The Many Faces of Snow White
Snow White lives in the part of our heart that holds childhood memories, so no wonder we love Snow White dolls.
BY PENNY NEWMAN
Source: November 2003 • DOLL READER , Pages 34-37
Did you know that in the original Grimm fairy tale published in 1812, the dwarfs were completely anonymous and played a very mall part in the Snow White story? Walt Disney gave us those seven little fellows, after considering different names and personalities such as Blabby, Gaspy, and Hotsy on that initial draft. The animated full-length feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was completed in 1937, and Disney's movie masterpiece gave us the version of the Snow White story we cherish o much today.
There are practically as many Snow White tales a there are cultures in the world. In Scotland the story is known as "Gold-Tree and SilverTree," and in Italy the tale is handed down as "The Crystal Casket," or "The Young Slave." Snow White is known as Nourie Hadig in Armenia, and she is Mirabella in Portugal. In some of the fables, Snow White comes back to life by coughing up a sliver of the poisoned apple, and in other versions the tender kiss of a royal prince does the trick.
Creative minds in the doll world have given us varied and important three-dimensional interpretations of this charming fairy story. By bringing forth a body of work immortalizing the beloved tale, doll artists and manufacturers give Snow White a future for generations to enjoy. Happily, ever since the film's premiere, Disney has continually allowed various toy makers in the United States and other countries to reproduce Snow White as a doll.
Following the release of the Disney movie, Chad Valley in England produced a series of the characters from the film. Chad Valley made a fawn, several rabbits, and squirrels, many of whom became friends of the little medieval princess, and Snow White herself. Chad Valley even issued Snow White dolls with music boxes, and all are very hard to find today.
Fortunately, Snow White dolls are still being made today. The collaboration between Walt Disney and Madame
Alexander is legendary, and Alexander has produced a variety of beautiful and collectible Snow White dolls. Along with a traditional Storyland 8-inch Snow White and a 5-inch Petite Storybook version as well, the 2003 Alexander catalog offers a gift set based on the classic Disney film. The set includes a 10-inch Cissette Snow White and the dwarfs. "It is a great honor for us to now work with Disney, as this gives us the opportunity to transform our beloved dolls into the characters generations of children have grown up with. We have added that special Alexander touch to this classic, timeless film," says Gale Jarvis, president of the Alexander Doll Company.
Carolyn Isenberg, owner of Sweetheart's Dolls in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., considers Snow White her signature doll. "Snow White was the first movie I saw as a child, and the first doll I purchased as an adult was a Madame Alexander Snow White." Isenberg commissioned a Disney-inspired Snow White for her personal collection from artist Jan Fuqua. Fuqua's one-of-a-kind, $990 Cernit creation captures Snow White as a young girl. The painstaking care and skill that went into the doll's costume is typical of Fuqua's work. Using a pulled-thread technique on the blouse that weaves red-silk ribbon through the cotton dimity, the elaborate costume, including red Cabretta leather shoes, was fashioned entirely by Fuqua.
The Smith family purchased the Vogue and Ginny names in 1995, and they have brought lovable Ginny back into the spotlight. For a number of years Vogue has been producing licensed Disney products for the annual Disney World Doll and Teddy Bear Convention. "After several years of Pooh-related items, we decided our collectors would like to have some of the princesses," says Linda Smith, president of Vogue. This year's 300- piece limited edition Snow White, the highlight of the 2002 Disney event, is available for purchase. Vogue's 8-inch hard plastic Ginny wears a knee-length traditional Snow White costume and red Ginny snap shoes.
Disney princesses are a favorite Mattel theme, and the company has historically produced two types of 11-1/2-inch Snow White dolls. There are Snow White dolls that relate directly to the character as presented in the Disney film, as well as Barbie® as Snow White dolls that retain the conventional Barbie sculpt and face paint. The 1997 Collector Edition Snow White commemorated the 60th anniversary of the original release of the motion picture. This year's Party Princess Snow White and Dreamtime Princess Snow White continue Mattel's exciting Snow White tradition.
R. John Wright has created many extraordinary dolls based on Disney characters. Available from 1989-1993, his Snow White series features jointed, molded felt figures displaying exceptional detail and realism.
In Wright's Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White appears in a traditional Disney-inspired dress. The 9-inch dwarfs are remarkably expressive and are faithful to their characters as portrayed in the film. A 16-inch jointed Snow White in Rags was also released from 1989-1993, along with exceptionally well-made accessories that include a wooden wash bucket and scrub brush. All of the dolls were created in limited editions of 1000 and are considered by many to be among Wright's best work.
Doll artist Anna Brahms did not look to Disney for her Snow White group. "I would say that my vision comes from an old Grimm's fairy tale picture book from Europe, with illustrations painted in the early 1900s," she says. Brahms' one-of-a-kind figures are made of fimo with bodies of cloth over wire armatures. Intricate costumes of silk and velvet adorn all of the wonderful characters. The sculptures are so expressive that the viewer can actually feel the emotional ties and tension that exist among the dolls in the collection. The set includes Snow White and all seven dwarfs, as well as the evil stepmother.
"I did some fairy tale scenes before, but none like the variety the dwarf scenes brought along," says German doll artist Ruth Treffeisen. Ruth created a limited edition of seven sets of her porcelain Snow White Collection in memory of her beloved childhood friend Elisabeth. The most sumptuous fabrics embroidered with genuine pearls and garnets were used in Snow White's costume. Specially designed wigs help emphasize the unique character of each dwarf, and all have different body types, appropriate accessories, and spirited poses. Each figure is available separately, and the group as a whole retails for $16,000.
Doll artists Judith and Lucia Friedericy created eight one-of-a-kind wax-over porcelain figures for Dear Little Dollies in Bellmore Village, N.Y. The unique set, priced at $3300, features Snow White and seven lively dwarfs seated on a log that was discovered by Louis Camilleri, the shop's owner. "I found the log in the Vermont woods some 15 years ago," he remembers. "The shape and features fascinated me, and the log rested in my basement until I saw the Friedericys' unique Snow White concept. Lucia's reaction was enthusiastic, and just look at the remarkable results."
The magic of folk and fairy tales give us a cross-cultural glimpse of myths, legends, and knowledge that has scrupulously been collected for hundreds of years. Each story is a gift and each interpretation a valuable inheritance. The doll maker adds greatly to this tradition by giving a distinct three-dimensional voice to the stories. Their figures become an important part of the treasure we call fairy tales, which are destined for generations to cherish and enjoy.