Monday, October 26, 2009
MY FAVORITE SNOW WHITE
I have a confession to make.
I collect pictures of Disney Princesses at Disneyland. This is a picture of me and Snow White, early one morning just inside the gate in March, 2004.
Disneyland, the original park in Anaheim, California, is the only one that really matters to me. It's more than childhood nostalgia, too. It is the park I first experienced as a child and I've been to the one in Florida, and the one outside Paris, but for me, it's the one that Walt Disney actually walked in. That matters most to me.
What also matters and fascinates me is that Disneyland, opened in 1955 and only taking about a year to build (!) is an absolute marvel of design, architectural design, engineering, urban layout and storytelling. It's marvelous entertainment and theater, designed by filmmakers.
I have an annual pass, and go several times a year. I love to play tour guide to friends who have never been; I love to also go alone. People watch. Study the designs of the buildings, landscape, and attractions. Disneyland, as Walt said, "will never be finished", and is constantly changing and adapting. I'm glad to have seen Tom Sawyers Island before it became Pirate Cove. Happy to have experienced the original submarine ride. Greatly miss the days when Tomorrow Land actually looked forward to the future, before it was re-designed as a Jules Verne-esque/Buzz Lightyear black hole. End confession(s). For now...
And the young lady in the photo above is, of all the "Snow Whites" I've seen in my time, the best. She's my favorite Snow White.
I don't know who she is; I don't know here name (I never want to engage the actors in the Park in a way that will "break the illusion", for me, them or the other guests).
That crisp, early morning in March (I get to the Park when it opens and leave when it closes), I got through the ticket gate and was waiting for a friend to join me. As I had a few moments, I watched Snow White greet and interact with the morning visitors. Disney casts their Park characters very carefully and very well, but this girl was different. Many can wear a costume and wig and be close to the "real thing", but this Snow White was perfection.
Beyond pretty and with an eerie resemblance to her animated-self on screen, she even, very naturally and without strain, sounded just like Adriana Caselotti, who voiced Snow in the 1937 film.
I watched her as she spoke and played and took pictures with kids and adults, never seeming to fall back on "patter" or scripted greeting. It's very hard work to keep that up during the scheduled times a character is "on stage". This Snow White, plain and simple, had presence.
When my friend arrived to join me for the day, inspiration had struck and I knew I wanted a picture with her--with me as "the eighth dwarf". As I slipped off my shoes and got down to kneel on them, Snow got the gag immediately and laughed merrily. She said nobody had ever done that (flirt!) and that she thought it was very funny. I thanked her for the picture and my friend and I entered the Park for the day.
I never saw her again.
I was back the next month, in April, with a group celebrating the birthday of a friend who had never been there. We spent two days in the Park. I got to play tour guide and, careful not to be a bore, rattled off every arcane piece of knowledge I knew about the place and it's history. Yes, we saw "Snow White", but it wasn't the girl from the month before. Our little group (now closer to seven in number) tried the "dwarf-shoe" gag at my suggestion, but this Snow seemed confused and even annoyed at what we were doing. Ah, well...
So, to whoever, and where ever, the Snow White is that is kissing the top of the head of the eighth dwarf in the above photo---thanks for being a wonderful actor and making a little magic happen that morning in March, '04! If she's still performing, I hope she's having a great success.
Text and Photo (c) Mark Redfield