Over the years, Disneyland has had significant success with live-action stage plays in the Fantasyland Theater. Most notably, 1991's Beauty and the Beast (which eventually made the jump to Broadway), 1995's roller-skating version of Pocahontas, and, of course, 1990's musical Dick Tracy: License to Thrill. In 2004, Disneyland unveiled another in what it hoped would be a long series of successes: a brand-new, big-budget production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In order to make the production stand out, a virtual army of New York theater personnel was called in to script, storyboard, stage, and [insert words for creating effects and building sets that begin with the letter "s" here] a live version of Snow White. The biggest obstacle they had to overcome was that the audience would be familiar with the story. Make that very, very familiar. Perhaps even very, very, very familiar. The show needed to be different enough from the famous feature cartoon to catch attention, but similar enough to satisfy diehard fans. And, of course, it had to include modern artistic elements so that its creators could show off, leave their distinctive mark, and have something to brag about to their friends.
Several ideas were considered and rejected, including:
For one reason or another, none of these panned out (for example, Lilly Tomlin was unwilling to commit to three to five shows every day for four years, even at scale + $2). So instead, the story and characters were subtly altered, each injected with modernist artistic sensibilities to add deeper meaning to the overall performance.
Snow White herself is very much like the character in the film, the largest difference being that she is portrayed as a businesswoman. This makes her appear more intelligent (and therefore appeal to women) and gives her a chance to show off her legs (and therefore appeal to everyone else). Her voice is deep and breathy, and when she sings her theme song, "Some Day My Prince Will Come," she somehow manages to make it seem like a threat.
The Wicked Queen has a magic Webcam that can show her who the most beautiful woman in the world is. All she needs to do is type the magic words, "Webcam, Webcam, on the computer. Am I the hottest, or is there one cuter?" and she receives an e-mail with the reply. Disney has cleverly hooked this Webcam to an actual Internet site, so visitors to Disney's Web site can actually watch the new stage play from a unique vantage point.
When the Queen receives an e-mail that says her own daughter is better looking than she is, she becomes enraged. She summons the Pantomime Huntsman and orders him to take Snow White into the forest, kill her, cut out her chakra points to destroy her chi, and place them in a gorgeous souvenir box (for sale in the Disneyana shop for $100).
The Pantomime Huntsman takes Snow White into the forest, but after he is blown about by the wind and trapped momentarily behind a wall of glass (he pulls himself out of the trap with a rope), he finds he doesn't have the heart to vivisect the beautiful girl and signals that she should run off into the woods.
Snow White, glad that she is wearing flats, runs through the frightening trees until she finds a little cottage. In the cottage live seven small men: Sneezles, Slumbrin', Grumps, Jollies, Shybot, The Doctor, and the muscular Dope. They're a bunch of cool cats who moved into the forest because they had their own rhythm to walk by and The Man was getting them down. They can see that Snow White is in trouble, and invite "Snow" to stay with them (and, in an obscure, off-color joke cut out of the final production, promise to "teach her how to count to 147").
Dope is the most "thuggish" of the Dwarfs. He never talks, but he does rap, and his theme song was anticipated to be an enormous success (more than a million CDs were printed before the show's opening to meet expected demand). It begins:
One day, while the Dwarfs are out "working," the Evil Queen comes by in a disguise that she's purchased at a drugstore on the previous Halloween. She offers Snow White an iPod with a poisonous touchpad.
From there, the story's pretty much by a numbers (with the exception of an interpretive dance by cloth-draped Dwarfs to represent the changing season). The Prince arrives, just as a special-effects-intensive rainstorm ends, humming "Purple Rain." He kisses Snow White, she wakes up, and agrees to marry him if the Dwarfs can move into the castle.
The show closes with a final rap from Dope and three curtain calls (regardless of actual applause).
The final touch in the process of reworking this classic tale, renaming the production Snow 7, was a masterstroke. Not only did it give the production a sense of urgency and better position it to appeal to the younger generation, it also greatly reduce the amount of space the title took up on advertising signage.
At the time of this writing, Snow 7 has already had more than 100 performances, many of them to generally satisfied audiences.
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