The British town of Leicester’s De Monfort Hall is planning a Christmas pantomime (which in the U.K., refers to a series of children’s plays that are performed around Christmas, usually based on fairy tales) based on the classic German fairy tale, popularized by a certain Walt Disney cartoon in 1937, of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs… except this version is going to be called Snow White and the Seven Friends. Wowza what a mouthful.
A spokesperson for the theater venue defended the move, saying that the word “dwarf” is “generally not a word that people feel comfortable with,” at least within the community where the production will be staged. The seven “friends,” however, are said to be played by local schoolchildren, so they will likely be “little” in all but name.
Famed actor Warwick Davis, known for Willow, as well as Star Wars and Harry Potter, has criticized the decision, saying, “I’m sure there are those out there who don’t like the term, but as a short actor I want to be given the choice about whether I appear in panto or not.”He also suggested that the move was a pathetic attempt to save face and lower costs at the same time, with, “The profit margins for pantos are not very big and it’s obviously much cheaper to involve schoolchildren than it is to pay lots of professional short actors.” Coincidentally, Davis had played one of the dwarves himself in Hallmark’s Snow White: Fairest of Them All.
This is not the first time a British production of Snow White tried to screw over the dwarfs, but in film not stage. 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman received more than its fair share of controversy, among other things, over hiring actors of average height to play the dwarves, only to digitally edit them into looking smaller than they actually were, instead of hiring actors that were already at that height.
While a British tradition, itself derived from Italian commedia dell’arte, pantomimes have become a bit more widespread in recent years, with shows reportedly being put on in Australia, Canada, and Jamaica; even California is getting in on the act, with pop star, Ariana Grande, playing Snow White in a 2012 panto-inspired show. According to some sources, pantomimes are even becoming a popular Chanukkah tradition in Israel. In fact, 2013 saw a Snow White and the Hunstman inspired show that can be seen below.