Marge Champion, who served as the real-life model for Walt Disney’s Snow White, has died at the age of 101.
Champion is most recognizable to many as the real-life model for the titular princess in Walt Disney’s iconic 1937 film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Champion served as the movement model for Snow White, dancing for her scenes, in addition to helping inspire the look of the character.
Champion’s father, Ernest Belcher, was a famous dance and ballet instructor, who happened to be friends with Walt Disney. No one in the animation team working on Snow White knew how to make the movements of the character more realistic, so Champion was brought in at the age of 14 to move and dance on a soundstage, giving the animators insight. She performed on the soundstage for one or two days a month for two years. Additionally, Champion also provided inspiration for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, Hyacinth Hippo in Fantasia, and Mr. Stock in Dumbo.
Along with husband and dancer partner Gower Champion, Marge performed on Broadway musicals, television shows, and movies. The couple danced in popular musicals like the Bing Crosby-starring Mr. Music, Lovely to Look At, Roberta, Everything I Have Is Yours, Give a Girl a Break, Jupiter’s Darling, Three for the Show, and the beloved 1951 remake of Show Boat.
Champion won an Emmy in 1975 for her work choreographing the television film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.
In 1977, four years after Gower passed away, Champion married film and TV director Boris Sagal, who is best known for his 1971 film Omega Man. In marrying the filmmaker, Champion became the stepmother to Sagal’s children, one of which is acclaimed actress Katey Sagal. Many know Sagal for her roles on Married With Children, Sons of Anarchy, 8 Simple Rules, and Futurama. Boris Sagal was killed in an accident on a film set four years after his marriage to Champion.
Champion had two sons of her own with Gower, one of which is film director and producer Gregg Champion.