Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Released Nationwide: February 4, 1938

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Snow White and Her Prince
On February 4, 1938, Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—the first full-length animated feature film—had its general release to theaters throughout the country, where it was an instant success.

Before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney had gained fame for his innovative use of sound, color, and multi-plane camera technology in animation through his animated shorts of Mickey Mouse and his Silly Symphonies. Always searching for new ideas, Disney announced to his studio in 1934 that they would be creating the first full-length animated film, based on the Grimm’s fairy tale of Snow White.

The process of making Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would take the Disney studio three years and cost about $1.5 million—many times above the original budget. The studio grew from about 200 to 600 employees to handle the multi-step process of hand cel animation, which would eventually result in more than 200,000 drawings for the film.

Snow White's Seven Dwarfs

With Disney’s high standards for the film, and the animators’ and other staff’s need to innovate solutions to problems that hadn’t been encountered before, the film progressed slowly. As the date of the Hollywood premiere neared, many skeptics doubted whether “Disney’s folly,” as some called it, would be completed on time.

But when the premiere date rolled around on December 21, 1937, not only was the film complete, but the star-studded Hollywood audience loved it. The film was released to Radio City Music Hall in New York in January, where it ran for five weeks—a run longer than any other film previously shown there. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs had its general release in the United States starting on February 4, and over the following months it played at theaters all over the country, as well as overseas.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs glasses
The film was a hit, receiving both popular and critical acclaim. Theaters were packed, and some had multiple runs of the film to accommodate all the fans. Snow White—themed merchandise, from hats and dolls to garden seeds and glasses, was everywhere, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ended up earning $8 million (over $100 million today) in its first year. It remains one of the top grossing American films of all time.

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6 thoughts on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Released Nationwide: February 4, 1938

  1. All I remember was it scared me to death. Now I know why. I was not even three years old! When Bambi came out it was even worse, not sure what year that was.

  2. As a child, my family had a fourth of July tradition where we would have our dinner, usually hot dogs, beans, and macaroni or egg salad. We would load up the station wagon with snacks, and pop, and our blankets and pillows, and head for the drive in. That was the first time I saw Snow White, and I thought the humans were real because the animation was so fluid, and smooth. Every July fourth we saw a Disney movie, and that Snow White was one of my favorites.

  3. I posted the following on Face Book today.
    “Today was an important date for movie goers because in 1938 they saw the release to the general public of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I don’t know if I saw it on this date ( which I doubt ) but I saw it shortly there after.It had its premiere December 21, 1937 and the audiences loved it. It opened in Radio City Music Hall in New York in January 1938 where it ran for five weeks a record time.It remains one of the top grossing American films of all times. Snow White themed merchandise such as hats, dolls, garden seeds and glasses were sold everywhere and often were included inside packaged merchandise. There was a glass for each of the dwarfs as well as Snow White. I was six years old at that time and I loved the movie. This information is from”

  4. I remember when my daughter, who is now 21, saw this movie for the first time. She was about 2 years old and sitting on the couch watching it. I was in the kitchen and would look in on her occasionally. I became alarmed when I saw her crying and rushed in to see what was the matter. She didn’t answer when I asked so I looked at the tv and saw it was the scene where it was raining and the forest animals were crying over Snow White’s death. That was when I realized that people can feel compassion at a very young age.

  5. I was five years old when I saw that Movie of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It was the first time I went to a Movie. Dad, who never went to Movies, took my Sister and I to see the Movie. Dad was very favorably impressed. I lived in a small town in Missouri.

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