Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a household name and bedtime story- a tale of true love and caution against blind faith- but the woman behind this irreverent film adaptation was even more impressive. Disney’s model, dancer and character actor for Snow White, Marge Champion, has died at the age of 101. We’re taking a moment to remember her talents and say “thank you” once more for the years of dedication to the craft and character of Disney’s first princess.
Snow White was Disney’s first full-length animated film, premiering February 4th 1938, and introducing the long adored tradition of their famous fairytale retellings. Champion was only eighteen at the time, bringing life to the two-dimensional character with her graceful demeanor and fluid mannerisms for just ten dollars a day. A strong background in dance laid the foundation for these characterizing movements, and “the motions and mannerisms she modeled for Snow White felt inherent to her,” she reported. “a feeling the crew picked up on as it studied her movements for key dance scenes in the film.” And as much of the scenes were, surprisingly, not choreographed, Champion was relied upon to develop the dance sequences within the film.
“They were looking for the feelings that Snow White had when she was dancing with the dwarves. [Laughs] I was told to call them the dwarfs. Anyway, we called them the little men. They really used the motion that I invented when I was dancing with them.”
Her dance history also included time spent training a young Shirley Temple- star of countless thirties classics including Bright Eyes and The Little Princess– in the art of dance. Champion also danced in Disney’s Fantasia and Pinocchio in 1940. Apart from her whimsical Disney roles, she also appears in the 1939 film, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, with Fred Astaire.
Although a wonderful woman and talented artist has died, Marge Champion hasn’t truly left us. She will always be remembered for her effortless flair for dancing, the several films that she took part, and for bringing Disney’s first princess to life on the big screen and in our hearts.