Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy. To longtime Disney fans, these names are the Beatles of little people. Nearly everybody loves Disney’s Seven Dwarfs: they stole the show in Disney’s first ever animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, they appear as costumed mascots in all of the Walt Disney theme parks, they’ve recently gotten a 21st century makeover and are starring in their own new animated series The 7D (which it should be obvious by now that we here at Twinsanity are fans of, since this is the 4th time the show has been mentioned on this blog) and they’re internationally known and internationally beloved, and it’s for precisely that reason why we won’t be spotlighting them on Beyond the Background.
Beyond the Background is for showcasing the lesser known, less celebrated or outright forgotten cartoon characters, so the 7D don’t fit the bill. Instead, we’ll be looking at some of the Seven Dwarfs’ various imitators, spinoffs, knockoffs, ripoffs and wannabes.
First up we have The Ant Hill Mob, seven pint-sized 1920’s style gangsters who first appeared in Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races in 1968. Their names are Clyde (the leader, voiced by Paul Winchell), Ring-A-Ding (voiced Don Messick), Danny, Rug Bug Benny, Mac, Kirby (not the pink round Nintendo mascot who sucks up dudes and takes on their powers!) and Willy, though only Clyde and Ring-A-Ding’s names were ever spoken on camera. Clyde, a caricature of Edward G. Robinson and likely named after famous criminal Clyde Barrow, was the tough-as-nails boss, while Ring-A-Ding’s chief attribute was being about as dumb as a bag of rocks; Clyde would usually call Ring-A-Ding “Ding-A-Ling” whenever he screwed up, which was often. The gang drove in car number 7, The Bulletproof Bomb (also known as The Roaring Plenty), and were pint-sized characters, an obvious reference to the Seven Dwarfs. In the very first episode, “See-Saw to Arkansas”, they even disguise themselves as the Seven Dwarfs to escape from a policeman. Their usual method of improving the speed of their car was “getaway” power, which they achieved by extending their feet through the floor of the car and running, the same way Fred Flintstone accelerates his own prehistoric car.
After a brief stretch in the jar (a literal jar, these guys are short, remember?), The Ant Hill Mob re-appeared in a spin-off of Wacky Races, called The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. By this time they had cleaned up their act, and now acted as Penelope Pitstop’s protectors. Between shows the Mob had a little dustup which resulted in 6 of them having to go into the Witness Relocation program (Clyde got off on a technicality, and a huge bribe) and returning with different names: the others were now called Yak Yak, Softy, Pockets, Zippy, Snoozy and Dum-Dum, and this time around the other 5 had actual personalities: “Yak Yak” couldn’t stop laughing and almost always would laugh during times of peril although he didn’t mean to. “Softy” couldn’t stop crying and would mostly do so during a genuinely happy moment. “Pockets” always had gadgets in his pockets. “Zippy” could run really fast. “Snoozy” was always asleep, sleep-talking and “Dum-Dum” completely lacked all common sense.
The Ant Hill Mob have laid low since then, keeping their noses clean and staying out of the public eye. There have been rumors that the gang put out one last hit, resulting in one Sylvester Sneakly waking up one morning to find the severed heads of the Bully Brothers in his bed, but this hasn’t been confirmed…yet.
Next up we have The Trobbits, who co-starred in a 1981 Filmation CBS Saturday morning cartoon called Blackstar, about an astronaut who gets sucked into a black hole and ends up in a world of sword and sorcery, where he decides to blend in by going all Conan, stripping down to his shorts, wielding a magical sword and taking on some uber-powered dude in funky headgear.
The Trobbits (their name being a portmanteau of “tree” and “hobbit”–surprisingly enough, J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate didn’t attempt to to try merging the words “law” and “suit”) were the peaceful, pink-skinned comic relief little men who rescued Blackstar and provided the cute and the yuks. Again, there were 7 of them (surprise, surprise!) and each Trobbit had his own unique shtick:
- Balkar – The Trobbits’ king and mentor. He controls elemental magic and is also a great alchemist. He’s also known for not acting wacky all the time like his bros.
- Terra – The gardener who talks to plants, not the blond Teen Titans chick who turns Beast Boy’s knobs, betrays the team and dies..er, um…gets turned into a statue. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
- Burble – The babbler who swims very well and freezes during the winter. You’d freeze too if you wore Bermuda shorts in the middle of a blizzard.
- Carpo – The carpenter who gnaws wood with his teeth to construct things. Make fun of his teeth and you’d lose yours.
- Rif – The grumpy, flame-capped cook. This dude was a literal hot-head: he had a flame on top of his stocking cap and not surprisingly, had an intense aversion to water.
- Puolo – The mute whistler. Sound familiar?
- Gossamer – The scout and lookout who flew via his huge ears.
Our next group also comes from Filmation, but this time the homage/ripoff is more direct. In 1980, Filamtion released a holiday special entitled A Snow White Christmas, centering on the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming and featuring–wait for it–seven friendly GIANTS:
- Muddy, who had the power over earth
- Sunburn, who had the power over sunlight (Seriously? Who names their daughter Sunburn??)
- Blossom (not Mayim Bialik or the leader of the Powerpuff Girls), who had the power over plants
- Marina, who had the power over water
- Critterina, who had the power over animals
- Moonbeam, who had the power over moonlight and was perpetually drowsy, sleeping wherever and whenever possible. Hmmm, I think I heard that shtick somewhere before…
- Thunderella, who had the power over thunder