Mickey and Disney's greatest villains together for the first time ever!
Something old, something new, something irrelevant, and a little "BOO" all strung together as a Halloween treat for you. Disney capitalizes on the fast growing American holiday with mixed results.
Facts of the Case
Mickey's House of Mouse is the hot nightclub for every Disney character who wants to see or be seen. Owned and operated by the powerhouse team of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, their staff includes Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and the Penguin wait-staff from Mary Poppins, among others. Guests enjoy fine food, standup comedy, musical performances, and short films by their Disney brethren. Tonight's Halloween entertainment has attracted an unexpectedly large number of villainous personalities, which has some of the staff a bit on edge. As the evening moves closer to the midnight hour, the big baddies—Jafar, Ursula, Hades, Cruella, and Captain Hook—show their hand and marshal their evil hordes into taking over the club. It's up to our small band of heroes to overcome seemingly impossible odds and reclaim the House of Mouse.
House of Mouse is going strong into its third season on ABC's One Saturday Morning. The formula is fairly simple. Each week starts with a bookend storyline focused within the club, buffered by a mix of classic and new animated shorts. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy are the principal stars with occasional guest stars and cameos by virtually every Disney character ever created (sometimes with their original voices). Often it requires more than one viewing just to see who the animators have visiting the club each week.
Similar to its first full length holiday release, Snowed in at the House of Mouse, Mickey's House of Villains focuses on Halloween by having the largest assembly of Disney's less scrupulous denizens join forces to smite Mickey and Company. Unfortunately, the Villain's intriguing plan takes a back seat to the eight animated shorts used to fill this feature's 70 minute running time.
Trick or Treat—This 1952 short features Donald taking on his
nephews—Huey, Dewey, and Louie—in a battle of tricks while
protecting his treats. The boys gain a much-needed ally in the form of Witch
Hazel (voiced by the legendary June Foray), as they try to gain access to
Donald's treat-filled pantry. A classic all the way around.
Mickey's Mechanical House—Narrated by John Cleese, this new
short is done in the style of Dr. Seuss meets John Kricfalusi. Mickey is fed up
with the problems his house has been giving him—clanging furnace, loose
shutters, etcetera—and decides to move. Packing up his belongings and
trusty companion Pluto, Mickey moves down the street to a new state-of-the-art,
electronic house. The conveniences soon turn to nightmares as the house goes out
of control. Not really a Halloween tale, but it's fun and still fits the
How to Haunt a House—Continuing in the tradition of Goofy's
1940's "How To" features, this new short teaches the ins and outs of
being an effective ghost. Goofy is, of course, the unsuccessful haunter, while
long-time pal Donald is the unsuspecting and unaffected hauntee. Extremely funny
with tongue planted firmly in cheek, it may disturb parents with young children
as Goofy is killed off-screen—"just for now"—in order to
illustrate his ghostly duties.
Lonesome Ghosts—The original Ghostbusters—Mickey, Donald,
and Goofy—star in this classic 1937 short that cemented the comedic trio
in the hearts and minds of many. Four bored ghosts duplicitously call on our
heroic paranormal exterminators to brush up on their scare tactics and have a
little fun. A must see classic.
Dance of the Goofys—Here's where I start getting annoyed. This
new musical short has a Fantasia-esque premise, as we watch a team of imprecise
Goofy fairies open and close flowers on a Spring evening. This has nothing to do
with Halloween and is very much out of place here. If you are going to do a
Halloween-themed feature, spend more time on the Villains plotline instead of
padding your running time with crap like this.
Donald Duck and the Gorilla—Here we go again. While this
classic 1944 short—featuring Donald and the boys (Huey, Dewey, and
Louie)—does have an element of fright, it has nothing to do with
Halloween. That, combined with the chase sequence which makes the interior of
Donald's house appear larger than Buckingham Palace, proves this is even more
It's Our House Now—Finally, the main storyline gets its moment
in the spotlight. This new song and dance showstopper features just about every
Disney villain, large and small, to grace the screen. Fun to watch, but all too
brief. This concept could have been taken much further.
Donald's Halloween Scare—Hands down the most entertaining
segment of the entire disc. Disney Halloween at its finest. This new short, set
to a stylized version of Greig's In the Hall of the Mountain King, stars
the boys—Huey, Dewey, and Louie—off on a trick or treat adventure
they'll never forget. Everyone is out to give them a fright, including Uncle
Donald, who ends up more scared than anyone. Once again, may be a bit too
macabre for the little ones, but the adults will love it.
Hansel & Gretel—While not Halloween-specific, this new
short does feature Mickey and Minnie stepping into the shoes of the classic
fairy tale characters and doing battle with one nasty witch. Set to the music of
Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre, this stylized and engaging segment is a true
gem and, with any luck, an indication of potentially great things Disney
animators can do with these classic characters.
With the segments complete, we return to the main storyline, where our heroes are battling to regain control of the club from Jafar and his cronies. To be honest, what could have been an interesting fight with each villain taking a turn in the spotlight, wound up as nothing more than a lame resolution courtesy of a last minute guest hero.
As for the physical evidence, the 1.33:1 full frame presentation looks fantastic, with vibrant colors and crisp restorations of the older shorts, while the Dolby 5.1 audio is a real treat, especially for material like this. In fact, one of the extras is a montage of great Disney villain moments, available in both music- and effects-only formats. Crank it up and enjoy. The remaining extras are okay, but nothing spectacular. A cursor driven trivia game, The Reel of Misfortune, is fun for Disney fans, but not as entertaining as last year's disney.com "Who wants to be a Villionaire." In the main menu, the lobby posters of three villains provide hidden links to brief clips of their dastardly exploits. Finally, DVD-ROM links and a bevy of trailers for upcoming releases round out the disc.
There is some great new talent at Disney, as evidenced by some of the new animated shorts included on this disc. Unfortunately, the overall writing and direction is lacking. At a retail price of $29.95, I have a difficult time giving a "buy" recommendation to anyone except the true Disney fanatics. Little kids could find some of the imagery disturbing, so parents beware.
This court finds Mickey's House of Villains guilty of coming up with a great idea and failing to execute on its delivery. The exceptional segments detailed within this opinion are hereby absolved of any criminal wrongdoing and released on their own recognizance. However, the producers of this disc are sentenced to return to their drawing boards.
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Scales of Justice
• "Reel of Misfortune" Interactive Game
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