Disney first revealed its intentions to create a live-action version of the 1937 classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in October 2016.
The upcoming film has been the subject of ongoing debate, sparking fresh controversies on a near-weekly basis leading up to its scheduled premiere in March.
The noise surrounding ‘Snow White’ has reached insane levels, with speculations so intense that they’ve even included rumors about the film’s outright cancellation.
So, is there any truth to claims that ‘Snow White’ has been canceled? Keep reading to get the full scoop.
Is ‘Snow White’ Canceled?
Contrary to online rumors, Disney has not canceled Snow White; the live-action film is still slated for a March 2024 release. Nonetheless, it is anticipated that the release date may be pushed back.
With filming still incomplete and March rapidly approaching, coupled with no indications that the ongoing strikes will conclude soon, it appears increasingly unlikely that Snow White will maintain its originally planned March release date.
Additionally, Disney finds itself at the center of a cultural war over this film, and will likely require extra time to manage public relations, address backlash, and adjust marketing strategies.
Will Disney Cancel ‘Snow White’?
There is absolutely no evidence to indicate that Disney intends to cancel Snow White. Despite the divisive opinions it has generated, Disney will not scrap a project in which they’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars solely because of social media backlash.
Although it’s not entirely uncommon for studios, including Disney, to cancel projects deep into production or even after completion for tax write-off purposes—as was the case with Warner’s Batgirl— Disney will not take a similar approach with Snow White.
That said, Snow White is facing an uphill battle; even if the film turns out to be a commercial success, there will still be a segment of the audience that takes issue with the movie.
However, it’s worth noting that many of these critics were probably never the target audience and unlikely to watch the movie to begin with. Interestingly, the extensive—even if negative—discussion surrounding the film could actually pique curiosity and drive box office numbers, as people may want to see what all the controversy is about.
The real concern for Disney would be if NO ONE were talking about the film. Clearly, that is not the case here.
Contrary to popular belief, Disney’s series of live-action remakes and adaptations have been highly successful. The ten films released since 2010 have collectively grossed over $7 billion globally. If you extend the timeframe back to 1994, the total gross surpasses $10 billion.
While Snow White undoubtedly contains elements that required updating—much like The Little Mermaid—Disney’s strategy could have been more tactful to avoid exacerbating controversies.
Why is Snow White Controversial?
The reimagining of Snow White has stirred significant controversy.
Casting of Snow White
The choice to cast Latina actress Rachel Zegler as Snow White back in June 2021 generated a wave of controversy, given that the original character is described as having skin “as white as snow.”
However, it’s worth noting that ethnicity is not a central element of the story, unlike in some more contemporary adaptations or retellings.
Zegler noted that the casting announcement trended on Twitter for several days, reflecting the heated public reaction to her landing the role.
Never in a million years did I imagine that this would be a possibility for me. You don’t normally see Snow Whites that are of Latin descent. Even though Snow White is really a big deal in Spanish-speaking countries. Blanca Nieves is a huge icon whether you’re talking about the Disney cartoon or just different iterations and the Grimm fairy tale and all the stories that come with it. But you don’t particularly see people who look like me or are me playing roles like that. When it was announced, it was a huge thing that was trending on Twitter for days, because all of the people were angry. We need to love them in the right direction. At the end of the day, I have a job to do that I am really excited to do. I get to be a Latina princess.— Rachel Zegler
Much of the backlash appears to come from individuals making racist comments, who argue that the film will be “woke” simply because Rachel Zegler is Latina.
Zegler’s criticism of 1937 film
Rachel Zegler faced criticism for her comments critiquing the original Snow White film, the character of the Prince, and Snow White herself. In reaction to her statements, some people chastised her for attempting to make Snow White “more feminist,” while others accused her of misrepresenting feminism—specifically, by promoting the “girlboss” archetype or demeaning women who prefer traditional feminine roles without aspirations for power or leadership.
Here’s what Zegler said:
“People are making these jokes about ours being the PC Snow White, where it’s like, yeah, it is—because it needed that. It’s an 85-year-old cartoon, and our version is a refreshing story about a young woman who has a function beyond “Someday My Prince Will Come”.
I mean, you know, 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! Weird. We didn’t do that this time… We have a different approach to what I’m sure a lot of people will assume is a love story just because we cast a guy in the movie, Andrew Burnap, great dude. It’s one of those things that I think everyone’s going to have their assumptions about what it’s going to be, but it’s really not about the love story at all, which is really, really wonderful.”
Some of the comments directed towards Zegler have been frankly disgusting, abusive and just a reason to spread hate and racism.
On the flip side, Zegler garnered support from those who deemed the criticism as excessive and a manifestation of cancel culture.
Rachel Zegler shouldn’t be facing such intense scrutiny for stating that the original Snow White wasn’t ahead of its time (which is accurate), that it wasn’t a childhood favorite of hers (which is simply her personal opinion), and that the remake aims to incorporate more feminist elements (a sentiment echoed by actresses portraying other live-action princesses).
The delayed reaction to the comments made in 2022, surfacing only a year later, suggests that critics were actively searching for a reason to dislike the film. This time lag indicates that the controversy may be less about genuine reasons and more about seizing an opportunity to criticize the movie.
Reimagining of Seven Dwarfs
In January 2022, actor Peter Dinklage, who has a form of dwarfism and has portrayed dwarfish characters in his career, spoke about the upcoming live-action Snow White remake during an interview on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.
He criticized the film as a “backward story,” adding another layer to the ongoing discourse surrounding the adaptation.
He said the following:
Literally no offense to anyone, but I was a little taken aback when they were very proud to cast a Latina actress as Snow White, but you are still telling the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Take a step back and look at what you are doing there. It makes no sense to me… You are progressive in one way, but then you are still making that backwards story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together, what are you doing, man? Have I done nothing to advance the cause from my soap box? I guess I am not loud enough. I don’t know which studio that is, but they were so proud of it. All love and respect to the actress and all the people who thought they were doing the right thing. But I am just like, what are you doing?
In reaction to Peter Dinklage’s remarks, Disney released a statement saying, “To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.”
Meanwhile, several other actors with dwarfism took issue with Dinklage’s comments, feeling that he was inappropriately speaking for the community as a whole and potentially jeopardizing their opportunities for roles.
In July 2023, leaked footage revealed a reimagined Seven Dwarfs for the Snow White remake. The new ensemble includes just one actor with dwarfism, six ethnically diverse actors, and a gender mix with one female among the traditionally all-male group. This is a departure from their original portrayal as supernatural beings in German folklore.
The reimagining of the Seven Dwarfs faced backlash for being seen as overly “politically correct” and for potentially limiting roles for actors with dwarfism. Jason “Wee Man” Acuña criticized the casting, saying, “You’re replacing jobs that could have gone to little people. Why hire ‘Snow White and the seven average people’?”
There’s a valid argument that the reimagined casting could indeed take away acting roles from those with dwarfism. Yet, Disney finds itself in a no-win situation.
Much of the online outrage, however, seems less focused on this genuine concern and more aimed at labeling the movie as “woke,” using it as another reason to fuel animosity and racism towards the film.
Original Snow White Directors Sons Speaks Out
David Hand, the 91-year-old son of the original Snow White director who shares his name, worked with The Walt Disney Company in the 1990s as a designer. In an interview with The Telegraph discussing the new adaptation, he expressed his concerns:
I’m afraid of what they’re going to do with the early films… their thoughts are just so radical now. They change the stories, they change the thought processes of the characters, they just aren’t the original stories anymore. They’re making up new woke things and I’m just not into any of that. I find it quite frankly a bit insulting that 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.
The original Snow White undeniably enforces antiquated gender and dwarfism stereotypes. However, it also presents a prime opportunity for reassessment and modernization. If Disney doesn’t aim to adapt, evolve, and reflect contemporary values, then what is the purpose of creating live-action remakes? There’s no point in retelling the same tales unless we intend to make them meaningful and relevant for present-day audiences.