Decent Fairy Tale Romp From Germany
Imagine using the GC medium to tell a story built upon classic fairy tales but with the added twist of making pop-culture references all along the way to spruce things up. What’s that? It’s been done in the Shrek series and all of its spin-offs? Then again in the Happily Never Afters? And again in Henson’s Unstable Fables?
Okay so The Seventh Dwarf gets no points for originality. It does, however, stand upon its own merit in a genre one would suspect to be already pretty well tapped.
The Seventh Dwarf (German: ”Der 7bte Zwerg”), is a German 3D computer-animated film, created in 2014. It was released in cinemas on the 25th of September 2014 in Germany and on July 31, 2015 in the United States as a direct-to-DVD affair from Shout! Factory.
The movie is based upon the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty and characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and while younger audiences will recognize the source material’s influence, it should be noted that this isn’t your Bashful, Dopey, and Doc from Disney dwarf fame; no here we have dwarfs by the name of Cloudy, Sunny, Cookie and Bobo to mention a few.
In fact, while it is based upon the famous Brothers Grimm tale, the material for this one serves as a sequel to the films 7 Dwarves – Men Alone in the Wood (2004) and 7 Dwarves: The Forest Is Not Enough (2006). Not to worry if you haven’t seen either prior to going in to this one, it’s all pretty straight forward stuff.
In the castle Fantabularasa the time celebrate the 18th birthday of Princess Rose, who has been cursed by the evil ice fairy, Dellamorta, has arrived with great fanfare. Of course everyone knows looming overhead throughout the festivities is a spell that states if she gets pricked with a sharp object before midnight, the whole kingdom will sleep for one-hundred years. Thus, and in typical fairy tale logic, the princess is required to wear armor day and night until her 18th.
Everything goes according to plan until clumsy Bobo, the seventh dwarf, makes the type of mistake that allows Dellamorta’s spell to be fulfilled. Only by a kiss of true love the curse can be reversed, but Dellamorta knows a thing or two about how these things tend to play out and captures the kitchen boy, Jack, who loves Rose. With the help of a dragon named Burner, the dwarves search for the “Prince Charming” who can save the land.
It may not be the world’s most original take on some classic material but in all fairness, The Seventh Dwarf feels less like a rehash than it does a pretty fun take on the source material. Directed by former Disney character designer Harald Siepermann (who sadly, passed away during production), and built upon a screenplay by Daniel and Douglas Welbat, the end result here is a film with a few memorable moments that can never quite pull it all together into the type of butter-smooth narrative we’ve come to expect from studios like Blue Sky and DreamWorks.
The truth of the matter is many of the Brothers Grimm originals contain a good deal of material parents would find highly objectional by today’s standards. One really can’t fault The Seventh Dwarf for including unfriendly concepts such as a dragon contemplating suicide after having been laughed at or the sheer skintight gown of Dellamorta that hints toward some anatomical correctness in the chest region. But parents should be advised such things are present before showing it to their kids.
Pacing is tighter than expected; with a multitude of fairly well done musical numbers scattered about to capitalize on fans of Frozen. The story is a fairly by-the-numbers affair with a couple of nice touches thrown in for good measure (like the angle of Bobo learning how to tie his shoes as a means of warding off calamity for example). Another segment that elicits some genuine laughs comes in the form of a pair of Mermen rappers with a hit video on YouTube.
The visuals are a bit of a mixed bag as well- some of the background textures are rich and well lit but the character animations themselves are often overly simplistic and lack any sort of emotional depth. The English dub (featuring the voices of Peyton List and Norm MacDonald) is solid enough to match the visual appeal of the piece; all in all neither impressive nor offensive.
In conclusion I often joke that going into this one I expected a train wreck but all I got was a simple derailment. The twisted fairy tale is nothing new in CG (in fact DreamWorks’ Shrek was one of the earliest major players in the genre), but it is nice to note that a modestly budgeted German film can come to the domestic table with a few fresh tricks up its sleeve.