The Snow White story continues…
Well, we definitely know this story. “The fairest of them all” girl with her hair as black as ebony, lips as red as the rose, and skin as white as snow, goes up against a mysterious and beautiful woman with magical powers and cold heart, a nameless (or anonymous?) prince, and seven dwarfs that live in a tiny cottage and work in the nearby mines. What else? A magic mirror, a poisoned apple, a sweet kiss, and a classical ending with the refrain of “and they lived happily ever after.” But what follows this happily ever after? Marriage and eternal love? Another adventure on the road to happiness?
The American animated musical fantasy film Happily Ever After (1990) written by Robby London and Martha Moran, directed by John Howley, tried to answer what happened to Snow White after she met the prince. It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?
Looking glass upon the wall, at my command you will show me all.
The Evil Queen is gone forever, and the kingdom is now at peace. Snow White and the Prince (somebody give him a name!) prepare to get married. The dwarfs are jubilant, the Prince and Snow White are happy. What could be better? But not everything is as simple as it seems. Someone isn’t at all happy about the fortunate resolution of a fairytale conflict. Who is this dissatisfied man? Lord Maliss, the Evil Queen’s brother. (Wow! How many relatives does Queen have in total?). Unfortunately for all involved, he is a terrible and powerful wizard seeking revenge for the death of his sister. Lord Maliss is a powerful antagonist. And without exaggeration, the whole film revolves around his machinations and his powerful, grim figure. This is the undoubted merit of the legendary actor Malcolm McDowell, who gave Maliss his voice. It lends the character a special negative charm.
Lord Maliss in no time takes control of his sister’s castle, transforming the surrounding area into a perilous wasteland. Then he separates Snow White and the Prince. Like his sister, Lord Maliss has special abilities. He can transform into a wyvern (a legendary bipedal dragon) and has a petrified cloak that turns people into stone. To be honest, his wyvern transformation reminds me more of a bat. Just take a look at his appearance: tall and thin with greenish gray skin, long dark hair, sharp teeth, and predatory gaze… Lord Dracula, is it you in your best years? Maybe that’s why the slightest appearance of Maliss gives the film a gothic charm, what undoubtedly distinguishes this animated film from many others.
I’ve never seen such magic as this. Who are you, what do you want!
What’s a cartoon without charismatic supporting characters? There’s hilarity in the presence of the dwarves’ female cousins, the Seven “Dwarfelles”: Muddy, Sunburn, Blossom, Marina, Critterina, Moonbeam, and Thunderella. There’s Mother Nature, who gives the “Dwarfelles” individual powers to assist her, and mysterious Shadow Man, who helps Snow White on the way to the enchanted castle. Lord Maliss’ retinue of a bat and an owl lends a special charm. One of the funniest scenes has Scowl the owl train his companion, a purple bat named Batso, on how to be evil. And let’s not forget the owl minions who in the beginning celebrate their freedom of the Evil Queen by throwing a party for themselves. Poor things. That fun ended when Lord Maliss arrived.
Happily Ever After is gothic fantasy with a well-thought-out plot, interesting characters, a great villain, and wonderful music to delight viewers of all ages. The movie you may want to watch again and again to discover all the mysterious elements and postmodern allusions. Will Snow White and her friends defeat the evil spell and find her Prince? As Mother Nature once said, “Just as love can bring the greatest joy, it can also bring the greatest sorrow. But then, it is love that makes people the most special of all my creatures”. The end. Or is it… Happily Ever After?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianna Kaplun was born in Moscow. She is candidate of philological sciences specializing in the first Russian drama and theatre of XVIIth century. She’s also a film and TV critic by calling. You can find her essays on her Lumiere page and on her blog.