A live-action version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been in development since at least 2016, but production didn’t kick off in earnest until 2021. In June of that year, Deadline reported that Rachel Zegler had landed the role of the titular princess, who made her Disney debut in 1937. (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Disney’s first full-length animated film.)
“People are making these jokes about ours being the PC Snow White, where it’s like, yeah, it is — because it needed that,” Zegler, who is of Colombian and Polish descent, told Vanity Fair in October 2022. “It’s an 85-year-old cartoon, and our version is a refreshing story about a young woman who has a function beyond ‘Someday My Prince Will Come.’”
Almost as soon as her casting was announced, however, Zegler had to fend off racist trolls who were upset about a Latina woman landing the role of Snow White. Other critics, meanwhile, were skeptical about how the film would handle the titular dwarves.
“It makes no sense to me,” Peter Dinklage, who has a form of dwarfism known as achondroplasia, said during a January 2022 interview on Marc Maron‘s “WTF” podcast. “You’re progressive in one way and you’re still making that f–king backward story about seven dwarves living in a cave together. What the f–k are you doing, man?”
Set photos have since started to leak online, and the chatter has only continued. Keep scrolling for a full breakdown of the controversy surrounding Snow White:
Rachel Zegler’s Casting
Since Zegler was confirmed as the new Snow White in 2021, racist trolls have been complaining that the new movie will be “woke” because Zegler is Latina. (Their complaints are similar to those of social media users who were unhappy about Halle Bailey playing Ariel in the live-action version of The Little Mermaid.)
Despite internet complaints about her casting, Zegler is proud to play the iconic princess, who originated in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. “Never in a million years did I imagine that this would be a possibility for me,” Zegler explained during a January 2022 interview with Variety. “You don’t normally see Snow Whites that are of Latin descent. Even though Snow White is really a big deal in Spanish-speaking countries. Blanca Nieves is a huge icon whether you’re talking about the Disney cartoon or just different iterations and the Grimm fairy tale and all the stories that come with it. But you don’t particularly see people who look like me or are me playing roles like that.”
When her participation in the movie became a trending topic again in July 2023, Zegler asked fans not to alert her to trolls complaining about her role in the film. “Extremely appreciative of the love I feel from those defending me online, but please don’t tag me in the nonsensical discourse about my casting,” she tweeted alongside several throwback photos of her younger self dressed in princess costumes. “I really, truly do not want to see it. so I leave you w these photos! I hope every child knows they can be a princess no matter what.”
Bailey, meanwhile, chimed in with a message of support, tweeting: “We love you so much, truly the perfect princess.”
The Dwarves — or Lack Thereof
Dinklage was one of the first public figures to speak out about the new Snow White, saying in January 2022 that he was “a little taken aback” by the production’s existence. “Literally no offense to anything, but I was sort of taken aback. They were very proud to cast a Latina actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” he told Maron. “Have I done nothing to advance the cause from my soapbox? I guess I’m not loud enough.”
In response, Disney said that the new movie’s filmmakers planned to take the dwarfs in a different direction. “To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community,” a rep for the company said in a statement at the time. “We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period.”
The Initial Set Photos
In July 2023, photos purporting to show Zegler and the new “dwarves” appeared online, but social media users were quick to note that some of the actors didn’t seem to have dwarfism. Some racist and sexist commenters also complained about the fact that the group included both Black actors and women. A Disney rep initially told The Daily Beast that “the photos are fake and not from our production” but later said the snaps were from the real set but not “official.” The Daily Mail, meanwhile, clarified that Zegler was not pictured in the photographs.
One of the OG Filmmakers’ Sons Speaks Out
“I mean, it’s a whole different concept, and I just totally disagree with it, and I know my dad and Walt [Disney] would also very much disagree with it,” he said, adding that many younger people have “never seen the original” and “don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Hand, whose father died at age 86 in 1986, also slammed Disney for adopting a “radical” approach to updating its older films.
“They change the stories, they change the thought processes of the characters, they just aren’t the original stories anymore. They’re making up new woke things and I’m just not into any of that,” he said. “I find it, quite frankly, a bit insulting [what they] have done with some of these classic films. There’s no respect for what Disney did and what my dad did. … I think Walt and he would be turning in their graves.”