Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) marked a huge milestone for Walt Disney as he proved that an animated film could hold an audience’s interest for over an hour. The film was a massive success, both critically and commercially, and became the highest-grossing film of its time. Snow White famously received an honorary Academy Award that included seven miniature “dwarf” versions alongside it. Its success allowed Walt Disney to establish his studio as a major player in the film industry and paved the way for future animated classics.
However, Walt Disney did not want to share that fame and success with Snow White herself, and the story honestly gives off major Evil Queen vibes.
The movie, released in 1937, tells the story of Snow White, a young princess who befriends seven dwarfs while hiding from her evil stepmother, the wicked, evil queen. The film has a magical and enchanting atmosphere, brought to life through beautiful animation, catchy songs, and memorable characters. To this day, it is a beloved, iconic film, often cited as one of Disney’s greatest achievements. It revolutionized the animation industry and exalted Walt Disney’s genius. Disney plans to make a live-action version even today.
So why, then, do we not know the name of the actress who portrayed the very first Disney Princess, in arguably the most important film in the history of animation? You can also thank Walt for that.
The voice actress’ name was Adriana Caselotti, and she provided the unique and unforgettable voice of Disney’s first princess. HowStuffWorks reports the word around Hollywood is that Walt Disney somehow coerced Caselotti into signing an unbelievably restrictive contract that pretty much erased any connection between herself and Snow White. Walt didn’t want her “performing as Snow White, as well as doing any further film, TV, and radio work for the rest of her career.” The term is “blacklisting.”
With success that normally would’ve propelled an acting career, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs actually completely snuffed out Adriana Caselotti’s career. Walt Disney aimed to make his animated characters appear as real as possible. Disney didn’t even start crediting voice actors until 1943, so Caselotti’s name isn’t even listed after the movie!
Whether or not this widely accepted instance is completely accurate or not, it’s true that Adriana Caselotti’s career did not move forward. Another slightly different version of the story says Walt Disney contracted her under Disney exclusively and never booked her again. The idea is that he wanted to immortalize her iconic, recognizable voice as Snow White forever and never wanted it to be used for anything else.
Though Adriana Caselotti never worked again, it’s not abundantly clear if it had to do with Walt Disney’s huge pull in Hollywood. She never came forward publicly about the situation, though she did unsuccessfully sue Disney for soundtrack profits, so clearly her situation was not ideal.
Disney Fans would like to hope that the idolized Walt Disney would never do something of the sort. Unfortunately, with all the labor unrest of late from Disneyland Paris, to TV/Film writers and now actors striking, it’s clear that business can be much more sinister than the Walt Disney Company allows it to appear.