Tag Archives: minnie mouse

Mickey Mouse Season One

disney_mickey_mouse_vol_1For many years Mickey Mouse was the star of Disney’s theatrical shorts. As his popularity grew he started to shift into more of a supporting role while the likes of Donald Duck, Goofy, and even his dog Pluto stepped in to do more of the heavy lifting with the shorts business. Mickey Mouse became more than just a cartoon character, he became a symbol of the Walt Disney Company which soon branched out from the movie theaters to television, merchandising, theme parks, and now own Spider-Man, Luke Skywalker, and have an omnipresence unlike any other. Through it all, Mickey has remained the top figurehead, especially after the passing of Walt Disney who has really been the only public face associated with the company that the average person could pick out of a line-up. With Mickey in that capacity, his animated outings dwindled. He’d show up here in there, most famously in 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol and 1995’s Runaway Brain. His presence was bolstered on television, but mostly in the realm of programming for the very young. Perhaps someone at Disney was unhappy with the status of the company’s mascot, and the characters associated with him, as in 2013 he was brought out of his forced retirement to resume the role he was born to play.

Simply titled Mickey Mouse, the 2013 “show” isn’t much of a show at all, but just branding for a new line of short cartoons. They primarily air as filler on the various Disney cable platforms and can be easily found on various Disney websites. They’re also packaged together in groups of three for more traditional block programming, but considering their short run time of approximately 4 minutes, even these blocks are quite brief. The first season of shorts was released on DVD in August of 2014. Now three years later, it’s still the only season of the program to receive a physical release (a holiday collection was just released on August 29th, 2017 in limited quantities) and may end being the only one to receive such.

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Goofy’s new look comes across as the most drastic of the main cast.

The series is credited to Paul Rudish who was long associated with Cartoon Network before developing this program. Most of the voice actors associated with the classic Disney characters were brought on to voice their respective character. Bill Farmer is Goofy, Tony Anselmo is Donald, Russi Taylor voices Minnie Mouse, and Tress MacNeille does Daisy. The only exception was with the star character himself:  Mickey Mouse. Mickey had been voiced by Brett Iwan since the passing of Wayne Allwine who had been voicing Mickey since the late 70s. Someone involved with the casting of this show felt Iwan’s portrayal of Mickey wasn’t suited for a more cartoon-like portrayal so Chris Diamantopoulos was hired to voice Mickey. This basically means that for the first time in Mickey’s 80+ years existence he has two official voice actors. While it’s true a number of individuals stepped in during the Walt years to voice Mickey here and there, none were ever considered an official voice of The Mouse. It’s strange and somewhat upsetting for Disney historians (I tackled the subject in this post about Donald Duck suddenly having two voices) for Mickey to have more than one official voice, but I suppose it is what it is.

Brett Iwan probably could have handled voicing Mickey just fine for these shorts. Ignoring that though, Diamantopoulos’ Mickey is similar in that he’s still a high-voiced character with a smooth delivery. This Mickey is more manic than what we’re accustomed to seeing. He often overreacts to simple slights and obstacles and is prone to screaming. Most of the characters are interpreted through this more outlandish lens as the toon quality of the show is emphasized in almost every scene. Minnie is very similar in attitude to Mickey as she’s more or less a female version of the same character. That doesn’t mean she’s uninteresting as she still possesses a personality, it just happens to be very similar to Mickey’s making the two feel like a natural couple who’s been together for decades – which they have! Daisy, on the other hand, is snobbish and materialistic and often likes to brag about her man, err duck, Donald. Goofy is more dim-witted than ever, and he’s also seen the most extreme redesign. The other characters are basically just stylized takes on their classic looks, but Goofy almost looks like a different character. His model reminds me of the George & Junior 90’s “What A Cartoon” show designs. He’s kept his hat and vest, but ditched his pants and even grew a tale. He’s pretty gross too, with stinky feet and is seen scratching himself and picking lint out of his belly button. Donald actually comes across as slightly more mellow than his usual persona. He’s sometimes dismissive of Mickey, but still has his meltdowns. He’s a bit mean-spirited too and isn’t above laughing at another’s misfortune, and that’s pretty much in tune with his classic portrayal. Appearing sporadically is Peg-Legged Pete voiced by Jim Cummings. For the first time in a long time, Pete is even portrayed with his old peg leg. This is also the most cat-like his appearance has been outside of his earliest appearances.

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Mickey’s ears sometimes have a mind of their own.

Visually, the show is very 90s in its looks. Mickey and gang are still fundamentally cute in appearance, but they’re also shown in ugly lights too. When Mickey is worn out or sad his snout will droop making him resemble Mortimer Mouse more than Mickey. It’s a part of Mickey’s anatomy I’ve never seen emphasized before. His eyes and coloring are consistent with his first run of shorts in color. The only real change there is in his over-sized shorts which impossible stay around his waist. The artists and animators love playing with his ears. They slide around on his head, pop-up off of his skull when he screams, and at times they’re even detached. The physics in play are very much of the Looney Tunes variety, with that 90s twist popularized by the likes of Ren & Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Animaniacs. The animation is done in a modern way, meaning it’s likely all CG, but it resembles classic animation with its 2D look and backgrounds.

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The animators do not shy away from portraying Mickey in an unfavorable light when the situation calls for it.

The show is very visual, with gags being the name of the game in a great many episodes, especially the season one shorts. Some of these gags are a play on the world and characters. The first broadcast short, “No Service,” tackles the age old question of why it’s permissible for Donald to strut around pants-less and Mickey without a shirt when the two are denied entry into Goofy’s burger joint. Donald ends up taking Mickey’s shorts so he can go inside and order food, leaving Mickey naked and vulnerable outside as he tries to hide from Minnie and Daisy. It’s one of the more hilarious shorts and lays the groundwork for basically all of the others in that Mickey is often presented with a simple obstacle or objective and he has to go through an awful lot to get around it. In “Stayin’ Cool,” Mickey, Donald, and Goofy have to try and beat the heat somehow. When they get tossed out of some guy’s pool they’re forced to search all over the city for a way to stay cool and wind up in an ice cream truck. You get some weird visual gags such as Goofy filling his shorts with ice cream. In “Third Wheel,” Goofy invites himself out on a date with Minnie and Mickey, and through some rather crazy machinations, the duo end up inside Goofy’s stomach enjoying a romantic dinner. When the camera leaves Goofy’s innards just as the two kiss, Goofy’s outer stomach starts a moving and a grooving. These suggestive visual gags are a bit shocking for those accustomed to only a certain brand of humor from Disney, and Mickey especially, but it’s hard to deny their effectiveness.

The music is appropriately upbeat for many of the high energy scenes in this collection of shorts. There’s also a nice sampling of low key jazz and big band music which is evocative of the classic shorts. And where appropriate, the shorts will even dig into Disney’s rich catalogue of original music here and there. There’s even cameos from classic Disney characters I won’t spoil, though some of my favorite cameos actually occur in later seasons. Some of the shorts take place in foreign countries, and in an interesting move, Mickey and his co-stars will speak the native language when the setting changes. Usually these shorts end up having minimal dialogue, but it’s a pretty neat attention to detail and down-right bold as well.

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Mickey’s mocking of Donald in “No Service” makes me laugh every time I see it.

Mickey Mouse is a great return for the ageless mouse and his cast of friends and foes. There’s an infectious energy in this cartoon series that can’t be ignored. Watching it, one gets a sense of appreciation for these characters on the part of the creators as well as a desire to re-imagine them to a point and place them in new settings and new situations to see how they would respond. I can understand if some longtime fans of Mickey and Goofy, especially, are uncomfortable with this take or find their look unappealing, but I do hope they can appreciate the humor in this series. Really, for the first time in his existence, Mickey Mouse is actually a funny character on his own. He’s been the straight man for so many years, and prior to that he was somewhat of a thrill seeker and even a trickster, but rarely comedic. The series is still ongoing and is in the midst of its fourth season with over 60 shorts released, plus the holiday specials. I hope more is on the way and a physical release is considered for the episodes that have been stranded on cable and the internet.  Season One includes 18 shorts, plus a brief making of type of feature that’s not really worth watching, and is readily available for less than 10 dollars. If you’re a Disney or animation fan it’s basically a no-brainer at such a low price point, and considering my own offspring is addicted to this disc, I can safely recommend it for children and adults alike.

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#2 – Mickey’s Christmas Carol

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Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Mickey’s Christmas Carol marked the return of the most famous cartoon mouse to the big screen for the first time in 30 years. Once a staple of the cinematic experience, Mickey had been pushed aside for other characters (namely Donald Duck) and live-action features. It had been even longer since Mickey, Donald, and Goofy had all appeared in the same short.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol was released in 1983 along with the The Rescuers. As shorts go, it’s actually pretty long, which has helped it over the years in being shown on television because it fits easily into a standard half-hour time-slot. Mickey’s Christmas Carol also goes against one of my personal tenants of Christmas specials which is to avoid adaptations of A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life. That’s often the path of the lazy, but Mickey’s Christmas Carol benefits as being one of the earlier adaptations, and for some reason, it just works.

The story is obviously familiar to most people. It’s a pretty straight-forward retelling of the Dickens classic just with Disney characters acting out the parts (only the animal characters though, no humans allowed). The cast features the old popular ones of Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Minnie while also mixing in cameos from The Winds in the Willow, Silly Symphonies, and Robin Hood, among others. This is also the first short to feature Scrooge McDuck as the character he was born to play. He’s voiced by Alan Young, known to audiences as Wilbur from Mister Ed, who has continued to voice the character even into his 90’s. Another debut is Wayne Allwine as Mickey Mouse, just the third voice actor to portray the character. Clarence “Ducky” Nash also gets a final opportunity to voice Donald Duck, before the character would be passed onto Tony Anselmo. As a result, Mickey’s Christmas Carol feels like a really important short in the company’s history as there’s a lot of historical significance that can be attached to it.

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Gets me every time.

All of that stuff is great, but it wouldn’t matter if the story sucked. Instead, the story is told in a brisk, but not rushed, manner. The shots that need to linger, linger, and the ones that can be hurried along are. The animation is vintage Disney, with Scrooge walking home in the snow from his counting house probably my favorite shot. All of the right emotions hit, and Scrooge’s transformation from miserable miser to benevolent boss is done in a believable way. Just try to suppress the lump in your throat when Mickey is seen crying at the grave of Tiny Tim in the flash-forward. That sight would transform any man!

Mickey’s Christmas Carol has a special place in my heart. It was the lead-off special on a homemade VHS tape my mom made for my sister and I when we were really little. As a result, it’s also probably the Christmas special I’ve seen more than any other. Since Disney is omnipresent on television, Mickey’s Christmas Carol is shown quite frequently around the holidays, so hopefully you didn’t miss it this year. It’s also been released multiple times on DVD and Blu Ray, most recently just two years ago. Though if you really want to own a copy of it, I suggest you pony up the extra dollars for Mickey Mouse: In Living Color Volume 2 so you can also enjoy a bunch of Mickey’s other classic shorts.

 


Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (2013)

250px-CastleofillusionremakeWhen I was a kid Mickey Mouse was a pretty big video game star. He was always known first and foremost as the official mascot for Disney and its theme parks and for the many cartoons featuring his likeness but he was a frequent star in several video games across multiple consoles. As was often the case back then, Mickey had a different franchise for each of the major consoles. The Sega consoles featured the Illusion series while the Super Nintendo had the Magical Quest games as well as some adventure games for the NES. As the 90’s wound along Mickey started appearing in the same game on both consoles before moving onto the newer machines. Since then his appearances have been cut down, with the Epic Mickey franchise sort of representing a return for Mickey. Even though Mickey was in many games, he never did acquire the reputation of Mario or Sonic (before his reputation was ruined, anyways) and one would be hard-pressed to argue that any of his games were among the best of the era. What they were was usually entertaining and pretty solid.

Mickey was basically a B+ video game star with his hits and misses but his best franchise was probably the Illusion series which appeared on Sega consoles. Developed by Sega, these games were often featured on the Genesis and Game Gear retail boxes as signature games for the consoles. The first was Castle of Illusion and was released for the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1990 with a Game Gear and Master System version to follow in 1991. It starred Mickey as he tried to navigate his way through a castle in order to save his beloved Minnie from the witch, Mizrabel, who was basically the witch/queen from Snow White. A sequel titled Land of Illusion was released for the Game Gear and Master System in 1992 with another sequel to follow on the Genesis titled World of Illusion later that same year. World of Illusion was unique because it starred both Mickey and Donald and featured two-player simultaneous play. Its controls and visuals also represented a noticeable upgrade over the original title and its often viewed as the best of the series.

Castle of Illusion, being an early Genesis title, is somewhat crude by today’s standards. The game’s visuals were never stellar and today they’re almost downright ugly. Mickey has a very jagged, squished look and there isn’t much being animated on him. He’s very sluggish to control and the whole game has kind of a sleepy feel. Still, as an early platformer for the Genesis, it was mostly well received because there wasn’t an obvious Mario clone at the time for the Genesis. Last year Sega released a remake for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and that’s really what this review is about.

The original game was okay looking at the time, but its grainy visuals and squished Mickey haven't aged well.

The original game was okay looking at the time, but its grainy visuals and squished Mickey haven’t aged well.

The 2013 version of Castle of Illusion obviously features greatly enhanced visuals when compared with the original. Mickey looks pretty great and the game is an above average looking title for its respective consoles. It isn’t mind-blowing, but is pleasant. The game mostly follows the same path as the original though it does introduce a castle hub world from which Mickey can access the various levels in the game. It’s a little longer than the original, and the levels are a bit different in spots, but for the most part it’s a pretty faithful remake with better graphics. Sega opted to confine Mickey to a 2D plane when navigating the levels but the boss fights usually occur in a 3D environment, which gives them a different feel when compared to the original game. For the most part, I found the boss fights harder in this game than I did on the original cart while the actual stages might have been a tad easier, with some exceptions.

Unfortunately, Sega did not opt to address what is probably the original game’s biggest short-coming and thats the controls. Mickey is still very floaty and very slow. It took me awhile to get used to Mickey’s timing and early on I had difficulty navigating the easiest jumps as a result. Eventually I got used to it but that doesn’t mean I ever fell in love with it. And these floaty controls get to suck more this time around because Mickey has a third dimension to contend with. Easily the most frustrating point of the game for me was the candy level where Mickey has to jump across floating cookies in a milk river. I felt like I was really fighting with the game to get Mickey onto those cookies and I came close to shutting the game off, but managed to persevere. Some of the collision detection is also confounding, particularly with the game’s second boss the Jack-in-the-Box. I found his boxing glove attack was inconsistent. I basically did the same thing for each attack to avoid it, only sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. I could never tell what was different as every time it looked like Mickey was basically jumping on top of the glove. The final boss is a little annoying too as she attacks with these ghost things that have a green aura around them making it tough to distinguish between the aura and the ghost (which is also green).

The remake mostly goes for a 2.5D approach and looks well enough for a download only release.

The remake mostly goes for a 2.5D approach and looks nice enough for a download only release.

Castle of Illusion is currently free for Playstation Plus subscribers, which is how I experienced it. My free membership expires this week hence why I didn’t shut it off as I wanted to beat it. I downloaded it mostly because it was free, but also because I had some nice memories of the original and wanted to see what Sega did with it. The original game comes with the download and I can safely say that the remake is probably the better game, though it’s also more frustrating. I can’t really recommend it unless you really loved the original game or have a Playstation Plus membership and can check it out for free. It’s a short game and I managed to beat it in an afternoon. The production values are actually pretty nice and the game’s soundtrack is actually better than I remembered (though I kind of prefer the original game’s old school score). The plot basically exists just because it has to and you’re not going to play this to see what happens to Mickey and Minnie, but I suppose that’s better than nothing. Hopefully Sega and Disney made some money off of this remake and a World of Illusion remake is in the cards. That’s a game I’d pay money to play again.


A Mickey Mouse Christmas

Mickey Mouse has appeared in many Christmas themed specials and shorts over the years.  I suppose that should be expected of a character who has been around for over 80 years.  I don’t think he’s appeared in more Christmas specials than any other popular character (the boys in South Park actually had a nice streak going on of a Christmas special nearly every year) but he’s certainly in the discussion.  Many of Mickey’s Christmas exploits took place on the big screen in the form of shorts, but have since become television staples during the Christmas season.  Rather than make an individual post here and there on certain ones, I’ve decided to make one long post that hits on the ones I’m most familiar with.  This list isn’t exhaustive as I’m sure there are more modern television specials that I’m not familiar with, but consider this a good start.  The following list is in chronological order, starting with the earliest.  They’re all available on DVD in some fashion, and the old shorts can be found on youtube as well (Disney is pretty lax with its old shorts when it comes to youtube, probably because the Treasures line of DVDs is out of print)

Mickey’s Good Deed (1932)

The original version was in black and white, but colorized versions exist today.

The original version was in black and white, but colorized versions exist today.

Mickey’s rise to fame nearly coincided with The Great Depression.  As such, it’s a pretty common site to see Mickey depicted poor and penniless.  In Mickey’s Good Deed, he’s a street performer looking to make a buck.  As far as we know, his only possessions are his cello and Pluto.  After a day of playing, Mickey and Pluto look to score some dinner and find that passer-byes have been tossing nuts and bolts into Mickey’s cup instead of coins.  Down on their luck, Mickey has a mishap that leads to the destruction of his cello, while a rich pig offers to buy Pluto for his bratty kid.  Mickey, of course, refuses but he soon happens upon a family of poor cats.  Wanting to give them a good Christmas, Mickey reluctantly sells his dog, dresses up as Santa, and gives the cat family a nice Christmas.  Pluto, meanwhile, is miserable as he’s abused by the bratty boy pig leading to the father tossing him out and spanking his kid.  Pluto is able to happen upon a despondent Mickey and we get a nice, happy ending.  It’s a cute little Christmas short that unfortunately is never shown on air because of one instance of perceived racist imagery.  A little balloon the Santa Mickey carries appears to depict a blackface character portrait on it.  This means the short is relegated to the vault section on the release Mickey Mouse In Black and White Volume 2.  Despite that, it’s actually been released here and there on VHS and DVD, including a colorized version on the most recent release Holiday Celebration with Mickey and Pals.

Toy Tinkers (1949)

It's all-out war when Chip and Dale sneak into Donald's house.

It’s all-out war when Chip and Dale sneak into Donald’s house.

I’m cheating here, because this is actually a Donald Duck short and does not feature Mickey, but who cares?  This Christmas themed short pits Donald versus perhaps his most famous antagonists:  Chip and Dale.  While out chopping down a Christmas tree, the mischievous chipmunks take notice and follow Donald back to his home where they see a nice, warm environment and bowls full of nuts.  The duo slip in and immediately start using the toys around the tree to transport the nuts out of there.  Donald, not one for charity, takes note and a full-scale battle breaks out over the nuts with the two using pop guns and toy cannons on each other.  It’s a silly, and fun short where Donald is mostly punished for his cruelty (and because it’s more fun to see Donald lose his temper) and things mostly work out for Chip and Dale.  Unlike Mickey’s Good Deed, this one will pop up from time to time on the Disney channel during the holiday season.  Otherwise, it can be found on some compilation releases and the Treasures release The Chronological Donald Volume 3.

Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952)

Pluto is very protective of his Christmas tree.

Pluto is very protective of his Christmas tree.

Despite what it’s title suggests, Pluto’s Christmas Tree is actually considered a Mickey Mouse short instead of a Pluto one, for some reason.  It’s also one of the few shorts to feature Jimmy Macdonald as Mickey Mouse, as Walt found he didn’t have the time to voice the character any longer.  Pluto’s Christmas Tree is actually fairly similar to Toy Tinkers.  Mickey and Pluto set out to get a Christmas tree and they settle on one that happens to be occupied by Chip and Dale.  Once inside the house, Chip and Dale immediately start to make themselves comfortable in the Christmas tree while Pluto takes notice.  Pluto tries, in vain, to point out the chipmunks to Mickey who just sees Pluto’s antics as the usual.  Eventually he can’t take it anymore and attacks the tree, finally revealing the chipmunks to Mickey who basically has the opposite reaction as Pluto.  The short ends with Christmas carols, where the chipmunks take issue with Pluto’s singing voice.  This is another wildly entertaining Chip and Dale story mostly full of slapstick humor.  This one is really easy to get ahold of as it’s been released several times on VHS and DVD and is one of the most well-received Disney shorts.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

Not a Christmas season goes by where I don't watch this one numerous times.

Not a Christmas season goes by where I don’t watch this one numerous times.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol is fairly recent compared with the other shorts.  It’s also quite easy to catch on television or find on DVD and was even recently rereleased on Blu Ray (along with Pluto’s Christmas Tree, among others) this year.  It’s the classic Dickens’ tale with Mickey as Bob Cratchit and Minnie as his wife.  Scrooge McDuck is, naturally, the film’s Scrooge while other Disney characters show up in supporting roles.  As far as takes on A Christmas Carol go, this one is my favorite as it’s both funny and poignant and the inclusion of Disney characters somehow makes it more relatable.  The recent re-release does make it all the more obvious that one giant Christmas release from Disney is necessary.  Mickey’s Christmas Carol is also how many were first introduced to the longest running voice of Mickey Mouse, Wayne Allwine (who passed away in 2009), and also marks the final performance of the original Donald, Clarence “Ducky” Nash.

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)

Once Upon a Christmas is far from timeless, but it is nice to see all of the Disney characters together at Christmas time once again.

Once Upon a Christmas is far from timeless, but it is nice to see all of the Disney characters together at Christmas time once again.

Once Upon a Christmas is a traditionally animated direct-to-video collection of three shorts starring Donald, Goofy, and Mickey.  It’s shown annually on television still and represents the modern Mickey Mouse and friends.  The first short, titled Stuck on Christmas, stars Donald and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie and is a take on the story of What if Christmas Were Every Day?  In it, the three boys wish it could be Christmas every day and are then forced to deal with the consequences.  It’s a bit like Groundhog Day, in that the boys need to be considerate of others and have the perfect day to undo the spell.  The second short, A Very Goofy Christmas, stars Goofy and his son Max as Goofy tries to prove to Max that there is a Santa Claus after their neighbor Pete informs him there’s no such thing.  The third short, Mickey and Minnie’s The Gift of the Magi, once again depicts Mickey as rather poor as both he and Minnie try to scrounge up some money to buy each other the perfect Christmas gift with both discovering the only thing that matters is having each other.  The animation on all three is pretty well done and it’s kind of fun to see modernized versions of the characters.  Aside from the Mickey short, the others tend to run a bit too long and run out of steam towards the end.  It’s a solid Christmas special but falls short of being a classic due mostly to the pacing issues.

Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)

Another direct-to-video Christmas special, Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas is naturally the sequel to Once Upon

The CG look for the characters just doesn't do it for me, and as you can see here, the backgrounds suffer too.

The CG look for the characters just doesn’t do it for me, and as you can see here, the backgrounds suffer too.

a Christmas, though the stories contain no obvious references to the previous ones.  Differing itself from its predecessor, Twice Upon a Christmas is entirely computer animated and the results are something less than spectacular.  The characters are mostly harmed by the transition to 3D models which makes sense considering they were never drawn for such a look to begin with.  This collection also contains five shorts which does address the pacing issues from the first set.  The shorts are:  Belles on Ice, Christmas: Impossible, Christmas Maximus, Donald’s Gift, and Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas.  The first one stars Minnie and Daisy as competitive figure skaters and is easily the worst of the set.  There just isn’t much to it.  Christmas: Impossible stars Huey, Dewey, and Louie as they sneak into Santa’s workshop to get on the nice list.  It’s kind of cute, but the CG really shows its limitations as the should-be wondrous Santa’s workshop is really unimpressive looking.  Christmas Maximus stars Goofy and Max, who’s now returning home for the holidays from college with his new sweetheart.  It’s only slightly better than Belles on Ice but is ultimately forgettable.  I also found Max’s look to be really off-putting for some reason.  Donald’s Gift is a rather simple Donald tale where his grumpiness and overall bad demeanor nearly ruin Christmas for his family, but he redeems himself in the end.  I’m a Donald sucker, so I was entertained by this one but it can’t hold a candle to Donald’s classic shorts.  Mickey’s Dog-Gone Christmas is definitely the strongest of the collection as Pluto runs away to the North Pole after Mickey gets mad at him.  There he befriends Santa’s reindeer and adopts the moniker Murray (Murray Christmas, get it?!) and even gets to fly.  The reindeer characters are entertaining, and the CG look actually works for Pluto, though I still prefer the traditional look.  Eventually Pluto is reunited by Santa with his depressed owner and everyone’s happy in the end.  Overall, this is a weak collection and the CG makes it hard to watch.  Check it out if you happen to catch it on TV, but don’t feel like you need to go out of your way to see it.


Mickey Mouse: In Living Color

Mickey Mouse:  In Living Color

Mickey Mouse: In Living Color

I love classic cartoons.  They just seem to be so much more developed than present day television shorts.  There’s an emphasis placed on the score and plot while not forgetting the laughs.  The most iconic of cartoon characters from this era include Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but is any more well known than Mickey Mouse?  The mouse that built an empire, Mickey was Disney’s original star.  While he ruled the world in the 20’s during his black and white career, he was eclipsed later on by other characters, most notably brand-mate Donald Duck.  Mickey was eclipsed more out of choice than anything.  He became the Disney brand which necessitated him becoming a more wholesome character.  Early portrayals had him playing the role of the trickster at times, but he evolved into more of a straight man (err, mouse) with Donald becoming the more devious character.

As a result, while he wasn’t the most watched cartoon character in the 1930’s he still received all-star quality toons.  When Disney set out to re-release collections of their classic shorts they wisely lead off with this set, Mickey Mouse:  In Living Color which covers the years 1935-1938.  Some of Mickey’s most famous shorts are contained on this set and all appear uncut (save for a minor audio change in “Clock Cleaners”).  Either Disney wanted to create strong demand for these collections, or the company failed to predict how popular they would become because now they can be hard to come by.  They’re worth it though for animation buffs and I’m going to tell you why.

I currently own three sets from the Walt Disney Treasures line.  This one as well as Donald Duck Volume 2 and Mickey Mouse: In Black and White Volume 2.  Picking a favorite is an exercise in futility, and this one is a great starting point for anyone.  It features a total of 26 shorts (listed at the end of this post) all starring Mickey with many featuring Donald, Goofy, Minnie and Pluto.  Perhaps starring is too strong a word as some of the ensemble pieces feature equal screen time for the trio of Mickey, Donald and Goofy and some feature very little of Mickey.  There’s also an easter egg short that’s kind of amusing as it was sponsored by Nabisco so it’s basically an extended commercial (and may have been the first Mickey cartoon to give him pupils).

Mickey and Donald are often friends but also often adversaries.

Mickey and Donald are often friends but also often adversaries.

A few feature Mickey playing off of Donald.  As I mentioned earlier, Mickey became relegated to the role of straight-man with Donald being relied upon for the comedy aspect.  Mickey’s most famous cartoon (other than “Steamboat Willy”) is probably “The Band Concert” where Donald tries to ingratiate himself to Mickey to hilarious results.  There’s also solo cartoons like “Thru the Mirror” which puts Mickey into the book “Through the Looking-Glass” and has him interacting with personified objects.  Fans of the 8 bit and 16 bit era Mickey video games will recognize several scenes from some of these cartoons.  “Thru the Mirror” is a visual delight and one of the stronger cartoons on the set.  For pure comedy there’s “Moose Hunters” which features the trio going after a moose and failing spectacularly.  Another I adore, partly because I had this cartoon on VHS as a kid, is “Mickey’s Trailer” which again features Donald and Goofy.  In this one, Goofy is towing Mickey’s camper while Mickey and Donald are inside.  Goofy, predictably “goofs up” and it leads to some amusing physical comedy.  There’s also a great sequence where Mickey has to get Donald out of bed and relies on the trailer’s technology to assist him.  Another nostalgic favorite for me is “On Ice” which used to be included, in quick clips, with the Mickey’s Christmas Carol broadcasts from the 80’s.  In it, Mickey teaches Minnie how to skate while Goofy tries to ice fish and Donald plays a prank on Pluto.  It’s one of the funnier cartoons included.

Some of these shorts offer a nice glimpse at the era from which they’re from.  In the 30’s, the nation was still coming out of The Great Depression and the short “Moving Day” reflects that as Mickey and Donald face eviction from their landlord.  “Mickey’s Polo Team” features several caricatures of popular actors from that period including the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Harpo Marx.  This  particular toon should be a real treat for film buffs out there and adds another dimension to the viewing experience.  Another short I was familiar with before picking up this set was “Brave Little Tailor.”  This one is another visual treat as it pits Mickey against a giant.  The plot is setup when the king confuses Mickey’s boast of killing seven flies in one blow with killing seven giants with one blow.  Mickey attempts to correct the viewpoint but when he finds out Princess Minnie is his reward if he solves the kingdom’s giant problem he finds it hard to say no.

Mickey Mouse in "Thru the Mirror."

Mickey Mouse in “Thru the Mirror.”

The set comes housed in a tin with images printed on both sides.  Later sets would replace the back print with an insert instead which is actually beneficial as these tins are susceptible to shelf ware.  Leonard Maltin is the host on all of them and there’s a mini documentary included where he goes over Mickey in the 30’s.  He’s also present to educate the masses since these cartoons are not always politically correct.  There’s smoking in some, even by the protagonists, and some jokes that may be considered tasteless.  This set is fairly harmless in that regard when compared with others.  Other sets contain episodes dubbed as “From the Vault” that usually contain images that could be considered racist.  This one contains no such section which is a good thing as those Vault sections contain a mandatory word of caution from Maltin that can’t be skipped.  It just becomes annoying whenever you want to watch those episodes and you have to sit through it each time.  I did mention that there is one edit on “Clock Cleaners” and that’s because some people insisted a Donald Duck line contained the word “fuck,” which was an absurd claim to make since Disney would have never tried to get away with such in the 30’s, let alone now.  Nevertheless, the line was replaced to avoid confusion but it has been released uncut in other sets.  I don’t consider it a big deal though and it’s not something that should affect anyone’s purchasing decision.

Mickey gets to take on a giant in "Brave Little Tailor."

Mickey gets to take on a giant in “Brave Little Tailor.”

This is a wonderful collection of cartoons and anyone who enjoys the medium should try and track down a copy.  Even though these sets only exist in standard definition, the visual quality is very good.  Especially considering these cartoons are over 70 years old.  Some are better than others, but there aren’t any that appear to have deteriorated too bad.  Mickey’s face is pretty much always white and doesn’t appear dirty.  The only one that seemed a little rough around the edges to me was “On Ice,” but it was nothing that could dampen the viewing experience.  This is a fun set to watch and it’s great to experience the joy of these shorts as an adult and I’m sure kids today would still get a kick out of them.  To a lot of children Mickey is just a logo, a character that is featured prominently at Disney’s theme parks, but few have experienced him as a cartoon star.  This set is from an era where Mickey was king of the cartoon world, and it’s not hard to see why.

As promised, here’s the full list of the cartoons included as part of this collection:

  • The Band Concert
  • Mickey’s Garden
  • On Ice
  • Pluto’s Judgement Day
  • Mickey’s Fire Brigade
  • Thru the Mirror
  • Mickey’s Circus
  • Mickey’s Elephant
  • Mickey’s Grand Opera
  • Mickey’s Polo Team
  • Alpine Climbers
  • Moving Day
  • Mickey’s Rival
  • Orphans Picnic
  • Hawaiian Holiday
  • Moose Hunters
  • The Worm Turns
  • Magician Mickey
  • Mickey’s Amateurs
  • Clock Cleaners
  • Lonesome Ghosts
  • Mickey’s Parrot
  • Boat Builders
  • The Whalers
  • Mickey’s Trailer
  • Brave Little Tailor