Today in Disney History, 1939: Walt Disney Receives Honorary Oscar for Snow White

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Disney Movies

On this date in 1939, Walt Disney received an honorary Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, his first full-length feature film.

When you think of classic Disney animated films, chances are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs makes your list. Based on the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, this movie captured the attention of viewers worldwide.

Snow White Oscar Recognition

It is crazy that it’s been nearly 90 years since its release in 1937. The movie was historic for several reasons, including that it was the first hand-drawn cel animation feature film. It cost $1.5 million to make, and despite skeptical attitudes by the film industry, Snow White was a smashing success. Its popularity led to multiple theatrical re-releases, and today the film still holds the record for highest-grossing animation at the U.S. box office adjusted for inflation. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Musical Score in 1938. The following year, on February 23, 1939, Walt Disney received an honorary Oscar for Snow White by another film icon, Shirley Temple.

What was especially unique about this honorary award? Disney’s award not only included a normal-sized Oscar, but also seven mini versions as well! Other recognitions that Snow White have received include being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and being selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry. Also, the American Film Institute included the movie as one of the 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.

The Story of Snow White

The movie follows the story of Snow White, a princess who lives with her evil stepmother, the Queen. Not only is the Queen wicked, but she is obsessed with being more beautiful than Snow White. In fact, she asks her Magic Mirror repeatedly who the fairest one of all is. 

However, the Mirror eventually changes its answer to Snow White, which angers the Queen and orders her to be killed by the Huntsman. He cannot complete the act and urges Snow White to flee into the woods for her safety. She comes across the home of the seven dwarfs: Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, and Sneezy. She befriends them and moves into their home.

The evil Queen learns that the Huntsman tricked her and that Snow White is still alive. She disguises herself as an old hag and takes a poisoned apple to Snow White, which puts her in a state of sleeping death. The dwarfs and animals chase the Queen, eventually leading to her death. They cannot awaken Snow White, so they place her in a glass coffin. The prince, who Snow White fell in love with prior to her fleeing into the woods, visits her coffin. By kissing her, the spell of the poisoned apple is undone, and Snow White can wake back up.

Snow White at the Disney Parks

Snow White also is featured in Disney theme parks all around the world. The dark ride Snow White’s Enchanted Wish (formerly known as Snow White’s Scary Adventures) is located at Disneyland in California, Disneyland Paris (Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains), and Tokyo Disneyland (Snow White’s Adventures).

Magic Kingdom

At Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was replaced with the Princess Fairytale Hall where guests can meet a variety of Disney princesses. But fans of the Snow White-themed ride weren’t left disappointed.

As part of the expansion of Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom received one of the most popular rides in the park: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This family-friendly roller coaster is a perfect step in between beginner coasters like The Barnstormer and larger ones like Big Thunder Mountain or Expedition Everest. It’s a fun combination of a smooth coaster with a slower dark ride portion as you view the dwarfs working and singing in the mine. What is my personal opinion of this ride? It’s fun for sure, but definitely not worth the 3-hour wait times that I sometimes see. It’s a good one to rope drop if you don’t want to pay for an Individual Lightning Lane.

So if you haven’t yet checked out the historic award-winning animated film or it’s been a while since you last saw it, be sure to give this box-office record-holding movie a watch during your next binge of Disney+.

Posts by David Lee

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David is a corporate operations leader by day and a travel writer by night. He is a lifelong Disney fan and a self-proclaimed Dole Whip enthusiast. There's a good chance you'll find him planning the next trip to take his family on, whether it's to Disney World, a National Park, or some remote island halfway across the world. You can follow his other passion (Disney World and travel photography) on Instagram at @smallworlddavid.
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Authored by
David Lee

David is a corporate operations leader by day and a travel writer by night. He is a lifelong Disney fan and a self-proclaimed Dole Whip enthusiast. There's a good chance you'll find him planning the next trip to take his family on, whether it's to Disney World, a National Park, or some remote island halfway across the world. You can follow his other passion (Disney World and travel photography) on Instagram at @smallworlddavid.
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