Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Seven Dwarfs Mystery Masks

A few years ago, this photograph was listed on ebay. The seller, gallerybfa, wrote the following description about it:
Anonymous (circa 1938 ?) snapshot of six men in lab coats standing outside a building and displaying masks depicting six of the seven dwarfs from the Disney film. This image was found in a photo album in Pennsylvania which included several snapshots from identified California locations, but none appeared to be directly related to this picture or to Disney. The masks photo is unidentified and without notation, but I suspect these men may have worked for Disney in California and were making the masks for actors after the film was released. Regardless, its a wonderful, impromptu and candid photo of the people behind the scenes supporting Disney productions. Exterior dimensions are about 5" x 7".

So I set about trying to pinpoint just what these masks might have been used for. Unfortunately, the answer has eluded me. Although similar, they are not the masks employed by the dwarfs at the 1937 Cathay Circle world premiere.

In the 1938 Snow White promotional materials sent out to French cinema owners, a set of dwarf masks are shown. These were meant as decoration for movie theatres but could also be worm by "sandwich men" working behind the counter. They are not, however, the ones in our mystery photo.

Close but no cigar. Another set of life-size masks that probably date from 1938. They came from a theatrical touring group that performed live stage shows of films from 1937. The masks are lightweight but hard, with cut-outs for eyes, nose, mouth. Designed for an adult-size head. Purchased in 1985 from a London antique shoppe near Saddler's Wells.

Stage show masks via ellebelle12345.

Clearly, the gigantic dwarf heads created in the 1950s for the Snow White Ice Capades do not fit the bill. These look somewhat like the precursors to the cast member dwarfs of early Disneyland.

A mask photo is included in the 1960s program guide for Tom Arnold's Snow White on Ice in London. These too are not our mystery masks, yet they do bare some resemblance.

Got any clues as to the origin of our mystery masks? Let us know and we'll add your info to this post.

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