With the busy summer season just around the corner, it’s time to say a fond farewell to spring at Walt Disney World. For some, that will mean paying a visit to the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival this weekend to experience this springtime tradition before it comes to a close for another year on May 30th. While many Epcot fan will no doubt miss the festival’s beautiful blooms, I can imagine one dwarf who might be relieved to have a few less pollen-producing flowers around for a change.
This year, the Germany Pavilion once again played host to a topiary display featuring the stars of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” lined up in a row along the World Showcase Lagoon. The faces on these topiaries, along with many others throughout the festival, are particularly detailed with each showing off the character’s distinct personality. Sneezy’s expression, for example, suggests that he is attempting to stifle a bout of his explosive hay fever.
When it came time for Walt Disney to cast his first animated feature, Billy Gilbert was a natural choice to play Sneezy. A character actor and comedian, Gilbert played supporting and bit parts alongside some of the biggest stars of his era including Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and The Marx Brothers. One of his signature comedy routines involved him trying in vain to hold in an over-the-top sneeze, a talent that made him the perfect choice to portray a certain dwarf.
After the success of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Billy Gilbert returned to Disney to voice Willie the Giant in the “Mickey and the Beanstalk” segment of the 1947 feature “Fun and Fancy Free.” The film’s creators even worked in another opportunity for Gilbert to show off his sneezing skills in a scene where Mickey Mouse accidentally knocks over a snuff box in the giant’s pocket during an attempt to steal his key. Not many actors can say that they’ve played both a dwarf and a giant, so accomplishing such a feat was nothing to sneeze at, even for Billy Gilbert.