ALL STARTED WITH A MOUSE, Part 2
SNOW WHITE: Disney spent two hours acting out the story of Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs. At the end, even the most hard-nosed
artists were wiping away tears, and Walt told them, "That's going
to be our first feature."
AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
ALL STARTED WITH A MOUSE
By Ken Priebe
Editing and Additional Material by Charles Phillips
Web Site: Web
Ken earned his BFA from University of Michigan School of Art and
Design, where he majored in film and animation. He has a Classical
Animation Certificate from VanArts, where he currently works as
a manager and instructor. Ken lives near Vancouver, British Columbia
with his wife Janet, who is also an artist. They are working on
an animated short film, and are involved with graphic arts, drama
and Bible studies at their church.
page was created on June 19, 2003
This page was last updated on
January 12, 2005
By Ken Priebe
—It All Started With a Mouse
—Home on the Range
—Nightmare Before Christmas
White is continued here
By Ken Priebe>
Editing and Additional Material by Charles Phillips
All Started With a Mouse
day in 1934, Walt Disney called his staff together for a meeting,
and in the aura of a single light bulb, spent two hours acting out
the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. At the end, even the
most hard-nosed artists were wiping away tears, and Walt told them,
"That's going to be our first feature." Just like many other films
that happen to have Biblical elements in them, Snow White is one
of the most successful films of all time. In its initial release
in 1937, at a time when it cost 10 cents to see a film, it made
over $8 million!
Since Snow White is based on a classic Grimm's
fairy tale, we should expect to see echoes of many themes present
in the Bible. As the evil queen asks the magic mirror, "Who's the
fairest one of all?" we hear the influence of Satan's apparent jealousy
of God which ultimately led to his fall from Heaven. The queen has
a fall of her own by the end of the film (by literally plummeting
off a cliff), but not before giving us a replay of the temptation
from Genesis. There is a definite similarity between the Witch/Queen
tempting Snow White to "taste the magic wishing apple in order for
all her dreams to come true", and Satan tempting Eve
to eat the forbidden fruit in order to be her own god.
Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the LORD
God had made. "Really?" he asked the woman. "Did God really
say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?"
2 "Of course we may eat it," the woman told him.
3 "It's only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden
that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it
or even touch it, or we will die."
4 "You won't die!" the serpent hissed.
5 "God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it.
You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good
6 The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious,
and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit.
She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he
ate it, too.
7 At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly
felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together
around their hips to cover themselves.
It's a magic wishing apple! One bite, and all your dreams will come
true!..now take a bite!
Snow White: Ooh, I feel strange...
(One may think that the fact it's an apple would be an obvious
parallel as well, although the Bible does not actually say it
was an apple. It only says "fruit." Society has associated the
apple with the story for some strange reason. My personal theory
is because most ABC books for children use an apple for the letter
"A," so it's the first fruit most of us learn of as children.
Experiment and ask anyone to name the first fruit that comes to
their mind, and I bet you most people will say "apple.") In both
stories, it is promised that eating the fruit will result in something
powerful and wonderful, but the actual result is death. For
Snow White, it is a 'sleeping death' that can only be awakened
by a kiss from her Prince. For Adam and Eve,
it is a spiritual death that has been passed on to us, that can
only be awakened by faith in Christ.
apple in Snow White has additional symbolism
in its creation by the Wicked Queen. On the surface it is beautiful,
shiny and red, but as she creates it, we can see the evil things
that it is really made of, like a deceptive wolf in sheep's clothing.
Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep,
but are really wolves that will tear you apart.
Such is the essence of certain brands of New Age spirituality
that promise peace and enlightenment but only lead people away
from the truth and cause sin and confusion. The wicked queen is
one of the most vicious villains ever to grace the silver screen;
she is the devil incarnate, symbolizing through the story many
of his exact tactics, as well as giving an overview of his work
and eventual defeat.
The dwarfs provide the most comic elements in the film, and though
they each have their own distinct personality, they are unanimous
in their devotion to Snow White, which parallels
the devotion of Jesus' disciples. The disciples'
lives were forever changed after meeting Jesus. Even their ordinary
occupations were given new meaning.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of
Galilee, he saw two brothers--Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew--fishing
with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. 19 Jesus called
out to them, "Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to
fish for people!" 20 And they left their nets at once and went
-- Matthew 4:18-20
The dwarfs go through their mining routine, like robots, with
no meaning behind their work. (they just dig dig dig dig dig dig
dig, then dig some more.) Upon Snow White's arrival into their
lives, they now do the same work with a whole new attitude, especially
after she organizes them to all improve themselves (by washing
away their old selves to wipe the slate clean in order to rebuild
anew and become truer versions of themselves.)
those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the
same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!
--2 Corinthians 5:17
In this context, the scene where they wash up for supper becomes
kind of like a baptism. Now that their actions
serve a higher purpose, the dwarfs see their skills as an asset,
not a drawback. The dwarfs live in harmony with nature, but notice
that in doing so they are creators: they are transforming
their environment, adding value to their surroundings,
in small ways as well as big, as we are all meant to do, simply
because we can. It's in the small details they take the time to
embellish tables and chairs, spoons and forks, that we see a telling
act of creation. One of the reasons why "antiques" look as wonderful
as they do, whether they be ordinary beer mugs or the king's mirror,
is that every craftsman saw himself as a creator, each imitating
in his own crude way the greatest Creator of them all. They felt
that they were ennobling themselves above the animals, by attributing
to their creations the same lasting value that they believed resided
in God's greatest creation, Man. If they failed to inject meaning
into their work, it was as blasphemous as the possibility that
God wouldn't care about his work either. Animals didn't, and couldn't,
care about their contribution to nature, but man did, because
God did, and man elevates himself from the animals through his
imitation of the act of creation, and all that that act entails:
study through contemplation, learning through imitation, leading
to innovation through adaptation. When Man fails in this task
of elevation, he falls down to the level of being like any other
animal, living emotionally, not spiritually, because he no longer
contributes towards achieving the great purpose.
(The relationship of the dwarfs to Snow White not only makes this
biblical parallel, but is another reflection of how Walt Disney
inspired his studio artists to improve animation.)
all the dwarfs, the most fascinating character study in the film
is in watching Grumpy, animated by Bill Tytla.
He is, in so many ways, the deepest character in the film, and
provides the emotional arc that holds the picture together.
Grumpy resists change, content to blindly follow tradition
even though he no longer remembers why ("She's full of wicked
wiles!" "What are wicked wiles?" "I don't know, but I'm agin 'em.").
Grumpy does a good job at exemplifying the personality that goes
with his namesake, yet his real emotions shine through as he interacts
with Snow White. We are introduced to Grumpy as the stick-in-the-mud
skeptic who treats the other dwarfs like gullible morons. His
design and attitude makes him appear older than the others, and
in his eyes, wiser too. The dwarfs come home from work and discover
someone has broken in, and Grumpy automatically jumps to the worst
possible paranoid conclusions (like referring to Snow White's
cooking as 'witches brew!') Upon meeting Snow White, he is instantly
hostile towards her, and speaks with contempt towards the other
dwarfs' infatuation with her. Such was the cynical reaction of
many to Jesus:
Go away! Why are you bothering us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you
come to destroy us?
"Nazareth!" exclaimed Nathanael. "Can anything good come from
Grumpy had drifted the most from his potential,
and so for him the change is the most profound. As the dwarfs
are leaving for work, and Snow White kisses each one good-bye,
we start to see Grumpy's true colors. His attempts to hide his
own attraction to her begin to falter. We see him grooming his
bald pate (indicating his desire to be kissed), and warning her
about the danger of staying at the house alone (indicating his
concern for her). Yet even though he puts up a fight when Snow
White kisses him, after he walks off, he melts, just as touched
as the other dwarfs. When he later hears of the Queen's attack
on the house, Grumpy is the first to desperately lead the dwarfs
to her rescue! When Snow White dies, he is absolutely devastated,
to the point where he turns his back on the other dwarfs to sob
(still hiding his feelings from them and being true to his character.)
At Snow White's resurrection, he rejoices as a changed dwarf.
Who among us has not felt exactly like Grumpy?
In watching and empathizing with him, we see ourselves putting
up a front and constantly making negative excuses to close ourselves
off from everyone else. We see ourselves shutting out the love
of others, in fear of getting hurt or making ourselves vulnerable,
and ultimately hurting others in the process, making accusations
and starting "witch hunts." But deep inside us is that same aching
for love, and the desire to fight for its protection at all costs.
We can see these attitudes in our human relationships, but it
is ultimately evident in our relationship to God through Jesus
Christ, who is the source of all love. Some of us harden our hearts
to the point where even this one relationship that can fulfill
us, make us whole and save us, is stubbornly refused.
most symbolic scene of our inborn resistance to a new life in
Christ is when the dwarfs attempt to wash up or 'baptize'
Grumpy, who kicks and screams all the way through. An
important lesson for Christians is also contained in this scene,
for we see that Grumpy is not changed much initially by this 'forced'
cleansing. Forcing our faith and newfound joy on others rarely
creates changed hearts, but more often reinforces hardness of
heart towards the Christian life. Grumpy is changed through direct
interaction with Snow White, after he sees the changes it's created
amongst his fellow dwarfs. By observing the lives of faithful
Christians, un-believers may be inspired to seek Christ in their
own timing, and in their own way, prompted by the Holy Spirit
and our prayers. This again reinforces Walt's philosophy of deeds
and prayer in our lives giving honor to God, which in turn allows
His grace to reach us.
No matter how well we dodge it, God persists
in His love until all of us outcast "Grumpies" are changed and
cleansed. It is seen with many people in the Bible, like Zaccheus,
who was despised by many but found grace and favor from Jesus,
1 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There
was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was one of the most influential
Jews in the Roman tax-collecting business, and he had become very
rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short
to see over the crowds. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore
tree beside the road, so he could watch from there.
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him
by name. "Zacchaeus!" he said. "Quick, come down! For I must be
a guest in your home today." (Editor's note: Snow White was a
'guest' in the dwarfs home.)
6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in
great excitement and joy. 7 But the crowds were displeased. "He
has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner," they grumbled.
8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "I will
give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have overcharged
people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!"
9 Jesus responded, "Salvation has come to this home today, for
this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. 10 And I, the
Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are
-- Luke 19: 1-10
emotional journey is a powerful metaphor for our own spiritual
journeys, and helps establish Snow White as a kind of
Christ-figure. Other characteristics include her humble
occupation, her nurturing spirit, her death and resurrection,
and the meeting with her prince for a wedding in the clouds, symbolizing
the future marriage of Christ and his bride (the church)
at the Second Coming.
White is continued here
with Ken about this film
2003 Ken Priebe -All Rights Reserved
ON THIS FILM
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