This is a significant week for fans of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was 78 years ago today that Walt Disney’s first feature-length animated film opened in nationwide release (it had its Hollywood premiere in December of 1937, followed with a special run at New York’s Radio City Music Hall), and this past Tuesday saw the long-awaited re-release of the picture in a special Blu-ray/DVD combo.
In the nearly eight decades since its debut, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs remains one of Disney’s best-loved animated classics, due in no small part to a step the studio took to make their version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale–already over a century old by the 1930s–stand out. You see, up to that point the septet of diminutive miners who became the runaway princess’s guardians had no distinctive personalities or physical traits. Heck, they didn’t even have names until the authors of a 1912 Broadway play went ahead and dubbed them (no kidding) Blick, Flick, Glick, Plick, Snick, Whick and, um, Quee.
When the Disney crew set out to make their premier feature, they knew they would have to carefully balance the dramatic aspects of the story with comedy, and one of the best ways to do this would be to be to make sure each of the dwarfs was their own person, with their own distinguishing quirks and their own voice (well, most of them, anyway). Over the course of the over three-year production process, the creators came up with dozens of names for their pint-sized protagonists, most of which were discarded before they whittled it down to the final seven of (all together, now) Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy.
So, who were these potential dwarfs who didn’t make the animators’ final cut? Get ready to be amazed and a little bemused, because at one point or another someone at the “House of Mouse” thought each of these would make a viable character:
Swift (What, not Swifty?)
No doubt about it, it definitely could have been a very different film.
Incidentally, here’s what studio story notes had to say about Awful: “He steals and drinks and is very dirty. The other dwarfs have impressed on him that he is a soul beyond redemption. This fact he never questions. He feels powerless against the evil in him and accepts his damnation cheerfully. He is the perpetual fall guy for the others. He is blamed and punished for everything that goes wrong and, even when punished for somebody else’s misdeed, he takes his medicine with a cheerful ‘I deserve it.’” What child wouldn’t have thrilled to see him on the screen?
What about Jumpy, who was actually one of the last possibles to be dropped from the final roster? “He is in constant twitchy fear of being goosed, but is not goosed until the last scene. Whenever he hears a noise behind him, he starts, and his hand automatically protects his fanny.” Gee, and yet he didn’t mind sharing a bedroom with six other guys.
As for the decidedly un-PC Deafy: “He always tries to make clever remarks, but he misinterprets other people’s attitudes toward him. He feels, lots of times, that they are saying something about him, or that they have made some remarks, which they haven’t at all–he takes exception to the most ridiculous things. Throughout the picture Deafy and Grumpy are always clashing. Deafy will pick up one word of the conversation in the early part, and whereas the conversation topic might have changed completely, he still sticks to the first thing that he heard, and in this way we hope to get some comical situations out of Deafy.” Well, Mr. Magoo got several decades’ worth of jokes out of being myopic.
Also, Hardcore Disney buffs will appreciate that Dippy was one of the candidates, since Goofy’s original name was Dippy Dawg. Had the animators gone with Gabby or Snoopy, they would have beaten the Fleischer Brothers’ Gulliver’s Travels by two years and Charles M. Schulz by 23. And finally, the less said about Hickey, the better.
If you have a favorite dwarf, or a favorite rejected dwarf, let us know in the comments below.