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Home Entertainment : 'Snow White' Laser Set Among Fairest of All : Laser Set of 'Snow White' Among the Fairest of All

November 20, 1994|BARBARA SALTZMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The season for elaborate laser collector's sets weighs in with one of the most dizzying yet: Walt Disney/Image's "Deluxe CAV LaserDisc Edition" of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" ($100).

The 1937 animated feature was a daring venture for the young Walt Disney, and he risked his entire personal fortune to produce it. It not only marked the first animated feature ever made, but also ushered in a new era in merchandising. For the first time, film-related merchandise was available the day the film opened.

And had you bought it all then, and kept it in pristine condition, you could probably finance your own animation house today.

You can start a 1994 collection with the 10 limited-edition lithographs of the original theater posters from 1937 to the present that are part of the "never-before-released collector's items" that come with the package.

This is a dazzling release that features, above all, a beautiful transfer of the original film, with its stereo soundtrack on the digital tracks and the original monaural soundtrack on an analog track. Both sound and picture live up to all the hyperbole: They are crisp, clear and awash with lush, rich color. "Snow White" probably looks and sounds better than it did in its original showing.

An accompanying documentary, modestly called "The Making of a Masterpiece" (also available with the deluxe VHS tape release, as are the lithographs), offers a host of bonuses in this weighty laser set. A supplemental audio track includes "Lux Radio Theater" interviews of Disney by director Cecil B. De Mille, and a second audio track features early song demos and preliminary audio tracks animators used as a reference for a "Soup Sequence" ultimately dropped from the film.

Other deleted sequences and scenes include one that should have been restored to the film--the making of Snow White's bed, reconstructed here from storyboards and pencil animation. There is also a huge sampling of color sketches, layout drawings, background paintings and preliminary designs and ideas both kept and tossed out. All of this provides remarkable insight into the painstaking detail that went into the making of this landmark feature.

Carefully thought-out chapter stops throughout take you through the various storyboard sequences, layouts, backgrounds and effects tests, live action and voice tests and live-action reference film.

Among the more fascinating bits of footage are scenes of a young Marge Belcher (later Marge Champion) dancing and acting out the role of Snow White so artists could accurately capture a human figure in motion. No wonder Snow White looked so graceful and light on her feet.

When the film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles on Dec. 21, 1937, cameras were there to record it, and, naturally, that footage is here too, as is an obviously awe-struck Shirley Temple presenting Uncle Walt with his full-size and seven dwarf-size Oscars.

The real-life story also has a happy ending. Six months after the film opened, all the debts Disney incurred to make "Snow White" were paid off, "and I had a couple of million in the bank," he recounts in rare footage. "With the profit from 'Snow White,' I built the studio."

Along with the material available on the six laser sides there is an accompanying 88-page hard-cover illustrated book that mostly duplicates, in old-fashioned print form, much of the laser's supplemental material. Even so, there is something to be said for holding this information in your hand rather than staring at a freeze-frame on a TV screen. The book makes a handy reference (it's also included with the deluxe VHS gift set).

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