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Walt Disney

 

 

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Walt Disney’s Horror Movie
(Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs)

By
Stephen Schochet
 

  In 1934, when Walt Disney called for a meeting
among his artists, a rumor had spread that he was going to shut the studio down
and they would all be left unemployed during the Great Depression. Instead he
personally told them in his own spellbinding way the story of Snow White and the
Seven Dwarfs, which he intended to make into his first feature length film. It
was a risk unlike any other he had taken before. The film would cost a million
and a half dollars at a time Disney was spending anywhere from ten to thirty
thousand on his short cartoons. Doubts came from his wife Lillian and his
brother and business partner Roy, who were sure they would be in debt for most
of the rest of the lives. Also nervous was Walt’s backer Bank of America, who at
one point interrupted the production by cutting off his credit. Then there were
the heads of the other studios like MGM, Universal and Warner Brothers. They
would gather for their weekly poker games at the Hillcrest Country Club and
speculate that Walt, who they called “the Mickey Mouse Man”, would
never succeed, no one would sit still for an hour and a half to watch a cartoon.
And the press referred to Snow White as “Disney’s Folly”. 

  Despite the doubters and his own health
problems (he suffered from a thyroid condition), Walt pressed forward
relentlessly for three years. The key to Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, as far
as Disney was concerned was the evil queen/peddler woman. Snow White was
sympathetic, the dwarfs were humorous, but the villain had to be horrifying to
keep the audience interested. The vocals were performed by a renowned stage
actress named Lucille Laverne. Her haughty voice was a great fit as the queen,
but her playing of the character after she transformed into the old crone had
some at the studio worried. “Wait, I have an idea”, she said. She left
the recording room for a few minutes then returned. “I’m ready”. She
delivered her lines in a way that chilled and thrilled the Disney staff. After
she finished there was applause and she was asked what she did when she left.
She smiled and said,” I took my teeth out!” 

  Walt’s calculations were correct, Snow White
And The Seven Dwarfs was a hit throughout the entire world in 1938 and for many
years beyond, keeping audiences riveted. The only down side for Walt was that
maybe the peddler woman was a little too horrifying, he was disturbed by reports
from Radio City Music Hall in New York where the film was setting box office
records. It turned out that every few days the theater management had to replace
seats. . . due to excessive wetness. 

Want to hear more
stories? Stephen Schochet is the author and narrator of the audiobooks
“Fascinating Walt Disney” and “Tales Of Hollywood”. The
Saint Louis Post Dispatch says,” these two elaborate productions are
exceptionally entertaining.” Hear MP3 samples:
http://www.hollywoodstories.com.

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