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The Prince of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been called a dud since the movie's 1937 premiere. However, he was not intended to end up like that. The unfortunate fact is that the Prince's larger role in Walt Disney's version of the story was reduced to minimum because eventually he wasn't seen as important character as the others.
We must remember that in 1934, when Walt Disney started making the very first feature-length animated movie, animated male characters were hardly ever represented as realistic and convincing as Snow White's Prince needed to. He had to have two visible, realistic human legs and a masculine figure. The beautiful heroine, the Evil Queen and the Witch had their legs hidden by dresses or long robes. Though the Dwarfs and the animals had their legs visible, these characters were allowed for a more cartoony movement. But the Prince had to maintain believability and royal dignity. One false move and he would be the real clown of the story. Hence his wooden appearance and very short screen time.
Despite of all the bad critique to the movie character, the Prince in his final 1937 form was and still is one of the most realistically convincing animated male characters in Disney's classics. Animators Grim Natwick and Milt Kahl depended extensively on rotoscoping (tracing the filmed movement of a live model) to capture the movement of a realistic male figure. The Prince's body with characteristic thick thighs was closely modelled to [ballet] dancer Louis Hightower's filmed live action reference. Some rare photos reveal that the athletic and muscular Hightower lent also his facial features to the Prince. Later providing live reference also to Fantasia's (1940) Ben Ali Gator, Louis Hightower's very promising dancing career was sadly cut short when he joined the service during World War II and got killed in Sicily.
Closer investigation reveals that the Prince's body proportions are very realistic. His final design and animation were postponed until late summer 1937, when it was only a few months to the movie's premiere. Possible gravity problems in the Prince's animated walking were hidden behind branches and flowers in the movie's beginning. No matter how realistic the Prince was, his handsome tunic has always defied realism: the material seems thick but astonishingly silk-like because it hangs down very easily. Plus that it barely hides his crotch. The tunic issues are underlined when you compare the original 1937 Prince to any of his Disney theme park "live" representations who are hidden into over-sized, protruding dresses in stead of the good-looking tunic on the original animated character.
The Prince's handsome singing voice is tenor, provided originally by singer Harry Stockwell, who was the father of actor Dean Stockwell.
More than 70 years an endless amount of storybook artists have had huge problems in capturing the Prince's movie looks on paper. It is no secret that the Prince's looks especially his face were based on 1930s well-fed beauty notions with round features. A more typical fairytale prince with blonde curly mane would not have looked convincing with Disney's Snow White character. Thus the Prince got round cheeks, an unusually protruding jaw and very dark hair with strongly stylized hairdo. (Some viewers may have even noticed that the 1937 Prince, especially in a couple of shots in the movie's finale, bears an uncanny facial resemblance to actress Liza Minnelli, the Oscar-winner of Cabaret). If an artist forgets these most striking features of the Prince, the end result is far from the original. And yet the Prince's dark hair has changed into much lighter brown in Disney's official artwork, perhaps to differentiate his hair from Snow White's ebony-black hair. In the official artwork the lean and blond Prince has been resembling more often Disney's Peter Pan than himself. Even Disney's "How To Draw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1993, Walter Foster Publishing) does not really know how to draw the original Prince.
Due to his problematic looks, Snow White's Prince has been represented in endless amount of changing forms in storybook versions, comics and other media. He has been seen with more faces, hairstyles and clothing than any other Disney hero. The Prince has been blond with longer hair on several occasions starting with the legendary 1930s artwork by Gustaf Tenggren. After several decades of having an ever-changing face, the Prince was finally portrayed astonishingly close to his original 1937 movie looks in the 2008 Disney Princess book "Snow White: The Dwarfs' Grand Dance". (Its story is unfortunately written in the most typically inane Disney Princess style with highly questionable values focusing on outward appearances, jewels and clothing but the magnificent illustrations by Sara Storino and Andrea Nicolucci really stand out in this book).
Snow White's Prince has never had a name. A fact remains, however, that he was called Prince Charming before Cinderella's (1950) unnamed prince adopted the same title. Fan circles call Snow White's Prince by many names (such as Ferdinand), but officially he remains nameless. The Prince has been labeled with notorious image among Disney's heroes, but luckily such brand has also saved him from appearing in modest cartoon sequels that Disney has produced during the last two decades. Outside the 1937 movie the Prince has appeared mostly in Disney theme parks' parades and stage shows (with highly varying quality) and in a few Disney On Ice shows, including the spectacular 1997 production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (which turned out as one of the very best three-dimensional representations of the 1937 movie). Also the Snow White dark rides in Disneyland Paris and the 1994 version in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom park have included three-dimensional figures of the Prince but the latter ride closed in 2012. (Read more about Snow White dark rides at KenNetti's Snow White's Scary Adventures Tribute).
Among the many abandoned story concepts for the original 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs there was an entire subplot in which the Prince had indeed a far more significant role than to pop up in the beginning of the movie and reappear in the ending. In this storyline, underlining an epic romantic adventure, the Prince would have been captured by the Evil Queen and rescued by Snow White's bird friends. Since the storyline would have resulted in much darker movie with some deep psychological studies of human nature, it may have been scrapped to achieve more entertaining and family-friendly movie. Some of these abandoned concepts for Snow White's Prince were ultimately used in Disney's 1959 masterpiece Sleeping Beauty. You can get acquainted to this amazing but shocking abandoned subplot at KenNetti's separate tribute The Fairest ...and the Scariest of Them All which is reachable through the Disney Hunks' Front Page & Index!
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