Monday, April 29, 2013

April 29, 1939 - Last Day Before Snow White Closes

It was at the conclusion of this day, 74 years ago, that the Disney brothers would "retire" their multimillion dollar cash cow.
In the spring of 1939, after a record-breaking worldwide run of more than a year, Snow White made headlines once again when the Disney studio pulled it off the market. RKO exchanges were informed that the film would no longer be available for bookings after 29 April. JB Kaufman's The Fairest One of All, p.266.

This Australian newspaper clipping from The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Queensland) dates from April 26, 1939, just days before Snow White's first run would come to a close. The article included press copy about the making of the movie plus an illustration. From the introductory paragraph, it's clear the film had previously screened in Rockhampton but was returning on this date for three final days at the Wintergarden Theatre.

Images via Trove.

At the time, Snow White's viewership was still strong and probably would have continued on for a good while. Walt and Roy knew, though, that the more it remained in the public eye, the less value the motion picture would have in the long run. So they did the unprecedented and stopped things while they were still ahead. Sending films to 'rest a spell' in the Vault is something Disney has done better than any other studio over the years. This may have been what the brothers had in mind back then, but what they probably didn't plan for was a return of the movie the very next year.

It's well-known that in North America, the first stand-alone RKO reissue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs occurred in 1944. Yet as early as 1940, with the less-than-hoped-for box office returns of Pinocchio, the high production expense of Fantasia, the costly studio move to the new Burbank location, and the looming loss of revenue in wartime Europe, the Disney boys found themselves once again in need of a real influx of income.

So it was that The Great Walt Disney Festival of Hits was conceived to bring Snow White out of her brief retirement and back to the big screen for a limited run. It would be the highlight of a reissue package that also featurted four other Disney films--Ferdinand the Bull, The Practical Pig, Donald's Lucky Day, and The Ugly Duckling.

Tune in for tomorrow's Archive entry to see the complete 1940 Festival of Hits pressbook.


  1. The "Festival of Hits" idea sounds more like something that would be done today. I look forward to seeing the press book!

  2. This brings some nostalgia for the pre-video era, when the Disney animated classics were rereleased theatrically every seven years or so. A kid might be primed by a Golden book or soundtrack album, or have ridden a Fantasyland attraction; when the actual film hit theatres it was a special event.

  3. Hi Robert! The good old times when Snow White was reissued in theatres...also in Italy the film has always been a great, great success, always topping the box office!
    All the best and keep this way!