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Meet Adriana Caselotti: Voice of Walt Disney's Snow White

Updated on September 13, 2014

Who Is Adriana Caselotti? She WAS Snow White!

Adriana Caselotti was hired at the age of 18 to voice Snow White when Walt Disney went looking for someone who could hit the high notes required in opera but who could also sing and speak like a child.

When Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was produced, it was known as Disney's Folly because it was the first full-length animated movie ever made. Walt Disney went ahead and made it despite the controversy. He spared no expense and the movie went on to become one of Disney's most famous movies, to make plenty of money and to help create the Disney Studio we all know and love today.But what of Adriana Caselotti?

How much was she paid for beingthe voice of Snow White?

Was it enough?

For generations past, present and future, Adriana Caselotti IS Snow White.

Adriana Caselotti Signed and Sold Many Autographs

Adriana Caselotti and Snow White
Adriana Caselotti and Snow White

Fast Facts About Adriana Caselotti

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Fantastically remastered blu-ray disc or DVD.

"One of the brightest nuggets from Disney's golden age, this 1937 film is almost dizzying in its meticulous construction of an enchanted world, with scores of major and minor characters, each with a distinct identity.When you watch Snow White's intricate, graceful movements of fingers, arms, and head all in one shot, it is not the technical brilliance of Disney's artists that leaps out at you, but the very spirit of her engaging, girl-woman character.It's a crowning achievement and should not be missed." -Tom Keogh

Do you think Adriana Caselotti was paid enough for voicing Snow White?

Now that you know how much she was paid, here's some background information

It is reported that Walt Disney paid Miss Caselotti $20 per day for her role as the voice of Snow White, an amount which totalled $970.

It is also said that Walt Disney blacklisted Adriana Caselotti from appearing in ANY OTHER MOVIES in order to protect the illusion of Snow White.Miss Caselotti did eventually appear in The Wizard of Oz as the voice of Juliet in the Tin-Man's song, If I Only Had a Heart (for which she was paid $100) and in 1946, she appeared in It's A Wonderful Life at Martini's bar while James Stewart was praying.

She did some promotions of Snow White and she later appeared in a few related television shows including The Julie Andrews' Hour episode about Walt Disney's music and on The Mike Douglas Show. Eventually, she sold autographs to earn money and she tried to restart a career in the opera. At the age of 75, she re-recorded I'm Wishing for Snow White's Grotto in Disneyland.

Miss Caselotti, who voiced an iconic Walt Disney character, eventually and unsuccessfully sued Disney for a bigger salary or piece of the movie's profits.

Was Adriana Caselotti paid enough for voicing Snow White?

See results

SOUND OFF: DID WALT DISNEY ROB ADRIANA CASELOTTI? - Here's your chance to have your say...

So what do YOU think? Did Walt Disney ROB Adriana Caselotti when he paid her $970 for a role of such magnitude?

Yes, I think...

Yes, I think...

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    • Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      It's appalling! What a way to treat an artist

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      It depends. This was done during the Great Depression; even Disney suffered during that. Caselotti was an unknown talent. $970, adjusting for market inflation, is an enormous amount of money for an 18-year-old for a month's work. I think that's a fair salary. However, blackballing her from performing in non-Snow White movies and events in inexcusable. For one thing, that's just wrong. Secondly, if they were dead-set on making sure that no one ever heard Snow White singing "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", they should have paid her enough to keep her set for life. That was not okay.

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Yes and no. He paid her a decent salary for an unknown and considering that the film was done on a shoestring with Disney mortgaging everything he had - and everyone, including his wife, thought it would be an enormous flop - he probably paid her well for the role. Where he underpaid her is by taking advantage of a very talented young girl and getting her to sign a contract restricting her use of her voice in the future without his permission and then never giving that permission. She could have had a bright career but she didn't because of Disney. She was not paid enough - and certainly Disney could have afforded it later on. Yet one thing is true, in history, on the screen and for all past and future generations, she is forever and always the unique, charming and talented voice of Snow White - the finest and most beautiful animated film ever made.

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Walt Disney robbed Adriana Caselotti, an incredibly talented individual, of ever continuing her career by only paying her $970 while at the same time preventing her from participating in any other films.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      During the depression I think I would have been thrilled to make that much money when I was only 18 years old (+/- 16k in a month per AnnF's research). At that time. no one had any idea that an animated 'cartoon' film would make any money at the box office. Walt was pioneering a new media and taking a risk. Adrianna benefited from this and so did the entire film industry (and so did all of us), but Walt took the risk.........she was a lucky ducky!

    • ellies lm 5 years ago

      Coool...way cool lens! Thanks for the information. I love learning! Gave you a lens like too. Stop by any of "Ellies" lens' and give a holler. Happy July 4th to ya'!

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Remember that because of this movie, she was never allowed to be in another film (and Walt knew this when he signed her on). She really wanted to be a full-time actress, but Walt stole her future and didn't even pay her royalties!

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      The real crime is that of blacklisting her. No one has the right to highjack another's career. It WAS a form of robbery. How sad to learn the stories of Walt's less than stellar character were true. In life immitating art, the Evil Queen tried to steal Snow White's life away, while Disney stole Caselotti's future from her. That Disney was the true villain is tragic irony.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Neither. He had no way of calculating inflation or HOW MUCH MONEY the film would bring. However, Disney owes her a lot of money.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      It could explain that the cost of living at that wasn't as high as now. That's why she accepted the contract or else she wouldn't. Somehow, the show of "Snow White" was Walt Disney's cartoon ever created.

    • tandemonimom lm 6 years ago

      It was a very generous amount at the time for a movie that no one thought would fly. But still, a few royalties (or at least a gift after the movie became SUCH a hit) would have been nice!

    • justholidays 6 years ago

      Well, I think that yes, he did... probably not deliberately but he dit... OK, you might argue that he didn't know if the movie would work or not but should have planned an option in case of the movie would have become the huge success it became since then.

    • Bellezza-Decor 6 years ago from Canada

      It was a lot of money back then and she accepted it.

    No way, Monkeybrains!

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      • anonymous 4 years ago

        In 1937 she was paid 970$ which is now equivalent to 15 million dollars.Andriana seems very happy to me who wouldn't want to be Snow White.

      • like-an-angel 4 years ago

        Old times with other rules!

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        she did an amazing job she deserved waaaaay more than she was given.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        I used the calculator and found out that for $20/day Adrianna would have had to work 48.5 days to earn $970. I also used the inflation calcualtor from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) and found that $970 in 1934 (when Adrianna was 18) is worth $16,282.90 in 2011's money. Gee, I wish I made $16K in a month and a half! Not to mention this was in the middle of the Great Depression, that's a HUGE amount of money for that time period especially. I think the word "blacklisted" has a lot of people fired up, if the author had simply said Walt Disney did not want Adriana hired in any other Disney animated film in order to protect the illusion of Snow White most wouldn't have been quite as fired up. Additionally, did anyone think of the fact that she couldn't work in Disney again may have had no bearing on whether she could find work elsewhere? It's extremely hard to become famous in the arts and I don't see how Disney affects her chances at opera.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        She was robbed and raped!

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        No. Despite a claim by another poster that $970 is equivalent to $30,000 today for an "unknown," we must take into account that that one role for Disney cost Ms. Caselotti the rest of her career, which was reduced to a few bit parts, and an opera career she was unable to resume. So, I don't think Adriana Caselotti was paid enough at all, especially considering how much money Disney made from Snow White and how iconical of a movie Snow White has become.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        $970 was a lot in them days. I found a calculator thing online and it is worth around $30,000 dollars today. For an unknown actress, that is good money.

      • Joan4 6 years ago

        Royalties would have really been nice! What a wonderful lady! No, at that time, that was a large price. I don't think he robbed her.

      • Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

        What was $970 worth then?

      • Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

        She wasn't robbed then, but it seems she should have received royalties over the years. I don't think royalty arrangements were customary in those days, though.

      • jdwheeler 6 years ago

        They had no idea if the movie would be a hit or not. Back then, I'm sure that was industry standard.

      • Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

        The fee sounds just fine... if it hadn't come with those conditions attached. The burden of being blacklisted from other work was one that clearly weighed her down throughout her life.

      • LasgalenArts 6 years ago

        It's very hard to say. Back then actors never thought of negotiating royalties as they do today. $970 was quite a lot of money but to black list her was the worse offense. I'd have to say yes but the other offense is worse to bear.

      Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs Movie Soundtrack

      Adriana Caselotti's voice is both unique and haunting.

      "Disney's Snow White, the world's first animated musical feature, is still a standard in the industry. Though 1930s recording technology was primitive by today's standards, the Disney music studios have always used the available technology to its fullest, and this recording still stands up. The mature but hauntingly childlike Adriana Caselotti as Snow White is a unique vocal presence, and the songs include "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh-Ho," and "Some Day My Prince Will Come."The score is nearly as great an accomplishment as the film itself." ~ John Sanchez

      Another Adriana Caselotti Autographed Picture

      Adriana Caselotti Autographed Picture
      Adriana Caselotti Autographed Picture

      Is Adriana Caselotti's story a sad or a happy one for you?

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          I always love the voice of snow white and wonder from whom. Now, I've already known and I think Adriana should be got her profits more than $970. Thanks for sharing this lense .. dear Brenda. Love to be here. Give you my 5 snow white loving stars :)

        • Jhangora LM profile image

          Jhangora LM 6 years ago

          It is sad that Disney didn't allow her to feature in other movies. Weren't there other studios she could approach?

        • Grasmere Sue profile image

          Sue Dixon 6 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

          What an amazing story- bitter sweet I think.

        • TreasuresBrenda profile image
          Author

          Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

          @Jhangora LM: Unfortunately, I think perhaps Walt Disney had a lot of power. The one example that is widely quoted is that Jack Benny (a famous comedian of the time) asked to use her on his radio show and was told by Disney that "I'm sorry, but that voice can't be used anywhere." Remember too that those were the times when major actors and actresses were signed to a studio...I have no idea if that applied to Adriana Caselotti though as it is said that she didn't even know she was recording for a major part!

        • TreasuresBrenda profile image
          Author

          Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

          @anonymous: It doesn't seem like a lot of money given the fact that Disney is still making money from the franchise.

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          LasgalenArts 6 years ago

          It's not so much about the money that bothers me but the black listing. They effectively robbed her of a career in Hollywood.

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          MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

          I am surprised she was paid that much, Disney ran basically sweat shops with his animators. Very interesting lens

        • indigoj profile image

          Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

          It's lovely to see that the Snow White voice belonged to someone who really did look like Snow White! That was a surprise. But sad that this dream role killed her other chances of a successful career.

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          justholidays 6 years ago

          I love to hear such voices. I think that nowadays movies don't have as much quality as these old movies because of these adorable voices. Now all voices, whether spoken or sang, all are like whispers... It's silly and absolutely not representative from what actual humans are.

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          Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

          Sad, but not surprised by Walt Disney's actions.

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          What an interesting lens Brenda, I never knew any of this. Not sure if it was happy or sad, kinda of mixed for me, but definitely interesting.

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          Joan4 6 years ago

          I am still sitting here smiling after the video of Adriana on the piano playing the Snow White songs. Totally delightful. Great story. and to tell the truth, I had never even thought about who played her voice!

        • JenOfChicago LM profile image

          JenOfChicago LM 6 years ago

          Interesting story - I never thought about who the voice was!

        • tandemonimom lm profile image

          tandemonimom lm 6 years ago

          Loved watching that interview video! It's so much fun to see the backstory on these old movies!

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          Vicki Green 6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

          What a fascinating story - I had no idea or even thought to wonder who was the voice of Snow White.

        • Mishael A Witty profile image

          Mishael A Witty 6 years ago

          What an interesting story. And even if Caselotti didn't get decent royalties for being the voice of Snow White, at least now she'll have forever fame, thanks to your lens!

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          Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

          I never thought about Snow Whites voice before. Very interesting lens.

        • KReneeC profile image

          KReneeC 5 years ago

          Very interesting........... This is definitely a sad and happy story. But she was apart of one of the best Disney movies of all time! That is an honor in itself.

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          Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

          Nice lens

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          HAPPY>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>She made the most of it.

        • Celticep profile image

          Celticep 4 years ago

          I think it's a happy story in the end, she took the conditions, did the job and got paid relatively well for it.

        • SusannaDuffy profile image

          Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

          $20 a day! What an awful way to treat Adriana Caselotti!

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          anonymous 3 years ago

          She was paid a decent amount of money for her performance, but Disney should have given her some extra due to the success of the movie, and what she brought to it.

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