Talkin’ Nerdy: What’s the Deal with Dopey?
When Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs debuted in 1937, there was no question or doubt as to which character stole the show: Dopey the Dwarf. The silly, adorable, mute character was so popular with fans that many people requested that Walt Disney use Dopey as a series star in the shorts, in fact, some of Disney’s staff even wanted to use Dopey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia.
So when the Seven Dwarfs were revived and re-imagined for Disney X-D’s The 7D, I figured it would be a no-brainer that Dopey would emerge as one of the show’s breakout stars. Alas, this was not the case. On The 7D, it’s been Doc, Happy and especially Grumpy who have become the top players on the show, while Dopey has never graduated from lesser character status. I expected this to be the case for characters like Sleepy and Sneezy, since they were always pretty one-dimensional, but not Dopey. In this regard, Dopey is the exact opposite of Happy, who was a pretty minor character in the movie but emerged as one of the biggest characters on the show. What happened? Why has Dopey gotten the shaft?
I’ve been thinking about this (which should be a clear indicator that I have lots of free time) and have theorized why Dopey hasn’t attained top tier character status on The 7D. I chalk it up to 2 factors:
- NOT ENOUGH ELBOW ROOM
One reason why Walt never turned the Seven Dwarfs into shorts stars was because in the average animated short the focus is typically on 1, 2, 3 or at the most 4 central characters, but had Disney placed the Dwarfs in this format they would’ve had to contend with 7 main characters to start with, not to mention any other supports or guest stars that might have appeared. Indeed, with 6 guys also doing comedy and vying for the spotlight, it’s hard to squeeze decent bits for Dopey in there as well. There’s also the added burden of Dopey not being able to speak, so right away any verbal humor like puns of clever wordplay can’t be done with him. This is not to say that Dopey hasn’t gotten any opportunities to stand out, he’s gotten some golden gags, such as imitating The Scream:
But moments like this have been few and far between. Yeah, that look. This brings me to the other reason why I feel Dopey hasn’t broken out on the show:
2. HE LOST HIS BASIC ADORABILITY
A lot Dopey’s appeal in the original film was how he was essentially the “baby” of the Seven Dwarfs: he was youthful while the other Dwarfs were elderly, he had no hair, big blue eyes, only one tooth, large jug-handle ears and wore over-sized clothes, viz:
On The 7D however, Dopey’s look was changed to this:
Who does this guy remind you of? Take a wild guess. For those who don’t know, The 7D‘s Dopey was patterned largely after Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers.
Nothing wrong with that, Harpo was hilarious, but he’s not usually the first character who comes to mind when you hear the word “cute”. Without the cute, innocent, childlike features and aspects to his character, 7D Dopey amounts to little more than a weirdo. Dopey is like Tweety Bird or the Muppet character Bean Bunny: he relies heavily on being adorable. The writers tried to carve a niche for Dopey as ‘the animal lover’ of the group, and that kind of works, but again, without Dopey’s babyish demeanor it ultimately doesn’t amount to much.
I don’t know how many more episodes of The 7D there will be; the cast and crew have already had their wrap party, so it’s likely that show will be like many Disney animated series and only run for 2 seasons. If it’s truly over, then it’s a shame that Dopey was never really given that much to do on the show, especially since The 7D was produced by Tom Ruegger, who also gave us Animaniacs, and managed to strike comedy gold with another Harpo-inspired character, Wakko Warner. However, it’s worth mentioning that Wakko is a child character and he has the ability to speak.