, introduced history's first full length cartoon feature with such a bang that Walt Disney immediately started production of two more.
Never had any movie had such a worldwide buildup as his "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which he started to manufacture -- and publicize -- more than three years ago. He spent $1,500,000 on it and more worry than he cares to recall. Then he went to the Carthay Circle theater last night and bit his finger nails, waiting for the verdict of the tail-coated and satin-gowned audience.
He ruined his manicure unnecessarily, because the Hollywood celebrities who had paid $5.50 each to see his version of Grimm's fairy tale were unanimous in saying that they'd had their money's worth.
Dwarfs to rescue
They saw the bad queen, who looked something like Theda Sara 15 years ago, drive beauteous little Snow White from her castle. They saw the seven dwarfs drop their shovels in their diamond and ruby mine and come to Snow White's rescue. They saw the bad queen turn to a hideous witch and poison Snow White. Finally they saw Prince Charming dismount from his white charger, revive Snow White by kissing her on the lips, and ride with her into the most gorgeous sunset that ever burst across a movie screen.
"... and so they lived happily ever after," the final caption said. The folks who'd paid their cash and fought their way into the theater, such Hollywoodians as Myrna Loy and Spencer and Mary Pickford and 1,500 others of note -- gave Disney a round of applause and vowed that he'd turned out a smash hit.
They decided also that any apprehension they may have had over paint-and-crayon heroines displacing flesh-and-blood ones was premature. Disney's picture was packed with humor and whimsey, yes, and charm, but they audience never could forget that Snow White was a beautiful painting -- which moved.
Bring in spirit
She didn't seem real, but then Disney never intended that she should. What he attempted to do was bring the spirit of the old fairy tale to the screen intact. He and his five directors, his eight story adapters, his 10 art directors, and his 300 animators succeeded remarkably well.
One of the things the audience had some difficulty in grasping was the fact that Snow White wore the most expensive gowns ever shown on the screen. One was rags and tatters, the other a simple peasant costume. Both consisted of paint and crayon alone, but they cost, according to Disney's accountants, $50,000 each! That much money, they explained, was spent for salaries during the drawing of the necessary thousands upon thousands of separate pictures of Snow White.