Original production drawing of Snow White at the well from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," 1937; Red pencil on peg hole paper; Numbered 78 lower right; Size - Snow White at the well: 6 1/2 x 5", Sheet 10 x 12"; Unframed.
“Lips red as the rose. Hair black as ebony. Skin white as snow.”
―The Magic Mirror describing Snow White
Development on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs began in early 1934, and by June Walt Disney announced to The New York Times the production of his first feature, to be released under Walt Disney Productions. Before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Disney studio had been primarily involved in the production of animated short subjects in the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies series. However, Disney hoped to expand his studio's prestige and revenues by moving into features, and he estimated that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs could be produced for a budget of $250,000 (this was ten times the budget of an average Silly Symphony).
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was to be the first full-length cel animated feature in motion picture history, and as such Walt Disney had to fight to get the film produced. Both his brother and business partner Roy Disney, as well as his wife Lillian attempted to talk him out of it. The Hollywood movie industry mockingly referred to the film, while is was in production, as "Disney's Folly." Disney ended up having to mortgage his house to help finance the film's production, which would eventually ran up to a total cost of $1,488,422.74; an absolutely massive sum for a feature film in 1937!
Close up of the Snow White production drawing.
A large number of actresses auditioned for the voice of Snow White. Walt Disney listened to each audition in his office while the actress performed in another room, without any knowledge of the actress' appearance or reputation. This would insure that he would only judge based on the sound of the voice. According to later accounts, most of the voices Disney felt, did not sound young enough. Eventually, in September of 1935, Adriana Caselotti was chosen for the voice of Snow White. Caselotti was eighteen at the time and made her coloraturo soprano sound younger, knowing that the character was intended to be 14 years old. In recording sessions Caselotti found difficulty in the line, "Grumpy, I didn't know you cared"; instead of "didn't", Caselotti was only able to say "din". After rehearsing the line many times, Walt Disney eventually said "Oh, the heck with..." and "din'" remained in the final film.
Snow White's design was supervised by Grim Natwick, an animator who had previously developed and worked on Betty Boop at Fleischer Studios. It is interesting to note that early designs for the Snow White resemble Betty Boop, and some appear to be caricatures of famous actresses of the time. As development continued, Snow White became more and more lifelike. Another animator, Hamilton Luske's first designs for Snow White depicted her as a slightly awkward, gangly teenager. However, Walt Disney had a different idea in mind; he wanted Snow White to be older, and more realistic-looking. This was achieved by the use of live-action references for the animators. Also, in order for Snow White to better relate onscreen to the seven Dwarfs, it was decided that her head be slightly larger than normal. In addition, the women in the animation studio's ink and paint department felt that Snow White's black hair was too unnatural and harsh, so they drybrushed whisps of light grey over the top of each and every cel.
Close up of the production number in red pencil.
This particular drawing is from one of the most memorable scenes in the film, when Snow White dressed in rags is at a well filling a wooden bucket with water. The drawing is from the very start of the scene when, Snow White talking to a group of white doves standing on the ledge of the well, says "Want to know a secret? Promise not to tell? We are standing by a wishing well." She quickly goes into the famous song, "I'm Wishing" with music and lyrics by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey. This drawing is very delicate and conveys a wonderful softness, being rendered entirely in red pencil.