Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney lead figures (Britains 1654)

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney lead figures (Britains 1654)

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Arch Four , Area 36
Lead figures (display)


A rare complete set of hollowcast lead figures of the title characters from Walt Disney's first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

The pieces were made by William Britain Ltd. (Britains), under licence, in 1939, and consists of Snow White, and the dwarves Doc, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sleepy, Bashful and Happy.

Snow White (1937)

The success of "Snow White" vindicated Walt Disney's early approach (shared with some of the other early animation houses) of recycling stories from fairytales and folk tales. These stories were already audience-tested, had already been "tweaked" and optimised during multiple retellings, had brand recognition and an existing fanbase, and – critically – were not subject to copyright.

The Disney team compensated for some of the story and character weaknesses by making the Evil Queen spectacularly bad, and built up the characters of the seven individual dwarves by giving them their own nicknames and letting the team's talented character animators basically run amok in their portrayals. While naming the Dwarves had been done at least once before (in a stage play), the namings in the film were Disney's and let the studio establish "their" Snow White in the public's mind in a way that could not be copied by others without running foul of copyright law.

Snow herself was still a comparatively weak character, but the studio decided to "build" her presence by making her movements ultrarealistic, in contrast to the rubbery "cartoon physics" of the dwarves. To achieve the strikingly real movements when Snow danced, the studio quietly resorted to "Rotoscoping" – the movements were performed by an actress and filmed, and the results hand-traced, frame by frame, to produce the animation in a manner reminiscent of more recent automated "motion capture" methods. Disney initially denied using rotoscoping, preferring that their audiences believe that Snow's movements sprang from the incredible imagination of their artists, rather than being the product of "tracing".

The production of Snow White is estimated to have cost cost a hefty two million dollars, but the immediate wild success of the film, and its huge financial return, convinced Disney to continue focussing on producing feature-length animations.

Box text:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Manufactured under special licence from Walt Disney–Mickey Mouse Ltd.

Many, many years ago, Snow White, a little Princess, lived with her stepmother, the Queen, in her father's castle. The queen became very jealous of her stepdaughter's beauty, and told one of her servants to take Snow White into the wood and kill her, and bring back her heart in a casket. The servant, who was a good man, could not bring himself to do this, and told Snow White of the Queen's plot. Snow White ran away into the woods whilst the servant took back to the Queen a pig's heart in the casket.

Snow White wandered in the woods until at last she came to a small house. She went in but there was no one about, and feeling very tired went upstairs into the bedroom, where to her astonishment she found seven small beds. After being asleep for some while, she was awakened by a lot of talking and then found seven of the funniest little man in the world looking at her. She made friends with these, helping them to keep their house clean and cook their meals.

When the Queen's servant got back to the palace and gave the Queen the casket she was overjoyed, but after consulting her magic mirror found out that Snow White was still alive.

Greatly angered, she prepared some poisoned apples, turned herself into a witch, and went along to the Dwarf's House. Snow White did not recognise her and ate some of the apples., which sent her into a trance, from which she could only be awakened by a "Love Kiss". The Seven Dwarfs drove the wicked Queen away and she fell over a high cliff and was killed. They then covered Snow White with a glass coffin to keep her from harm, until one day a prince heard about her, and saddling his horse rode away to the Seven Dwarfs' House. He was so struck with Snow White's beauty that he fell in love with her and his first kiss lifted the spell, and they were married and lived happily ever after.

— , Britains Ltd., , Snow White Box Set, box text, , 1939

Further reading and references

  • Norman Joplin, The Great Book of Hollow-cast Figures ISBN 1872727786 p.109
The 1930s "Snow White" Phenomenon: