The Seven Dwarfs (cancelled direct-to-video prequel to "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"; 2000s)
The Seven Dwarfs was a planned direct-to-video prequel to the 1937 Walt Disney classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The animated prequel was to be produced by Disney's DisneyToon Studios. It went through a troubled production due to executive meddling and then was cancelled outright by John Lasseter.
In the 2000s, DisneyToon Studios began development on a prequel to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that was to focus on the titular dwarfs from the first film. The prequel was to deviate from DisneyToon's previous works as it was to be darker than their other films and also have comedic elements mixed in. The Seven Dwarfs went through multiple writers and directors before falling into the hands of Paul and Gaëtan Brizzi. Paul and Gaëtan Brizzi's version of the film was to follow the lives of the seven dwarfs until they eventually trap the main villain of the film into a magic mirror which sets up the beginning of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While DisneyToon liked Paul and Gaëtan's pitch, they ultimately decided to take the film into another direction.
Enter Mike DisaLooking for new talent to take a shot at The Seven Dwarfs, DisneyToon shifted their attention to director Mike Disa. Disa along with the help of writer Evan Spiliotopoulos began to develop a pitch that would have been DisneyToon's alternative to The Lord of the Rings by going over the long history of the dwarfs and their culture that surrounds them. Disa and Spiliotopoulos envisioned the film to be wildly different compared to the other direct-to-video sequels prior. In a 2013 interview with Animated Views, Mike Disa stated:
“We came up with this idea to turn the idea of a Disney sequel on its ear. We thought, ‘There are good stories worth telling here,’ but just doing the same bland, white bread rehash of the original story didn’t satisfy us artistically. So, because neither of us were particularly worried about finding a job, we decided to try something really, really different.”
Mike Disa's version of The Seven Dwarfs was to start with Dopey and Grumpy living in a village with other dwarfs until a string of "accidents" occurs, forcing the two dwarfs to go on a journey to the "Old Lands". During their journey, Dopey and Grumpy meet the five remaining dwarfs whom all join the two's journey for their own reasons. During their travels, they are hunted by an evil wizard that leads them to all meet a beautiful young woman named Narcissa. The dwarfs eventually start growing a bond with Narcissa and begin caring for her in the same way they eventually will with Snow White. Unlike Snow White's genuine good nature Narcissa starts showing her true colors as an antagonist by making various bad decisions, but the dwarfs still believe she has good in her heart. Eventually, the party's adventure leads them to the ancient city of Dwarfenholme. It is then revealed in a twist in the third act that the wizard who was hunting everyone down is Narcissa's father. It is also revealed that Narcissa and her father have been using the seven dwarfs in order to access the ancient magical powers of the Olden Dwarf. Narcissa then betrays her own father which leads to his enslavement in the magic mirror as seen in the original Snow White. With her newfound ancient magical powers in hand, Narcissa then turns on the dwarfs. In the climax of the film, Dopey sacrifices himself to save his friends, but the dwarfs find a way to bring him back and escape. The film would have ended with Narcissa dethroning Snow White's father and taking the role as the Evil Queen leading to the seven dwarfs having to hide and protect their families from the Evil Queen's wrath.
Mike Disa and Evan Spiliotopoulos pitched their version of the film to the other staff members at DisneyToon Studios and was met with overwhelming success. During the pitch, gasps and crying from the staff members could be heard. Given the outstanding feedback, Disa and Spiliotopoulos were given the green light to produce the film with free rein.
After Mike Disa's pitch was greenlit, production on The Seven Dwarfs had officially begun. As production started, Disa would receive occasional suggestions from developmental executives asking for minor changes that would be turned down due to said changes requiring the whole film to be changed. Despite the suggested changes, the film was going all to plan and hopes were high throughout the studio as the screenplay of the film was passed around to various staff workers at DisneyToon to the point where staff members were sneaking copies of the screenplay to read for themselves. Development artwork of what the film was to look like was also created by artist Ryan Roberts. Disa's colleagues had also encouraged him to pitch The Seven Dwarfs to Walt Disney Feature Animation as they felt the film was strong enough to be worked on at Disney's main animation studio. Disa respectfully declined their offer.
CancellationWhile production on The Seven Dwarfs was still ongoing. Mike Disa held a meeting with his co-workers and DisneyToon executives to show new progress and storyboards of the film. While everyone liked the work being made on the project at first, Disa received a phone call from an executive requesting to make the character Dopey talk. The exec continued by also stating that the film can stay the same, but to add a reason why Dopey doesn't have the ability to talk. The situation escalated when a meeting was held with Disa and more execs to discuss the Dopey situation. The executives wanted Dopey to have a tragic backstory about him witnessing the death of his mother leading him to become mute in the movie's opening act. The executives also felt that the film's original pitch was "too dark" and wanted a more lighthearted film. Mike Disa disagreed with the executives' notions. The executives needed a response from Disa as they were going to pitch the movie to Disney's chief creative officer at the time, John Lasseter. The situation then escalated to the point where Mike Disa exclaimed:
"You’re out of your [expletive] mind! I am not walking into John Lasseter’s office and pitching him The Dopey’s Too Emotionally-Scarred To Talk Movie!”
Another meeting was held a few weeks later about the future of the film's direction. Mike Disa had made the decision to walk away from the project as he didn't want to work on a project that wasn't his anymore. The executive that initially suggested for Dopey to talk had become the new director of The Seven Dwarfs. The new version of The Seven Dwarfs was then pitched to John Lasseter who then canceled the project altogether. None of the production material from The Seven Dwarfs up until cancellation have surfaced online. It is also unknown if any material from the project will surface.
- An article from the Disney FANDOM wiki about The Seven Dwarfs. Retrieved 17 Jun '19
- A 2016 article from Metro.co.uk discussing The Seven Dwarfs. Retrieved 17 Jun '19