Disney’s live-action remake of 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs doesn’t come out until next year, but a culture war surrounding the film — titled Snow White — is already at full boil.
First, conservative critics took issue with casting of Latina star Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) as a character described in the original Brothers Grimm story as having “skin as white as snow,” and the production changing the formerly titular seven dwarfs into a diverse collection of magical creatures of varying sizes and genders.
Then 22-year-old Zegler caused a stir when a flurry of comments from late last year recently resurfaced that suggested she didn’t like the original film and that the new movie would take a very different approach to the iconic character.
“She’s not going to be dreaming about true love,” Zegler told Variety in September. “She’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave, and true.” She previously told Vanity Fair, “People are making these jokes about ours being the PC Snow White, where it’s like, yeah, it is — because it needed that.” She told EW the original is “extremely dated when it comes to the ideas of women being in roles of power and what a woman is fit for in the world.” And told Extra TV: “The original cartoon came out in 1937, and very evidently so. There’s a big focus on her love story with a guy who literally stalks her. Weird. So we didn’t do that this time.”
Now The Telegraph has an interview with David Hand, who worked as a designer for Disney in the 1990s and whose father (also named David Hand) was one of the directors of the original film. Hand doesn’t directly criticize Zegler, but unloads pretty heavily on the film (which obviously has not yet been seen by anyone outside the studio, even in trailer form).
“It’s a whole different concept and I just totally disagree with it, and I know my dad and Walt would also very much disagree with it,” Hand said. He called it a “disgrace” that Disney is “trying to do something new with something that was such a great success earlier. … Their thoughts are just so radical now. They change the stories, they change the thought process of the characters, … they’re making up new woke things and I’m just not into any of that. I find it quite frankly a bit insulting [what] they may have done with some of these classic films. … There’s no respect for what Disney did and what my dad did. … I think Walt and he would be turning in their graves.”
Hand is 91 years old, though the reimagining of the film has received some backlash from some young critics, as well. A TikToker reportedly racked up nearly 10 million views arguing, “Criticizing Disney princesses is not feminist. Not every woman wants to be a leader. Not every woman wants or craves power and that’s OK. It’s not anti-feminist to want to fall in love, to want to get married, to want to stay home — none of these things make you less valuable.”
Zegler has not directly responded to the criticism of her resurfaced comments, but last week tweeted, “I hope the world becomes kinder,” and asked followers to “treat each other with patience and empathy. remember that you are loved unconditionally, no matter your mistakes, no matter your misunderstandings. you deserve it. you deserve love. you deserve to live without fear.”
Disney has not responded to the controversy and did not have a comment about this latest turn. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is considered a particularly hallowed title in the Disney canon, as it was the first-ever feature-length animated movie and its make-or-break success allowed the company to move forward with more films. (Read The Hollywood Reporter’s original 1937 review, which called the film “a masterpiece of entertainment.”)
Snow White has completed filming and is slated to open March 22, 2024. Other live-action remakes from the company include 2016’s The Jungle Book, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast and 2023’s The Little Mermaid. Snow White also stars Gal Gadot as the Evil Queen, Ansu Kabia as the Huntsman and Martin Klebba as Grumpy.