Written by Caballero Oscuro
Unless you’re seriously nostalgic for the Disney Channel’s turn of the century animated series House of Mouse, there’s very little reason to pick up this re-released DVD. Originally released directly to DVD in 2001 and out of print for the past few years, the feature is basically an extended version of a House of Mouse episode with a Christmas theme. That means sub-standard TV animation bookending Disney shorts that have been repurposed from other sources, most famously "Mickey’s Christmas Carol."
The House of Mouse series was an excuse to gather all of Disney’s animated characters under one roof, in this case an all-inclusive nightclub run by Mickey where the characters could mingle while being entertained by Mickey and friends. The Disney characters apparently just acted as background scenery, with no real function other than to delight tots with glimpses of their favorites. Look, there’s Pocahontas! And over at that table are the Seven Dwarfs! They’re just hanging out, but isn’t it great to see them? Not so much. Don’t be deceived by the prominent position of Disney Princesses on the front cover of the DVD, because this show belongs almost entirely to Mickey and his regular gang of co-stars.
The paper-thin plot of this holiday special finds the gang stranded at the House of Mouse during a brutal snowstorm, leading to the shocking revelation that Donald Duck is lacking in Christmas spirit. Mickey grabs some holiday snacks, Minnie grabs some holiday cartoons, and they all settle in to try to unearth Donald’s holiday spirit. With this framing device in place, the show launches into two lousy modern shorts, “Donald on Ice” (1999) and “The Nutcracker” (1999) along with two classic shorts, “Pluto’s Christmas Tree” (1952) and the aforementioned “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (1983). The modern shorts are barely worth mentioning or watching, leaving only the classics as the essential viewing in the program.
“Pluto’s Christmas Tree” finds Pluto being outwitted by Chip and Dale while also trying to please his owner, Donald Duck. Hilarity ensues, and the animation continues to shine nearly 60 years after its production. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” caused a minor sensation when it was released theatrically in 1983 as an accompaniment to a re-release of The Rescuers, representing the Mouse’s first new theatrical cartoon in 30 years. The production value was relatively high for its time, and the story was a fairly serious and faithful retelling of A Christmas Carol. It still holds up well today, although clearly shows its age compared to Disney’s animated theatrical features that followed it during their ‘90s glory days of cel animation. However, it’s also readily available in other DVD packages including its own standalone disc released just over a month ago (also including “Pluto’s Christmas Tree”), so there’s no reason to seek out this release to view it.
The DVD includes a nice bonus for fans of the show: the entire premiere episode of the House of Mouse series. There’s also a brief feature on the many tools foley artists use to make sound effects for the toons, as well as a couple of sing-along Christmas carols. Mickey’s Magical Christmas is now available on DVD.