In our previous post on our replica of Mary Poppins’ Parrot Umbrella, we discussed our desire to make quality replica props without breaking the bank. This week I would like to go a little deeper into how that can be done by looking at our Snow White replicas.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out in 1937. It was the first feature length color animated movie. In a world saturated by cartoons of varying levels of quality and assorted styles, it is hard to appreciate the wonder this film was, and still is. The fact that I can mention a movie almost one hundred years old, and you know it, is a marvel. The 1930’s was the era of the Depression; stars like the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn, and Shirley Temple were the rage. Movies were swashbuckling, fantastical affairs, and often featured classic movie monsters, but at their core were about escaping the harsh economic realities as we pulled ourselves out of the Great Depression, and crept ever closer to Second World War. To help better put this in context, the production on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs started in 1934. That is six years after the first cartoon with sound, Steamboat Willie; four years before Ub Iwerk’s Fiddlesticks, the first color cartoon with sound; and two years after Flowers and Trees, the first cartoon with three strip Technicolor. Oh, and those films? Those films were shorts running about eight minutes in length on average. Here comes Walt Disney with a crazy idea to make a full length feature animated film in three strip technicolor with original songs and it would use the new multiplane camera to give the film’s animation layers and depth of field that felt, for the day in age, very 3D. It is impossible to convey what Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs must have been like to see in 1937. We can watch it now, we can love if for its role in history, and maybe somewhat appreciate its historic value. But eighty years ago, this must have just seemed like an impossible task to start and an astonishing feat to behold. All of the above is why I love the movie, and although she is not as modern and slick as the current princesses she is still the first and an amazing accomplishment.
Snow White merchandise can still be found everywhere. Which is crazy. There is not a lot of Errol Flynn or Groucho Marx stuff flying off the shelves. But, you can find Snow White dolls, dresses, shirts, figurines, stuffed animals and more. You can also occasionally find high end replicas like the Evil Queens Heart Box pictured above that was limited to 2,500 pieces. Pieces like this are long gone and can now retail on auction sites for anywhere from $500 to into the thousands.
We made the box above for $15, and got all the materials from local hobby stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. Before I start any project like this, I familiarize myself with the piece. This could involve watching the film, making some rough sketches, drawing in MS Paint. Then I put some measurements and images on my phone. This leads to hefty collection of ideas on my phone. I am a browser. I love to walk around antique malls, flea markets, salvage yards, hobby stores, and hardware stores just looking for ideas, inspirations, and the right similar parts. What lead me to making this prop replica was when I found the box below at Michael’s for couple of dollars. I saw it and immediately thought of the heart box. Once I had the box it was not too far down the same aisle I found a wooden frame with a routed edge. This frame fit neatly on top of the lid of the box and covered up the glass. I realized the side glass sections could be modified to be the turquoise parts of the box. This was achieved in MS Paint, and printed on a color laser jet printer. Rather than use glue and risk it soaking in, I simply cut a large block of Styrofoam that holds all the inside color inserts in place.
Once the piece was completed I masked off the glass areas and put a dozen coats of burgundy gloss paint on it. I would sometimes sand between coats. I wanted to fill in the wood grain and also give it that smooth candy-coated look. I thought about using a cherry stain and varnish on the box, but opted for paint. The gold heart was a brass locket I found the same day at the same hobby store, and the sword was from an old action figure that I already had. I glued them and gave them a few coats of gold paint and voila! The finished heart box.
Until next time…
The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.