Nerdvana: Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
Today Nerdvana celebrates a short bearded guy with a deliriously sunny disposition. No, it’s not Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty, it’s Happy of the Seven Dwarfs.
“Happy, happy, happy! It’s party time, Jack!”
Happy is one of our favorite Disney characters, nee, one of our favorite cartoon characters at the moment and a rising fan favorite. Yet he didn’t begin that way. For a long time, it looked like if we were ever going to give Happy any mention here at all, it would be on Beyond the Background. Happy began his his career on a rather inauspicious note, despite being in one of THE most popular animated feature films of all time. Admittedly, it’s been quite a while since we’ve seen the movie, but thinking back, it’s hard to recall any real standout performances by Happy. He had a single verse to himself in “A Silly Song”, but that’s about it. Happy’s performance never really made much of an impact on proceedings; this is partly because the other Dwarfs, aside from Grumpy obviously, are likewise basically happy fellows, so Happy’s primary characteristic–being happy–had no real way of distinguishing itself among the among the other 5. Even though we always thought there was potential for greatness with the character even back then, it seemed as though the Hapster was destined to remain a bit player.
But then, the Mouse House decided to give the Dwarfs their own show, The 7D. For this new cartoon, the characters were all redesigned, then everybody hated the new designs so they had to be redesigned yet again. Here’s the result of Happy’s makeover:
Okay, Happy received some plastic surgery and a new wardrobe, but there was still doubt that he could hold his own as a character.
That all changed on July 7, 2014. (Get it? 7-7-14. The seventh day of the seventh month in ’14, which is 7+7. It’s a Seven Dwarfs thing, GET IT??)
Everything changed during the show’s premiere episode, “The Long, Long Winter”. (I don’t know if this was the first episode made, since many fans agree that the episode “The Littlest Giants/Gnome Alone” felt more like a pilot with all of its’ expository dialogue, but it was the first episode aired), at precisely this moment:
When I first saw this short, I thought, “They’re not really going to show him singing the whole way up, are they?” But they did. It was brilliant. Even falling doesn’t stop Happy. He takes a tumble, then after reassuring us that he’s not dead or injured, starts caterwauling again. And he goes on, and on, and on….And suddenly, BAM! At that exact moment, Happy’s untapped potential was finally realized, and he ascended from minor character to major player. That makes us happy.
Like all of the Dwarfs on The 7D, Happy’s basic characteristics were exaggerated for comic effect, basically cranked up to 11. Here, Happy isn’t just cheerful, he’s deliriously, almost insanely happy, and whoever’s idea it was to give Happy a penchant for breaking into inanely happy songs should be hailed as a genius. Happy’s singing habit could be Disney’s subtle jab at their own studio, which is known for featuring characters who burst into song at the slightest provocation. (Giving Happy a penchant for jokes and comedy would have worked too, but what they did is still good.) It’s also worth mentioning that Happy has read more episode titles aloud than any other character on the show.
A lot of Happy’s appeal stems from the talents of the actor who provides his voice, Kevin Michael Richardson, known to some of his fans as “Sexual Chocolate” due to his smooth bass voice. (And here I thought that was the WWE’s Mark Henry.)
Kevin Richardson, the voice behind our favorite guitar strumming dwarf. Hard to believe that Mr. Oompty-Smoompty Shmoodley-Doo and Nickelodeon’s Shredder are the same guy.
In one of TV’s great ironies, Mr. Richardson auditioned for the show assuming he’d be a lock for the voice of Grumpy. Indeed, Richardson would have made a decent Grumpy, given some of his past roles (most kids today probably know him best as the voice of Mr. Gus on Cartoon Network’s Uncle Grandpa), but that role went to Maurice LaMarche. Personally, I’m glad things worked out the way they did, because as previously stated, while Richardson could have worked as Grumpy, LaMarche sells the role; now I can’t imagine anyone else voicing Grumpy but LaMarche, nor anyone but Richardson voicing Happy. His voicing of the character is one of the highlights of the show.
Speaking of Grumpy, it’s amazing how in all this time, in all these years, no one at the Mouse House has ever thought of playing Happy off of Grumpy until now. The notion seems like a no-brainer, given that the 2 characters are night and day attitude-wise. In Snow White, Grumpy would frequently square off against Doc, but he and Happy interacted very little. But now that Doc on this show is basically a cross between Thomas Edison, Leonardo DaVinci and Carl Sagan, Happy is the Dwarf who annoys Grumpy the most. Seeing these 2 play off another and the light and dark contrast of their natures is another highlight.
So hats off to Happy. Congratulation for breaking out of background character status and hitting the big time. the following sums Happy up perfectly:
“Stay happy, my friends.”