SNOW WHITE CELS COLLECTED IN 1937 AND STILL IN DEMAND
Wicked Queen demanding the heart from the huntsman; 1937; 8 inches by 10 inches sold for $13,800. Photo courtesy of Heritage Comics.
The evil stepmother gazes into her magic mirror and speaks: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?”
The mirror replies.
“Hear my voice and know it’s true. Snow White has become more fair than thee.”
Outraged, the evil queen finds the castle’s hunter and orders him to take Snow White deep into the forest and kill her.
“Bring me back her heart in this box,” she demands.
Some 50-years later, I remember that scene from the movie like it was yesterday. I'm betting you do too.
The first movie Walt Disney ever saw himself as a kid was a silent version of Snow White. He never forgot it, just like audiences would never forget his animated version.
In Disney’s hands, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became the first-ever, feature-length animated film. Four days before Christmas in 1937, the movie premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood.
It was its own kind of fairytale. Star-studded audience, filled to capacity, sensational reviews, overnight success, Disney was delighted.
In the land of living happily ever after, Snow White compressed into 83 minutes all of the action, animation, music and dialogue any moviegoer could want. The message, a simple one, stressed courage in the face of evil.
Timelessness was the movie’s real gift. In my mind, it was Disney at his best. Sitting down to watch the “mirror” scene all over again as a grown-up still finds me riveted to my seat.
With Snow White, Disney was about taking animation to a new level. A level people said was impossible.
Actress Lucille LaVerne voiced both the Wicked Queen and the evil Queen after her transformation into the old hag. Initially, the director said LaVerne sounded too polished. The actress excused herself from the room and returned to redo the scene.
This time she had a distinct gravelly voice. The director asked how she pulled it off. LaVerne smiled a toothless grin. It was simple. She removed her false teeth.
Before Snow White, most of the animators’ art work disappeared once projects were done. Some was destroyed. Artists took some. Other pieces were given away as souvenirs.
Snow White changed all that. The movie possessed some of the finest examples of the animator’s skill. The studios realized they needed to preserve it as its own art form. The movement also inspired the impulse to collect.
The person most responsible for the collecting genre was a California art dealer named Guthrie Sayre Courvoisier. He approached Walt Disney Productions and said he believed there were strong sales possibilities in the cels (transparent sheets on which each bit of action was recorded).
Courvoisier was right. Without much effort and despite the effects of the Great Depression, he sold 65 Snow White cels for prices ranging from $5 to $65. In today’s market, colossal buys. From that point, interest in animation art has rarely waned and prices skyrocketed.
On Oct. 1-3, 2005, Heritage Comics in Dallas, Texas, featured an auction of Animation Art and Disneyana. Here are some current values for Snow White cels.
Snow White and forest animals look through window of cottage; 1937; 9 inches by 7 1/2 inches; $5,463.
Snow White leans into the well and echoes her song I’m Wishing; 1937; 6 3/4 inches by 6 1/4 inches; $6,038.
Wicked Queen begins transformation into old hag; 1937; 11 inches by 10 1/2 inches; $10,350.
Wicked Queen holding the heart box; 1937; 8 1/4 inches by 8 1/4 inches; $12,650.
Wicked Queen demanding the heart from the huntsman; 1937; 8 inches by 10 inches; $13,800.
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