Photos leaked from the set of the upcoming live-action Snow White remake in July revealed that Disney had chosen to forgo having the traditional visage of the Seven Dwarfs in the new film. But there’s more to those leaked photos than just the “magical characters” Disney has chosen in place of the team of seven little men from Walt’s 1937 classic film.
A Remake Steeped in Controversy–and Not Just Because It’s a Remake
Disney’s remake of its first feature-length animated film in 1937, written by Greta Gerwig, directed by Marc Webb, and starring Rachel Zegler, Andrew Burnap, and Gal Gadot, has been steeped in controversy for nearly as long as the film has been in production. The continually growing discord over the new film began when Disney announced that a Latina, Rachel Zegler, would play the title role. Many fans pointed out that in the original film (and in the original Grimm’s fairy tale on which Disney’s 1937 film is based), Snow White’s very name is derived from the fact that her skin is “white as snow.”
Many fans didn’t take issue with a Latina playing the role of the princess but rather with Disney’s failure to address the fact that the film’s very name–and the princess’s name as well–are based on the light complexion of the young girl.
But the uproar was only beginning.
The Inclusion (or Deletion) of The Seven Dwarfs
Shortly after the revelation of Disney’s choice of actress for the role of Snow White, discussion about Disney’s inclusion of seven dwarfs in the remake of Snow White and the (shock) Seven Dwarfs began to take on a life of its own. Actor Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) took issue with Disney’s decision to–in his opinion–perpetuate a stereotype by including dwarfs in the new remake. He called out Disney publicly for such a decision, and Disney first responded with promises of conversations with members of the dwarfism community before proceeding one way or the other.
Shortly thereafter, however, Disney backtracked on those promises, saying that the decision had been made to forgo the idea of seven dwarfs in exchange for seven “magical creatures,” a decision that only stoked the fires of controversy.
The exclusion of the Seven Dwarfs from the film angers many fans of Disney’s classic films because it’s one of many of the remake’s seemingly obnoxious deviances from the story–as well as a detour from something purposefully and thoughtfully included in Disney’s original film by Walt himself.
The Seven Dwarfs were not included in the 1937 animated feature-length masterpiece merely by happenstance. On the contrary, Walt Disney made sure that each of the seven men was named and that their respective names gave credence to their personalities, at least in part, as Walt explained to fans in an introduction to the new film that can be seen in the clip below:
A (Seemingly) Last-Minute Change in Filming Location
When the Snow White-inspired live-action remake was first announced, initial plans called for filming to take place in the United States. Then a pandemic bloomed, and most scheduled filming for studios around the globe took a backseat to the more pressing issues at hand. But when filming resumed, Disney had changed gears, opting to film in Germany and at Pinewood Studios in England in the United Kingdom.
On March 15, 2022, just days after filming began at Pinewood Studios, a massive fire broke out at the studios as a set was being constructed. A Disney representative said during an interview that “no filming was underway [at the time of the blaze],” which reportedly broke out at the Richard Attenborough stage at Pinewood.
Shocking fire at Pinewood studios pic.twitter.com/OFUyaCSuon
— Dayz_out (@tobyrolph) March 15, 2022
The studio fire didn’t hinder Disney’s decision to continue filming in the United Kingdom, and this week, fans learned why virtually nothing could have kept producers and filmmakers from filming in England.
The Federal Government Grants Disney Millions in Kickbacks for Filming Outside the U.S.
Leaked photos from the set of Snow White that were originally circulated over the summer not only gave away part of Disney’s woke initiative with respect to the exclusion of dwarfs in the upcoming remake, but they also gave fans and critics alike a clearer understanding about the reason behind Disney’s decision to ditch the original plans to film in the United States and opt instead to film the entire movie in the United Kingdom. And that reason is only adding fuel to the fire for Disney fans who are already enraged over the new film, which many of them see as an egregious fool’s errand.
The photos show that Disney chose to cast only one actor from the dwarfism community among the Seven (Dwarfs, Magical Creatures, Substitutes, etc.), actor Martin Klebba. The septet also looks to include at least one female.
But according to Forbes, the photos also indirectly brought to light the massive costs Disney incurred while filming the controversial Snow White-inspired remake. The publication points out that film studios are usually very tight-lipped about finances associated with films in production. That’s because studios generally combine the costs of all of their individual films as part of their overall expenses. Moviehouses don’t typically itemize the expenditures they incur on each movie.
Films produced in the United Kingdom are few and far between, but Disney’s live-action Snow White is one of them–and for good reason: the federal government in the United Kingdom grants studios kickbacks in the form of what the government denotes as tax relief comes in the form of reimbursements of up to 25% of the studio’s expenditures in the U.K. that are related to the production of the film, so long as the amount represents at least 10% of the film’s total costs.
It’s not something that the United Kingdom’s government attempts to hide. A government website explains how moviehouses can access millions in kickbacks, or what the UK government considers “tax relief.”
So that studios can more easily prove the amount of their expenditures in the United Kingdom, many of them set up separate entities for each movie they make in the U.K. That entity must then file financial records that detail all of the studio’s expenses, as well as the number of staff members working, their respective salaries, and other costs that add up to the amount of cash reimbursement the studio intends to receive from the government.
Studios usually choose code names so they don’t alert fans when filing permits for permission to film on location. The Walt Disney Company’s subsidiary in the production of Snow White goes by the code name Hidden Heart Productions.
Financial statements recently filed by Disney show that over a three-year period that ended on July 31, 2022, Disney spent nearly $210 million in production costs in the United Kingdom on the new Snow White-inspired remake. The filings explain that the exorbitant costs were caused in part by pandemic-related delays.
Disney’s colossal expenditures benefit the United Kingdom, as studios use many local services such as visual effects consulting, travel firms, and equipment rental services. Filming on location across the U.K. also boosts employment. In 2022, Hidden Heart Productions employed 354 staff members, and that doesn’t include freelancers who comprise the film crew during a shoot.
But Disney benefitted too.
The Daily Mail reported that Disney has already received £29.5 million, or $41.1 million, in reimbursements for the upcoming film, which lowers its net spending on the film–during production–to $168.2 million. It’s possible that Disney could receive additional reimbursements, as the initial reimbursement was in response to filings for production costs through July 31, 2022. If the studio incurred further costs while in the United Kingdom, Disney could be entitled to further reimbursement.