Over the course of its three season existence, Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has undergone a number of changes. Some of the songs sung in every episode have been tweaked; the animation has improved; and, among other things (and perhaps most notably), Toodles has gained not only a face and a voice, but has been increasingly anthropomorphized.
For the uninitiated, Toodles is the holder of all the tools that Mickey and friends need on a daily basis – whenever the group requires a little bit of help they call on Toodles and he comes a-calling. The series itself began in 2006, but it wasn’t until the first new episode of 2010, “Happy Birthday Toodles,” that Toodles gained his face and voice. Now, in the latest DVD release (which will premiere on Disney Channel the same day it hits store shelves), “Road Rally,” Toodles experiences a great deal of envy.
The new “full-length” episode (essentially the length of two single episodes) features Toodles feeling overshadowed by, and more than a little bit jealous of, another creation of Professor Von Drake’s, The Rescue Truck. His bicycle having fallen apart, Goofy is given the truck by the Professor in order to participate in the Clubhouse gang’s road rally. The only caveat the Professor gives is that Goofy must help when people need him, thereby encroaching on Toodles’ usual territory.
As one would expect, by the end of the episode not only does Toodles feel better about his position in the Clubhouse family, but everyone else realizes just what they did that may have greatly upset their friend. It is another good lesson delivered by the series, but it’s not the only one the episode tries to impart. The heroes may be participating in a road race, but as is explained on more than one occasion, the race is all about having fun and not coming in first. That’s a lesson that Pete ends up illustrating if not learning.
“Road Rally” is also full of songs and good cheer. It is, in short, just the sort of happy-go-lucky, amusing for preschoolers, tale that we’ve come to expect from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. The ultimate question for parents is whether or not they’ll enjoy the story alongside their children, and unless the parent in question is one of the anti-Mickey brigade it seems likely that they will. Certainly parents who have seen other episodes in the series will be amused by a couple of humorous, oblique references to events from other episodes.
There is also a clear dedication to the look of the animation that ought to impress those watching. The colors remain bright and colorful and while the animation may appear rather basic it is anything but. Not only do the characters’ clothing feature different textures, but the treads on Goofy’s Rescue Truck feature tiny Mickey silhouettes. It is that attention to detail which, although unnecessary, is the sort of nice, added touch that make the series a delight.
The DVD release also features a bonus, regular length, episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (“Pluto Lends a Paw”) that hasn’t yet aired on television. Additionally, there is a two difficulty level Discovery Mode which asks viewers questions about the main, “Road Rally” episode. Finally, as this reviewer has complained about the lack of this in the past, it must be noted that the bonus episode included here is formatted for 16:9 televisions, just like the main episode, rather than only being included in 4:3 format as has occurred on some previous DVD releases.
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – Road Rally is available for purchase on DVD September 7, which is the same day that “Road Rally” will premiere on the Disney Channel at 7:00pm.