Can you name all the seven dwarfs?
If you can, then you’re likely familiar with the 1939 Disney Animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but that wasn’t the first time that the dwarves were named and they were much different from Disney’s version.
The tale of Snow White was originally published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm. It was one of 86 stories in their book Children’s and Household Tales that collected folktales throughout Europe and would be continuously re-published and updated there, reaching 210 stories by 1857.
The seven dwarves are unnamed in the original tale. They attempt to help a seven-year-old Snow White from the Queen who wishes her dead. The Disney version made many understandable changes, including Snow White’s age (presumably meant to connect with the number of dwarves originally), and also straying from the darkest parts of the story.
Those parts include the Queen believing that she is happily eating the remains of a deceased Snow White only to realize that the man she sent to kill the girl lied and killed an animal instead (how dare he?!). Yes, this is how crazy the tale is throughout the Brothers Grimm versions. Some of the dark aspects did make it to the film. I mean, just the fact that the Queen wants to kill her stepchild because a magic mirror claims the child is better-looking than her is pretty dark stuff on its own.
When the Queen decides to take matters into her own hands and attempts to kill Snow White on her own, she twice fails until she disguises herself as an old farmer and gives Snow White a poisoned apple which Snow White only eats because the Queen-dressed-as-a-farmer eats half of it (but the Queen only poisoned half of the apple). The dwarves had twice saved Snow White but this time were unsuccessful.
They ultimately decide to build a glass coffin for her body and keep her on display, one of many things about this tale that can be considered pretty strange. The Prince of somewhere unnamed later stays with the dwarves and eventually sees her dead in this glass coffin and deems her the fairest of them all (did I mention that Snow White is seven years old in this version?). He doesn’t kiss her, however. That was for the Disney version.
In the most popular of the original versions he insists on bringing the apparently dead Snow White with him and has his men carry the coffin but they quickly stumble and drop it. As a result, a piece of the poisoned apple becomes dislodged from Snow White’s mouth (which apparently no one ever noticed before). Snow White then wakes up and the Prince claims that she is the apple of his eye (ok, so maybe he doesn’t use those exact words but we couldn’t resist). Now that she is miraculously alive he wishes to marry her.
In the end, Snow White and the prince get married and invite the Queen to the wedding who is then forced to do a dance of death. No joke, she has to put on shoes of hot iron and dance until she dies.
As Walt Disney focused on this tale as his first-ever animated feature film, he changed many elements and also wanted to give individual personalities to all of the dwarves and name them based on those personas. It wouldn’t be the first time the dwarves were named.
In 1912, Winthrop Ames wrote a version of Snow White for his theater on 240 West & 44th St in New York City called the Little Theater which was and still is the smallest Broadway theater (now known as the Hayes Theater). It was this version which first named the dwarves, albeit not the names we’ve come to know.
The eldest was named Blick, with the others named Flick, Glick, Snick, Plick, and Whick. The youngest of them, at 99 years old, was named Quee.
Those of us who are now familiar with Snow White largely have Winthrop Ames to thank because he wrote the 1916 silent film based on his own play and that’s the film that awed a teenager named Walt Disney.
When Walt later decided to embark on the journey of making an animated version of Snow White, it was a significant risk for his studio and would either make it or break it. No one had done an animated feature before and many thought it was a foolish idea but thankfully for him, and for children everywhere of all ages, he didn’t listen to the naysayers and his risk paid off.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs — directed by David Hand, who had directed numerous Disney shorts and later directed Bambi — cost $1.5 million to make and made $8 million just from merchandise alone. Through the decades it has grossed well over $400 million dollars and its remarkable success changed the movie world. Now there are about 100 animated feature films made worldwide each year.
In the documentary Disney’s First Feature: The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which can be seen on Disney Plus, film historian Brian Sipley states that as he was making the film that “One of the hardest things for Walt Disney was what to call the dwarfs.”
He proceeds to show a list with names that they were considering for the characters. Of course, the idea was that the names of the dwarves would directly reflect their personalities. Some of those unused names are as follows:
Scrappy, Weepy, Dirty, Cranky, Hungry, Lazy, Dumpy, Shifty, Woeful, Wistful, Soulful, Helpful, Awful, Snoopy, Blabby, Silly, Gloomy, Sappy, Tearful, Fearful, Busy, Dizzy, Snappy, Strutty, and Jumpy.
Here are the seven names they actually chose (do you remember them all?), along with some info from a few different sources including the above-mentioned documentary, statements form the original sketches, and the Disney Plus short Story Meetings: The Dwarfs.
You may have noticed that the Seven Dwarfs can be broken down into three groups: two big guys, three of medium size, and one smaller than the others.
One of two bigger guys who is actually slightly taller than all of them, Doc wears glasses and has a rounder beard than the others. He is considered the leader of the bunch.
Sequence Director, Perce Pearce: “Doc is designed stout to give him a pompous flair.”
Supervising Editor, Fred Moore: “Doc has a big stomach and carries it like a chest. He should have a lot of punch to his personality. Doc is always mixing up words and uses eccentric hand movement.”
Happy is, well, always happy. He can be considered as the other big guy of the bunch. His hips are drawn wide and his nose is smaller than the others. He is the only one who happily introduces himself to Snow White before she can guess who he is.
One of three dwarves of the same size along with Sneezy and Sleepy but his coat is slightly shorter. According to Walt Disney himself, “He is secretly in love with Snow White.”
Perce Pearce: “Bashful has big brown eyes with lots of lashes.”
With his hands often folded and the biggest nose of the seven, he could’ve been called Nosey.
Fred Moore: “Doc and Grumpy are two outstanding characters. They are the conflict.”
It’s no surprise that Sleepy has bags under eyes. You might realize that those eyes will often look uneven as one eyelid droops while the other tries to stay awake. His cap droops down at the end, as if sleepy also.
From original sketches: “Sleepy usually leans forward, almost off balance.”
Sneezy’s eyes are small, the smallest of the seven.
From the original sketches: “Embarrased attitude follows a sneeze.”
Dopey is the smallest of the seven and the only one without a beard.
Pearce, while explaining Walt’s thoughts on Dopey: “Dopey isn’t a goof. He’s a little guy who hasn’t grown up, child-like in his reaction to things.”
Supervising Animator, Vladimir Tytla: “Dopey is the sort of character who is dressed up in cast-off clothing. His coat sleeves are much too long and hang over his hands. Everything about him gives this floppy feeling which is quite amusing.”
Collectively, the seven dwarves are the personality of the film, giving it life that can’t be replaced by any other character. They are the everlasting image of the story and although they are the smallest characters, they have the biggest hearts.