Disney has been adept at mining its animated properties with preschool-oriented spinoffs (see “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” and to an extent “Sofia the First”), and in terms of mining, well, the Seven Dwarfs would seem to be a natural. Yet Disney XD’s latest excursion into the vaults, “The 7D,” is an ill-considered mess — a series that seeks to approximate the madcap antics of Cartoon Network, with none of the charm associated with the source material. Parents might be comfortable with the brand, but if they try watching with their moppets they’ll be itching to heigh-ho out of there.
Oddly constructed, the series puts the 7D (the term “Dwarfs” is never used) at the beck and call of irritating Queen Delightful (voiced by Leigh-Allyn Baker), who summons them, Batman-like, to assist her with even the most minor problems that might assail the village of Jollywood.
Although they still hang out at their jewel mine together — not that there’s anything wrong with that — in the episode previewed (consisting of two 11-minute shorts within each half-hour) they drop everything to help her thwart the witch-and-warlock couple determined to unseat her, Hildy (Kelly Osbourne) and Grim (Jess Harnell) Gloom.
Looking different than the dwarfs assisting Snow White that Disneyphiles have come to know, the little men have the same names, but their personalities feel fuzzy. Sure, Grumpy (Maurice LaMarche) is always cranky, and Happy (Kevin Michael Richardson) cheerfully sings lively tunes, but the others almost blend together, except Sleepy, who (duh) sleeps through most everything.
The episodes are loud and hectic, which goes with the territory, but the animation design isn’t particularly interesting. The half-baked plots, moreover, fall into a sort of No Kid’s Land in terms of age groups. (The series will premiere on Disney XD, the boy-oriented cable network, and play on Disney Channel and Disney Jr. later in the year.)
Disney has been fairly unabashed about using Disney Jr. as a platform to stoke enthusiasm for its classic properties among new generations — thus keeping the merchandising train chugging — but has also historically been understandably protective of those venerable titles. (Disclosure: My wife works for an unaffiliated unit of the company.)
While it might help send some plush toys off the shelves, “The 7D” is, in that respect, pretty one-dimensional — a show that goes for the gold, perhaps, but hardly qualifies as a gem.