This Friday marks 75 years since Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – the first feature-length animated film. Since the simpering Snow White, to whose beauty even birds were not immune, a lot has changed.
Disney’s latest heroine, Princess Merida, the wild-haired Scottish princess from Brave, marks something of a watershed for cartoon films. Helen Nabarro, head of animation at the National Film and Television School, said: “I think Brave is a departure for the Disney heroine. There is a genuine hardship that Merida has to get out of, and she’s a proper heroine rather than a foil for some bloke. Girls have been shown in cartoons as the weaker sex, but she sorts things out for herself. The film shows the cartoon heroine catching up with real-life women.”
Jim Korkis, a columnist for the online fanzine Mouse Planet and a Disney historian, said: “Disney animated heroines have always reflected their times. Snow White was the model of the women at that time who felt that their life would only be complete with a prince and waited for him to come along.
“After the Second World War, women had experienced the workplace and were more proactive. Cinderella did not just sit around waiting for the prince to come, she went right out to the palace to get him. With the Eighties, Disney heroines became more headstrong. Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, never needed a prince. She was independent and self-sufficient and rather than a prince rescuing her, she was the one who rescued the prince.”
To celebrate 75 years of the Disney heroine, The Independent on Sunday revisits 20 of the animator’s leading ladies.
The science of stories: Learning how to tell a tale is the film industry’s most important skill – Features – Films – The Independent
You need only study this week’s cinema listings to know Hollywood is running out of stories. Wrath of the Titans is a sequel to a remake of a film based on a millennia-old Greek myth. Battleship is a movie adaptation of a board game. Mirror, Mirror is a version of Snow White, the fairytale first committed to celluloid by Walt Disney 75 years ago. Another big-budget take on the same story, Snow White and the Huntsman, comes out in June.
The industry is long on “re-imaginings”, but short on imagination.
The problem, explains story specialist Bobette Buster, is that studios are neglecting one of the most important – and cheapest – parts of the filmmaking process: development. “I see it on screen over and over again,” she says. “People who have a good idea but become frustrated with the story development process and eventually just say: ‘It’s good enough’. They think they can fix the problems later with marketing. Pixar is an exception: it takes apart its stories at least four or five times before putting them out and it takes the time to create a great tale, well told.”
Buster is a screenwriter, creative development producer, consultant to Disney and Pixar and professor of screenwriting at USC in Los Angeles, the world’s leading film school. She has lectured on cinematic language around the world and this month appears at the Do Lectures in Wales, where she’ll emphasise again the centrality of story. “Few people are born storytellers,” she says. “At USC a lot of students arrive thinking we should just hand them the equipment and get out of their way, but we put them through story development classes and the scales fall from their eyes: storytelling is a mentored craft and artform that has to be handed down.”
Strange Random Story Quote:
We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say-and to feel- ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought. — John Steinbeck
- Best Shot: Snow White and… (okinawaassault.wordpress.com)
- Full Snow White and the Huntsman Trailer Has Been Released (screencrave.com)
- Movie Bucket List: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (cindyagoncillo.com)
- HMWYBS: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (thefilmexperience.net)
- New Featurette for Pixar’s BRAVE focuses on Princess Merinda (geektyrant.com)
- SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN – Costume Design Featurette (geektyrant.com)
- Director Rupert Sanders Talks SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN at WonderCon 2012 (collider.com)