If you’ve been looking for an excuse to make the jump from DVD to Blu-ray, look no further. Matter of fact, thanks to Disney’s brilliant strategy of bundling DVDs with their Blu-ray releases, you don’t even have to own a Blu-ray player to take advantage of the new face lift the studio has given its 1937 classic — but if you do have one, make sure you put a pillow under your mouth the first time you watch the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Diamond Edition transfer, because your jaw is going to drop.
There have been a fair number of catalog Blu-ray reissues at this point, and consumers have had to resign themselves to the fact that not all hi-def upgrades were created equal — when you’re dealing with source material from more than, say, 20 years ago, you’re going to see a fair number of defects, even after the most painstaking remastering job (see the Batman Blu-ray for an example). Given this, you’d expect the Snow White Blu-ray to be the kind of pleasant-but-not-remarkable upgrade you’d get out of most older films, but you’d be wrong — Disney has been rolling out some truly breathtaking restoration jobs in the last year or so, and Snow White might be the fairest of them all. Is it perfect? Probably not — you can go over any transfer with a magnifying glass and pick out flaws here and there, however minor. But watching Snow White, you won’t want to; you’ll be too busy marveling at just how incredibly lush and beautiful this hand-drawn classic remains more than 70 years after its release. Every feature-length animated film has its roots in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — along with quite a few live-action movies — and this set gives it the fawning respect it deserves.
I grew up in a pretty Disneyfied household, but I was never really into the movies — I preferred the vinegar of Warner Bros.’ Looney Toons humor to the saccharine sweetness of Disney’s princesses and singing animals — and as a result, I’ve always taken Snow White more or less for granted. This new Diamond Edition was a quick cure for that, though — both because of the gorgeous 1080p transfer and because I watched it with my daughter, who had never seen Snow White before. She was immediately enraptured, and seeing it through her eyes really underscored what a beautifully made film this is. I mean, okay, the characters are strictly stock, and the storyline is extremely hokey, but they all undeniably work — and the songs are pure magic, written with the kind of cleverness and attention to detail that used to be commonplace in pop songwriting. You’ve seen and heard it all before a million times, but this package makes it possible for you to go back and take in Snow White almost like a brand new movie.
The remastered movie is this package’s main draw, but Disney has included plenty of bonus materials, too. Again, there’s a little room for quibbling here; though the package includes two Blu-ray discs, owners of the 2001 reissue will notice that a number of that set’s bonus features are missing here, and of course, Disney has larded it up with crap nobody wants, like an extended commercial for The Princess and the Frog and a music video for a glossy new version of “Someday My Prince Will Come,” performed by Disney Channel starlet Tiffany Thornton. It’s hard to get too worked up about it, though, because what remains is so outstanding — right down to the menu, which features a talking Magic Mirror and uses your Blu-ray player’s Internet connection to make comments about the time and weather as it’s commenting on all the areas of the disc you haven’t visited yet. You also have the option of watching the movie in “DisneyView,” a feature also used for the Pinocchio Blu-ray, which adds subtle artwork borders to fill out the widescreen view. And then there are the real bonus features, which include games like Dopey’s Wild Ride and featurettes about everything from the sequel that might have been (Snow White Returns) to the inner workings of the studio itself (a fantastically in-depth interactive documentary titled Hyperion Studios). It’s all interesting stuff, but none of it will keep you (or your little ones) from wanting to go back and watch the main feature again.
The bottom line is that no film collection is really complete without Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, either from an entertainment or a historical perspective, and the new Diamond Edition is the one to own…at least until Disney decides to outdo it again by adding a few more discs of bonus material and packaging the whole thing in a gold-and-glass coffin for the 75th anniversary. In the meantime, this is definitely $24.99 well spent.