Review: Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs

There are a ton of cultural discrepancies involved in the production and distribution of the recent "Snow White" parody movieRed Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, and I mean a ton. It was produced by a Korean animation studio called Locus Animation. Despite having been around for roughly a decade according to their website, they have never produced an animated movie before this one. Even though the main characters look vaguely Korean and one uses ofuda talismans as an attack, the movie has a full cast of American voice actors. You may have heard of Red Shoes from the controversy it caused at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, where numerous people complained about a billboard for the movie featuring a skinny and fat version of Snow White with the tag line "What if Snow White was no longer beautiful and the 7 Dwarfs not so short?" This billboard sparked anger from the western world about the princess body image issue over to the implication that being skinny is equivalent to being beautiful, a belief that is far more prevalent in eastern culture than it is in the west. The irony is that no one would have even known this movie existed if it didn't spark such a controversy. Smaller studios often have problems with their distribution budget. Like CharmingRed Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs never saw an American theatrical release, and it's a real shame because the movie is actually pretty decent.

The initial teasers for Red Shoes were incredibly offensive, such as a scene portraying the dwarfs spying on Snow White as she took off her dress and gasping in horror when she removed her shoes to reveal her plus-sized figure and another in which they brutalized her unconscious body in an attempt to remove the shoes. These scandalous ads got shut down after its leading actress, Chloe Grace Moretzcomplained to the marketing team. The finished product was nowhere near as offensive as these teasers made it look. If nothing else, the artwork is gorgeous even if in some ways, it looks like every other CGI movie we've seen for the past decade. The animation supervisor is Jin Kim, who used to work for Disney and got hired by Locus after he moved back to Korea. I chose the Korean poster to headline my blog post instead of the American one because it shows off some of the beautiful background art and expressive characters in a way that the snarky minimalist American version does not. It also doesn't hurt that Merlin is the first Asian prince I've seen in a fairy tale setting since Disney's 1997 version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Chloe Grace Moretz acted her heart out as this plus-sized version of Snow White, and you can really tell by her genuine down-to-earth performance. This isn't the first time Snow White has been portrayed as a plus-sized princess. Credit for that goes to Camryn Manheim in the 2000 NBC miniseries, The 10th Kingdom. It is, however, the first time I've seen a plus-sized princess in animation, so it gets credit for that despite the fact Snow White is skinny and hot for the majority of the time we see her on-screen.

Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs is a twist on the classic "Snow White" fairy tale. In this version, Snow steals two poison apples from her evil stepmother in an attempt to rescue her father. Before she touches them, the apples turn into a pair of cute red pumps that make Snow White a taller, skinnier, and hotter version of herself. The "Red Shoes" version of Snow White has bigger eyes, longer eyelashes, shimmery red lips, eye shadow. What impressed me about the movie is that unlike the initial promos, Snow White didn't particularly care about being skinny nor did she say anything to imply that she didn't think she was beautiful before. Her tastes in men are also unconventional. She doesn't particularly care about finding a prince and says that the dashing princes of the Fearless Seven aren't "her type." Snow finds her stepmother's shoes by chance in an attempt to rescue her father. After she sees her new look in the mirror and realizes that the seven dwarfs she encounters are willing to help her find her father because of her appearance, she decides to keep the shoes for a little longer than she was planning.

Red Shoes billboard featuring a skinny and fat version of Snow White that reads "What if Snow White was no longer beautiful and the 7 dwarfs not so short?"

The dwarfs in this movie are cursed too. They start out as the Fearless Seven, warrior princes who make it their mission to rescue princesses. When they rescue a faery princess and decide to attack her because she has green skin, she curses them to look like little green dwarfs whenever another person lays eyes on them. That last part is important because it allows us to see the main love interest, Merlin, in his handsome prince form with Snow White every time she looks away, allowing for a number of fantasy sequences and constantly reminding us that he isn't really a chubby green dwarf. The opening scenes of this movie have a lot of emphasis on how men judge women based on their looks but not vice versa. The Fearless Seven assume the princess they rescued is a witch because she looks like a witch, and Snow White's father assumes Regina isn't because she doesn't look like one. Regina uses the shoes to take advantage of this even though she doesn't seem to care what the men in her life look like. Likewise, Snow White prefers the Fearless Seven's humble dwarf visages to their conventionally handsome human forms while they only help her for the promise of a kiss from a beautiful woman to break their spell. While this could be a social commentary that men are superficial, I think it's more of an insult to men's intelligence, implying that they are easily susceptible to traps.

Of course, Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs is far from perfect. The movie is hilariously lazy with its character names. It takes place on Fairytale Island, not a new enchanted kingdom like Corona or Arendelle. The Fearless Seven are named after other fabled heroes, such as Merlin, Arthur, and Jack. The Evil Queen's name, Regina, comes straight out of Once Upon a Time. When Snow White doesn't want to reveal her true identity while she has the magic shoes on, she settles for the name "Red Shoes," and nobody questions the fact that it's obviously a fake name. There's also a rival prince that nobody cares about named Prince Average, who tries to court princesses straight out of other copyrighted movies, including Ariel and Leia. Another big flaw with the movie was its musical sequences. The characters don't sing, but there is the occasional pop song montage sequence that brings the entire story to a halt. The songs in this movie felt every bit as awkward and out of place as they were in Charming. Finally, there's the most obvious factor, which is that this is a story we have all seen many times before. It did feel like I watch watching Shrek sometimes, but I enjoyed Shrek, so that's not necessarily a bad thing for me.

Overall, Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs is an enjoyable movie with an obvious message that's not nearly as heavy-handed as the advertising makes it look. If they had done a better job with their marketing, perhaps it could have seen a western release, allowing plus-sized princesses everywhere to have a character they could look up to. As it stands now, it will probably fall into obscurity due solely to the fact that it is an animated movie not produced by Disney. I feel a little sorry for Chloe Grace Moretz, who keeps losing opportunities to become a well-known princess actress. Her Little Mermaid project with Universal appears to be canceled thanks to Disney overshadowing it with their own. I wish more people could hear her adorkable performance in Red Shoes that was unlike any other animated princess I've ever heard. I think that if Locus didn't try so hard to make this movie an obvious Disney knock-off and used an actual Korean voice cast, it could have become more of a cult classic than the cultural mess that it turned into.

Update: I appreciate all of the attention I have received from this post and would like to let my readers know that this movie is available on Amazon Prime for purchase or rent at this link. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Sugar said…
I saw this movie recently and I quite liked it, I'm not that picky about the points you mentioned my only complaint is that Merlin required almost the entire movie to consider Snow White as beautiful as herself and not "red shoes" just the poor guy really needed to almost die for I to believe that he loved her and considered her beautiful in the end.
Without a doubt the marketing was bad but sometimes I feel that the West does not understand that they are not the only ones in the world... in Korea, Japan and China "love yourself as you are" is not yet a trend there you must be white, thin and traditionally beautiful Or you are ugly.
For girls in those countries, an animated movie where Snow White is plus size and everyone considers her beautiful would be... too ideal and fanciful because it doesn't resemble their reality, instead a movie where that theme is touched on and in the end it is shown everyone's wrong view is better.
I think the West needs to learn to see cultural differences.
Lisa Dawn said…
It was interesting how Snow White never came off as self conscious about her look despite that culture and only used the shoes so the villain wouldn't recognize her. Princess Fiona from Shrek was more tied up with her looks, and that was an American film.
Alexis Kuwata said…
I don't care if the billboard says "what if she wasn't beautiful anymore", I find her precious. Who cares if you are skinny or plus-sized? You are so beautiful just the way you are. 🥺

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