There’s a fair amount of nightmare fuel in this particular kid’s movie, from Snow White’s escape through a psychedelic dark forest to pretty much every scene with the Evil Queen. The moment where she takes a magic potion to alter her appearance to fool Snow White, transforming into an old crone in a cloud of smoke, and her sinister leering at Snow White as she tempts her with a cursed apple (so many kids must’ve used this as an excuse not to eat fruit over the decades) are among the scariest in the Disney canon. Little ones will quite understandably be watching large portions of Snow White through their fingers.
The film swaps the carefree storybook fantasy aesthetic in its final stretch for a thrilling finale straight out of a gothic horror movie – admittedly toned down from the even more twisted Grimm version – with the Dwarfs chasing the Evil Queen up a jagged mountain in a raging storm.
If there’s an aspect where the film falls short, aside from its product-of-its-time gender dynamics, it’s the relationship (or lack thereof) between Snow White and her Prince (Harry Stockwell), who doesn’t even have a name. Yes, their singing voices are both lovely, and you tend to take storytelling shortcuts in fairy tales, but she literally sings about the day “My Prince Will Come” – then he comes (not like that), goes, and then reappears at the end to proclaim himself her true love.
“Snow White” the story and this sugary sweet iteration of the character in particular have been parodied no end, both by rival studios (Dreamworks’ Shrek has her glass coffin hauled unceremoniously onto the ogre’s dining room table) and even several times by Disney itself as their films have become more self-aware (Enchanted’s cheerfully innocent Giselle is clearly chiefly inspired by Snow White). In its original animated form, Snow White is so earnest about everything, so committed to delivering a magical fairy tale experience to a young audience, that it’s easy to mock if you’re a cynical soul, but it’s even easier to love if you just want to escape the real world for 83 minutes.