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  • Year: 1990
  • Director: John Howley
  • Starring: Irene Cara, Malcolm McDowell, Ed Asner

Sometimes you come across a sequel so bizarre, the idea of which is so beyond the realm of comprehension, that the only thing you can think to ask is what were they thinking? Today’s film is one of those. That’s why it’s time to play the all-new game show…

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Today’s contestant is an animation studio that was born in 1962, famous for works such as Fat Albert and the Cosby KidsHe-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and so much more. Would you please welcome Filmation studios?

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Now, Filmation released their first theatrical film Journey Back to Oz (another Oz sequel, because public domain) in 1974, but today we will be talking exclusively about their 1990 sequel to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs entitled Happily Ever After. If Filmation can get through four rounds of questions regarding this film, they will get to play the bonus round where they can spin our wheel for some wonderful prizes! Let’s begin with ROUND 1 of What Were THEY Thinking? This round involves production.

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Three of Filmation’s theatrical releases were sequels to classic films, two of them Disney classics. Happily Ever After picks up right after Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, showing what happened after their happy ending… even though it’s not really a happy ending if there’s more conflict immediately. Filmation believed that Happily Ever After would be “one of the biggest hits of the year,” (yes that’s a direct quote) and that leads us to our first question. Sometimes, when films bomb at the box office, the marketing team decides that perhaps the title is to blame…

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Yes, seriously, three of these are alternate titles. It’s like K. Gordon Murray produced this film. The first one obviously was a real title, and I guess I can forgive the “Land of Doom” title, as I suppose there is technically a land of doom in this film However, it’s just the area surrounding the castle, even though no one had any issue coming or going in the first film. Believe it or not, this film at one point dared to call itself Snow White’s Greatest Adventure. It’s basically just shouting at the audience: THIS ONE IS BETTER! Even though the title would be accurate, the film never did call itself Snow White and the Prince Ride Again.

Who knows? Maybe this film will be original and entirely void of cliches. Yeah right.

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That’s right! It’s all of the above. This movie features Dom Deluise, Phyllis Diller, Carol Channing, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Ed Asner… and they’re all wasted. The Magic Mirror had a booming voice in the Disney film, but Dom Deluise makes him sound like a bored Alec Baldwin. The others all play memorable characters, but not in a good way, and trust me, we’ll get there.

In the first scene of the film, the Evil Queen’s minions are all celebrating because she’s dead, and their party involves throwing pies at each other.

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How little do you trust your own audience to stay invested? Oh we’re two minutes in, I bet those kids are falling asleep already. I think it’s time to throw a pie at someone!

Soon their party is interrupted by the most annoying sequel cliche of all—The brother of the villain from the first film is in town, and he wants revenge.

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Meet Lord Maliss, the Evil Queen’s even-more-obviously-evil brother. Seriously? A wispy mustache, a cape and a widow’s peak? He should just wear a shirt saying “Hello, I’m the villain.” Also, what’s with the spelling? Obviously his name sounds just like “malice,” but since we never see it in writing, what’s the point of having the official spelling be any different? Maliss just comes in and decides the castle is his, because royal lineage doesn’t really matter in a kids’ film. Most surprisingly of all, he’s voiced by Malcolm McDowell! That leads to our next question…

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Well he had just been through his divorce with Mary Steenburgen, so who knows? Nicolas Cage wasn’t doing his every-movie-offered-to-me-thing yet in 1990, so I hate to suggest that it might be the final option. We’ll leave this one open-ended, so everyone can make their own minds up. (Hint: I’m pretty sure it’s the fourth option. I mean, look at his full filmography sometime.)

That said, McDowell does manage to create a somewhat memorable performance. The guy must have broken his voice playing this character. He’s so over-the-top that I’m not sure if it’s technically a good performance, but it’s definitely enjoyable.

We’ve made it through round 1. Round 2 is called Phone-a-Friend… oh no we can’t do that? OK Round 2 is called Call-Up-A-Disgruntled-Co-Star.

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All of the questions in this round will involve the bizarre and ultimately-pretty-pointless character Scowl the Owl, voiced by Ed Asner.

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Scowl is an ineffective minion who is constantly obsessed with being bad, and his assistant Batso (Frank Welker) is constantly confused as to whether he wants to be good at being bad or bad at being bad. It’s really not funny.

Let’s get Ed on the line now.

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Alright, here comes the first question involving Scowl the Owl.

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Once Lord Maliss arrives, turns into a dragon and flies out of the castle, some music begins. It seems like just background music, and then a drum beat kicks in. I wondered what the point of this all was as Scowl choked on his cigar smoke, but then, out of nowhere, he started rapping. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t even laugh. It is just so random. Who thought this was a good idea? You’re making a sequel to one of the most timeless and beloved films ever, and you immediately date it by having a character rap! The song is also just about how bad he is and how it’s no fun to be good. Most of the lines are tepid and uninspired, but that leads me to the next question.

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Ugh does it even matter? The fact that any of these features in the lyrics means that the movie is over before it starts. We STILL haven’t met Snow White at this point, outside of hearing about her from the Magic Mirror. Apparently it’s more important to have a rap number about a minion “being bad” in the first ten minutes than it is to actually meet our main character. As much as I hate to say it, it’s the “Dirty Birdy” line. Yes, someone wrote that.

For the whole film, Scowl just fails over-and-over at being evil, until the very end where he begins working for the good guys, leading me to the final question of the round.

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After his cigar is taken away, Scowl is sad for a split-second, before celebrating the fact that he can now breathe fresh air and smell. Really Filmation? Really? An Anti-Smoking PSA in a Snow White film? Even worse, that’s all his scenes added up to.

Alright Filmation, you’ve painfully made it through two rounds, but we still have two to go before you can play the bonus. Let’s move onto Round 3.

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This round is the 50:50 round, where we talk about all the times the film’s budget was cut in half.

After the miserable rap number, we finally meet Snow White (Irene Cara) and the Prince (Michael Horton). The design of the returning characters in this film (there are only three) leads me to my first question.

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The Magic Mirror has gone from a full-body mirror to merely a wall-hanging, and the Prince now looks like He-Man (Filmation made He-Man and the Masters of the Universe as well, which is surely a coincidence). However, Snow White looks as close to her Disney counterpart as is legally possible. Since the character is described as having black hair and white skin in every version of the fairy tale (It kind of leads to the name and all), her described appearance is in the public domain. I’m just imagining a team of animators and lawyers sitting around seeing how close they could come to Disney’s version of the character without getting sued. Don’t you just love films made by committee?

Eventually, Lord Maliss kidnaps the Prince, seemingly killing him, and Snow White gets lost in the forest… again. There is also a jungle snake in the forest now for some reason.

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Even more surprisingly, their Jungle Book sequel was set to have dwarfs.

Beyond this one random scare, the forest scene mainly just consists of darkness and lightning strikes, even though there’s no rain. Snow White soon realizes she is right back at the cottage of the seven dwarfs, except something has changed.

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Instead of the seven dwarfs, Snow White meets the seven dwarfelles, who explain that their cousins the dwarfs moved to a different country. Again, this has to be a budget thing, as the Disney dwarfs are licensed characters, but featuring the dwarfs in any other fashion would just confuse kids. Instead, the film just hand-waves it and says that these are the cousins of the nameless-dwarfs. Also, why isn’t it dwarfettes? The Dwarfelles sounds more like a Phil Spector-produced girl group from the early ’60s.

The seven dwarfelles all have different powers given to them by their mother, Mother Nature. THE DWARFS WERE RELATED TO MOTHER NATURE? Do you realize the plot holes you’re creating? Alright, here comes your next question…

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For some reason, we go from dwarfs with definable characteristics like Sleepy and Dopey to “Controls the Whole Earth-y” and “Can Make the Sun Go Away with a Word-y.” Unfortunately, yes Thunderella is also a character, and before we even get her name, she breaks into a Cyndi Lauper-esque song about not being able to use her powers well. No, that will never date this movie. Sadly, this does mean that Lucifera is not a character in this film.

The dwarfelles take Snow White to Mother Nature (Phyllis Diller), who is about to take Thunderella’s powers away, right when Lord Maliss comes to threaten Snow White. He says that if she wants her prince back, she’ll have to cross the Land of Doom, which now lies immediately outside the castle (because magic and stuff).

The Land of Doom is made up of such vicious creatures as the same clip of wolves looped over-and-over.

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Yeah, that’s really about it. I mean, there are cliffs and rivers and stuff, but there isn’t really all that much doom beyond that. Along the way, they are assisted by the mysterious Shadow Man. Since you’re just dying to know, it’s time to ask…

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Why did Lord Maliss turn the Prince into this character? If he wants revenge, why doesn’t he just kill him? Why doesn’t he make him look actually evil so Snow White tries to kill him? Maliss can clearly do whatever he wants magically, so what’s the point here? Part of his evil plan is turning the prince into a weird looking creature and putting him the Land of Doom where everyone else will think he’s evil?

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With the help of this obvious prince, Snow White eventually makes it through the Land of Doom and to the castle. That means it’s time for our fourth round, Ask-the-Target-Audience.

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For every question in this round, we will be polling an audience of five-to-ten year-olds to see if Filmation really understands what kids want.

When Snow White finally arrives at the castle, she meets up with “the Prince,” who doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he’s Lord Maliss undercover. However, for some reason, Snow White just wonders why he’s acting funny and continues to follow him. It is then revealed that “the Prince” was Lord Maliss trying to lead Snow White to her death. Who would have guessed it? Let’s find out.

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I bet those 7% weren’t really paying attention anyway.

It turns out that Lord Maliss intends to turn Snow White and the Prince into stone, which he can do with his magic cape. Again, what’s the purpose of his revenge? The Queen, his sister, was killed after being knocked off a precipice that was struck by lightning. Snow White had nothing to do with it, and while he could perhaps have blamed the dwarfs who were chasing her, oh wait, they aren’t in this film.

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Maliss believes he has turned the seven dwarfelles into stone, even bragging about his “seven new statues,” even though there are clearly only six. Thunderella instead has finally honed her powers at a plot-relevant time and uses a bolt of lightning to bring Maliss down. He turns into a dragon and begins to turn to stone, but for some reason his head turns back as his body remains animal.

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I guess it looks better for the statue. Mother Nature comes back now and turns the Shadow Man back into the Prince, and they promise to live happily ever after until the next shoehorned sequel.

Well, the target audience is getting restless, so we have just one more question for them.

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Ugh, there’s one in every crowd. Get those kids out of here. We get the point.

Well Filmation, you’ve survived four rounds of revealing and embarrassing questions, so it’s time for the Bonus Round.

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 Since you’ve made it to the bonus round, it’s time to bring out our Big Wheel!

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There are wonderful prizes, including the rights to make Peter Pan 2, Snow White 3 and much more, all the way up to the Grand Prize of ONE MILLION DOLLARS. However, the better prize on there might be “Destroy This Episode.” Filmation, you’ve earned it, go ahead and spin the wheel.

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Oh no, you’ve gone bankrupt. I’m sorry, but you’ve landed on bankrupt and by the rules of our game, your studio has to file Chapter 11.

Yes, that’s right, Happily Ever After was such a disaster that it forced Filmation to go bankrupt. I suppose it wasn’t “one of the biggest hits of the year” after all.

I’d say “Join us next time on What Were THEY Thinking,” but it looks like Disney is suing me for totally ripping off one of their properties.

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Maybe Filmation can give me some advice on what not to do next. Let’s just get to the final score.

Story (8/30 Points)

It’s a sequel to a very simple story, and it still manages to screw it up. The villain wants revenge by drawing the people he blames for the death of his sister to his castle to turn them into stone? Why would he want statues of them in his castle forever? Why doesn’t he just kill them? Why does the Ed Asner owl get a story entirely divorced from the rest of the thing?

Returning Characters (4/15 Points)

Snow White is utterly bland, which is a downgrade, and the Prince is boring, meaning nothing has changed. He still doesn’t even get a name! The Magic Mirror is voiced by an utterly wasted Dom Deluise, and the scene where he flirts with one of the dwarfelles is just awkward.

New Characters (6/15 Points)

Malcolm McDowell is actually memorable as a hilariously over-the-top villain, and I guess Phyllis Diller isn’t awful as Mother Nature.

Experience (7/20 Points)

The background animations aren’t terrible, and there is at least some creativity in them. (Director John Howley is a painter after all.) However, it’s obvious when stock footage is being repeated over and over, and then there are the musical numbers. Scowl the Owl, Thunderella, and Mother Nature all get random musical numbers out of nowhere, and the rap one in particular is hilariously painful.

Originality (8/20 Points)

Hey, it’s not just the plot of the first one again. Not everything original is good, but at least it’s not just a rehash.

FINAL SCORE: 35%

This is kind of a bizarre one to score, because this film is so hilarious that it almost has to be seen to be believed. Seriously, I recommend watching this film for its ridiculous plot, pointless songs, and forced message. At least it’s short.

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