On March 30th, “Mirror Mirror” hits the big screen but it is far from the first time they made a movie based on the Snow White fairy tale. Heck it isn’t even the only Snow White film to be released in 2012 (according to the Internet Movie Database there are three other films that have been or are being released in 2012 and there are currently two films with Snow White in the title that are in production). The story of Snow White is often told both in film and print and is a constant favorite to be parodied and satirized. “Mirror Mirror” seems to be promising a hilarious take on the original tale with some new ideas added in for freshness. It isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time someone tries to put his or her own spin on the story.
The story, for those of you living in the forest with dwarfs all your lives, is essentially this: Childless mother wishes for a beautiful daughter and gets Snow White. Mother dies and Snow’s father marries an evil woman who hates her and has one of her henchman take her to the forest to kill her. Henchman can’t do it and just sets Snow free and she meets seven dwarfs who take her in. Evil stepmother finds out she’s alive and tries to kill her with a poison apple but a handsome Prince eventually saves her. Fairy tales: the stuff dreams nightmares are made of.
2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the Brothers Grimm's version of Snow White. That makes today as good a day as any to share five fun facts about the Snow White fairy tale.
1) The original tale that the Brothers Grimm collected painted Snow White’s mother, not stepmother, as the villain who wanted her dead. Snow’s mom is also the one who brings her out to the woods to be lost (instead of sending a huntsman out to kill her). The switch was made from mother to stepmother to presumably make the story less frightening to children. Because having a stepparent is such an unintimidating thing for a child.
2) Disney’s 1937 animated classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” changes the relationship between the prince and Snow White just a bit from the original tale. Instead of falling in love with her when he first comes upon her supposedly dead body, Disney has the two fall in love long before that when Snow is awake. They romanticize her awakening much more than the fairy tale does as well. Instead of true love’s kiss bringing her back to her prince, the prince’s servants stumble as they carry her coffin away and the sudden movements dislodge the poison apple from Snow’s throat. Apparently it never occurred to any of the dwarfs that they should try to shake her awake before they threw her under glass.
3) In 1979, British novelist Angela Carter put her own adult spin on many fairy tales in her book “The Bloody Chamber”. Within this collection is a vignette called “The Snow Child”, where instead of the Queen (or Countess) asking for a beautiful daughter, a Count does. When he comes upon a girl in the snow fitting the description he asked for, he becomes enamored of her, much to the disapproval of his Countess. The girl pricks her hand on the thorn of a rose and dies so the Count does what any count would do in a fairy tale and he rapes her dead body (which then disappears into the snow). Who needs a happy ending, right?
4) And since we’re discussing the darker aspects of fairy tales, let’s talk about the wicked stepmother. Except for Carter’s adaptation, there is almost never a version where she doesn’t meet a grisly end. In the original story she shows up at the wedding of Snow White and the Prince and is forced to wear a pair of iron shoes that have been heated and then she has to dance in them until she dies (from exhaustion?). The Disney version has her standing on a cliff, trapped by the Dwarfs who want revenge for Snow’s death. She tries to kill them with a large boulder but lightening strikes her spot on the cliff and she falls to her death, with the boulder adding insult to injury by crushing her for good measure. In the 1997 Showtime television movie “Snow White: A Tale of Terror” Sigourney Weaver plays the evil queen who meets her end when Snow White stabs her magic mirror and she goes up in flames. Basically, it never pays to be the Evil Queen (except for Sigourney who was nominated for both an Emmy Award and a Screen Actor’s Guild Award).
5) Before Disney’s version, the most popular animated version of Snow White came in the form of a Betty Boop cartoon in 1933 (called, simply, "Snow-White"). The short is considered a classic and the National Film Registry selected it for preservation. Less a telling of the fairy tale and more an opportunity for some amazing animation (notably done by just one animator, Roland Crandall), the best part of the cartoon is the appearance of Cab Calloway as “Koko the Clown”. Not only does Calloway sing ”St. James Infirmary Blues” but also the dancing that Koko does was rotoscoped (basically traced) from real footage of Calloway’s own dancing. Koko does a move that looks suspiciously like Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk while the dwarfs take Snow away in her glass casket.