MARGE CHAMPION, the original live action reference model for Snow White, passed away on October 21st, 2020, at the age of 101. She is seen here, enacting a sequence from the film as inspiration for the Walt Disney Studios artists and animators.
MARGE CHAMPION 🌹 SEPTEMBER 2, 1919 - OCTOBER 21, 2020
The production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs signaled the beginning of a new art-form that called for believability, as had never been seen before. After viewing the “rubber-hose animation” in The Goddess of Spring, Walt Disney sought a live action reference model for the titular character in his upcoming film. The result was Marge Champion.
“They used me just as a guide for their action and because, none of them had ever been a young girl and knew how a dress would do this, or that, or the other thing. Most of the animators took the characters, even the animals and birds, out of themselves. But they couldn’t take a young girl out of themselves.”
The art directors showed Walt various versions of their Snow White interpretations, but the proportions were dubbed too cartoonish. One animator even insisted on Marge wearing a football helmet during recording to maintain the oversized head-to-body proportions of a regular cartoon girl at the time. Others begged Walt to let them “make Snow White more beautiful” by taking in her waist and adding to her curves. Walt resisted the attempts to glamourize, insisting on maintaining the character’s innocence and sympathetic personality as tantamount to her sex-appeal and physical beauty. To this day, Snow White’s body remains among the most realistically depicted and animated in the Disney canon.
According to Champion, the motions and mannerisms she modeled for Snow White felt inherent to her — a feeling the crew picked up on as it studied her movements for key dance scenes in the film. “There was no choreography: I was making it up as we went along and showing them how to dance,” she said. “They were looking for the feelings that Snow White had when she was dancing with the dwarves. I was told to call them the dwarfs. Anyway, we called them the little men. They really used the motion that I invented when I was dancing with them.”