Anatomy Of An Ad Campaign: Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Having grown tired of the limitations a seven-minute cartoon placed on his artistry, Walt Disney couldn't wait to tackle long-form animation. With the success of The Three Little Pigs, Disney earmarked $250,000, ten times the cost of an average Silly Symphony, to create a feature-length cartoon.
This was a frightfully bold move for Disney. Exhibitors were not willing to fork over big bucks for the privilege of showing a cartoon.Even though The Three Little Pigs took in an astronomical $60,000, the major studios looked upon cartoons as little more than an added expenditure to get people to attend their features.
Disney, yet to venture into live-action filmmaking, had nothing to peddle but animated shorts. In his indispensable book Hollywood Cartoons, author Michael Barrier quotes Disney's take on how to make money at the box office: Snow White is "our only solution to build our prestige through quality to the point where public demand forced the exhibitor to pay more for our product."
It's far from the first film to do promotional tie-ins (Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse, and several other cartoon superstars were there first), but were it not for merchandising through the sale of toys, games, records, mens' hats, washing machines, cocoanut-filled "butter cups," fur storage, florists, and the like, chances are Snow White may never have turned a profit.
The Reading Eagle. February 6, 1938.
The Montreal Gazette. February 25, 1938.
The Vancouver Sun. March 10, 1938.
The Vancouver Sun. March 11, 1938.
The Calgary Daily Herald. March 25, 1938.
The following ads are taken from a two-page spread in the March 25, 1938 edition of The Calgary Daily Herald.
The following ads are taken from a full-page spread in the March 21, 1938 edition of The Leader-Post.
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