Disney’s upcoming live action adaptation of the 1937 animated film Snow White will not be released until 2025 due to the recent writers’ strike. Despite this delay, the studio has released a first image of the iconic princess with her seven loyal dwarfs this week. The reason for this early release could be to assure audiences that the project is still in progress, despite the unusual circumstances surrounding it. The controversy surrounding this movie has been peculiar from the start.
Somehow, Snow White has managed to get on the wrong side of “anti-woke” crusaders on both sides of the Atlantic, people with dwarfism who think (quite reasonably) that these kind of role should be played by actors with dwarfism, AND Peter Dinklage, the Game of Thrones star who described the project last year as “that fucking backwards story about seven dwarves living in a cave together” and bemoaned the fact that his own stupendous screen efforts hadn’t consigned such trite and patronising tales to the dustbin of history.
Many people in the media have expressed dislike for the idea of a new version of Snow White, as everyone has their own unique vision for how the story should be told. Actress Rachel Zegler, who stars in the upcoming Disney remake, stated at a D23 meeting last year that the studio is approaching the story from a modern perspective. She mentioned that the princess will not be saved by a prince or dreaming of true love, but instead focusing on becoming a strong leader as her father had encouraged her to be. In other interviews, Zegler criticized the original 1937 film for its outdated portrayal of women in positions of power and for romanticizing a relationship where the male lead essentially stalks the female lead.
These seemingly harmless remarks, regarding an 86-year-old film that may require revisions to align with contemporary values, sparked a barrage of anger from social media users under monikers such as “End Wokeness”, the UK’s Daily Mail, and the American conservative platform Daily Wire (who have even produced their own anti-woke film – yes, it’s true!).
Much of the anger aimed at Snow White has been fostered by paparazzi pictures, purportedly from the Bedfordshire shoot of the film, which appeared to show that the dwarves have been replaced by a racially and gender-diverse cast of mostly able-bodied, average height actors – the Daily Mail labelled them “magical creatures” – with the exception of one person with dwarfism.
Can this be confirmed as true or false? It wouldn’t be unexpected to learn that the entire situation was created by a mischievous AI programmed to find the most provocative image to anger social conservatives. Disney has clarified that these shots are not “official” photos, which is not surprising considering they resemble a small-town production of Robin Hood from the 1980s rather than a big-budget Hollywood film.
Disney has attempted to come up with a resolution that could potentially satisfy no one, but is convoluted and unremarkable enough to potentially prevent further controversy. In the image, Zegler is accompanied by seven entirely computer-generated dwarves, all reportedly portrayed by actor Martin Klebba (although some sources indicate he will only play Grumpy). It is evident that the studio has given themselves more time to solve this dilemma, with the goal of releasing a final product that does not anger anyone – at least to the point of negatively impacting the film’s success at the box office.
The entire situation raises the question of what the purpose is for this new adaptation of Snow White. It will not be the classic, conservative fantasy of a heterosexual love without sexual elements. And there doesn’t seem to be enough substance to warrant a clever, satirical feminist retelling like Barbie. Zegler will be filming a lot in front of a green screen. So, what does that mean for the overall outcome?
There is a concern that the solution is unremarkable and ordinary, just another modernized version of a timeless classic that has remained relevant due to its contemporary nature. Fortunately, Disney now has nearly two years to demonstrate otherwise.