Adriana Caselotti never lost her sense of fun and enthusiasm for the Disney character she played in 1937—Snow White. At the drop of a hat, Disney’s first ingenue of the animated screen would burst into a chorus of the songs that made her famous: “I’m Wishing,” “Some Day My Prince Will Come,” and “Whistle While You Work.” At home in Los Angeles, she proudly displayed a “wishing well” on her front lawn. Reportedly, Adriana remembered every line, verse, and nuance of her most famous role.
As she recalled in 1987, “I’d never worked in show business before (Snow White). I feel very blessed. Not everyone gets the chance to be part of a genuine classic like Snow White.”
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on May 6, 1916, Adriana was born into a musical family and began to sing almost before she could talk. Her father, Guido, taught music in New York, while her mother, Maria, had performed at the Royal Opera in London. Her sister, Louise, was a famous opera singer and teacher of Maria Callas.
Adriana was educated at an Italian convent, San Getulio, near Rome, while her mother performed in the Opera. After returning to the United States, she studied singing with her father. She was 18 when her father received a phone call from a Disney casting director, inquiring if any of his students might have a suitable voice for the lead female role in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. More than 150 girls had already auditioned for the part, including Deanna Durbin, but Walt Disney still had not found the right voice.
Adriana happened to pick up an extension and, while listening to her father’s conversation, chimed in, “Listen to me—wouldn’t my voice do?” Indeed it did, and, over the next year, her voice was tested, songs were recorded, and the Disney animators studied her gestures for inspiration.
After the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Adriana went on to make radio guest appearances in New York and Hollywood. She played bit parts in several movies, including The Wizard of Oz, and later authored a “how-to” book, “Do You Like to Sing?”
Over the years and many reissues of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, including its 50th Anniversary re-release in 1987, Adriana actively participated in publicity events and television specials celebrating the famous film. Infinitely proud of her contribution to Disney’s legacy, she told a reporter in 1995, “I know that my voice will never die.”
Adriana Caselotti passed away on January 19, 1997, in Los Angeles.