Disney's Snow White model, iconic dancer Marge Champion dies at 101
Marge Champion — renowned dancer, actress, and character model for animated figures in animated classics Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Fantasia — died Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 101.
Champion's son, Gregg, confirmed news of his mother's passing to the New York Times, telling the publication she had been living with him for six months amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Born on Sept. 2, 1919 into a dance-oriented family (she learned ballet, tap, and more before performing at the Hollywood Bowl as a child), Champion later began modeling for Disney animation films as a teenager.
In a 2016 interview, Champion told EW 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. [Laughs] 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."
Her career took a monumental turn in 1947, when she became romantic and professional partners with Gower Champion, and together they became icons of the small screen as a pioneering couple of popular dance on mainstream television throughout the 1950s, appearing on variety shows with Ed Sullivan and Dinah Shore to their own 1957 sitcom The Marge and Gower Champion Show.
Before divorcing in 1973 following the dissolution of their professional partnership in 1960, the couple also danced in numerous film productions, including Show Boat, Mr. Music, and Three for the Show.
Champion's subsequent career saw her acting in small roles, and she later won an Emmy for choreographing the 1975 television film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom. She also performed on Broadway, with her final stage appearance coming at age 82 in Stephen Sondheim's Follies, and, according to her son, "continued dancing as she aged into her 100th year," per the Times.