The two key differences between the Brothers’ Grimm and Walt Disney is that they each had their own motivations for developing their fairy tales. The Grimm Brothers sought to reunify Germany by collecting the stories that most accurately represented the history of the country. Disney, through his movies, aimed to put his stamp on Hollywood and self-configure himself into his stories. Both The Grimm Brothers and Disney’s motives greatly affected their story-telling, especially in the case of “Snow White.”
The Brothers’ Grimm hoped to keep their writings as true to the actual fairy tales as possible. Thus, their story of “Little Snow White” represents the zeitgeist of their time. Like the Disney movie, Snow White is passive and domestic; she wholeheartedly wants to do the chores for the dwarves and she accepts a marriage proposal from a man she barely knows. However, unlike the Disney move, in the Grimm fairytale, the agreement between the dwarves and Snow White, in which she cooks and cleans for them in exchange for a place to live, becomes more of a contract in the third edition. The relationship dynamic between these characters differs slightly in the two versions. Nonetheless, the Queen in both versions is obsessed with her beauty and constantly asks the mirror if she is the fairest of them all. When she is not, she strives to eliminate her competition. This demonstrates the Queen’s need for approval from the male-dominated society of her time, regardless of how it may affect others.
There are evidently more variances between the story and the movie for several reasons. In the fairy tale, Snow White is attacked thrice by the evil queen whereas in the movie, this only occurs once. Disney only incorporated one attack into the movie because, for him, that plot was unimportant. Instead, the animation of the movie was his most prized work; through his first full-length movie, he hoped to show his abilities to animate. Also, in the fairytale, the dwarves and Prince are merely functions of the story so that it may continue with its patriarchal undertones. However, in the movie, Disney gives the dwarves names and personalities while also giving the Prince a larger role as the savior of Snow White and the center of attention. These changes reveal Disney’s self-configuration; he implemented himself into this movie in an attempt to compensate for the inadequacies and struggles in his life.
Finally, because this movie debuted during the Great Depression, Disney portrayed the dwarves as hard working people who reap what they sow; they work and the rewards make them happy. He did this in order to incite the hope in Americans that if they just kept working hard, everything would improve. The zeitgeist of Disney’s time also influenced how he decided to end Snow White’s story. Because Disney’s audience was all of America, including children, the witch accidentally kills herself instead of the Brothers’ Grimm version in which the Prince forces her to dance herself to death in hot-iron shoes. This contamination makes the story universal for every age group and thus better fits the 1930’s era.
Though Disney’s “Snow White” drastically differs from the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale, Disney had his reasons for every single alteration, whether it be for personal reasons or to appeal to his audience.