Welcome, once again, to:
And today, we’re going to visit one of my favorite running topics: Disney.
This movie is endearing in its abounding failure.
Let me explain.
Mickey Mouse’s House of Mouse ran on Toon Disney in the early 2000’s. It was, essentially, a clip show dinner theatre run by Mickey and his pals, where all of Disney’s finest came to relax and make cameos. For 30 minutes at a stretch, kids would get to see some old, classic Disney shorts; newer shorts; a little bit of connecting plot, usually relating to the inner workings of the club, (frequently) whether or not it would close down or be taken over; and shots of Dumbo, Gaston, Peter Pan, Ariel, Hades, and others clapping at the end of each cartoon. Occasionally, those characters would get to talk or do something, but it was always a small thing before they were quickly rushed offscreen again.
Also, the cursed brooms from Fantasia and the penguins from Mary Poppins were the staff. And Donald’s nephews played music from time to time, always with obvious and cheesy band name parodies.
The whole thing was cheesy and goofy, but not bad by clip show standards. The cartoons were enjoyable enough, and hey, I’m all for giving kids a taste of something old as well as something fresh and new. Where House of Mouse tended to screw up was, ironically, where it tried to stand out from the crowd; by trying to insert plots going on around the shorts that were gripping, dramatic, or even remotely interesting. Also, by trying to seem “hip with the kids of today.”
Spoiler alert: it rarely worked.
Enter the main problem with Mickey’s House of Villains!
Warning: this review will include spoilers, because there is no other way to talk about the movie and have it make sense.
So the villains of Disney were never barred from entry at the House of Mouse just because Mickey and his friends are good guys. I’m fully aware that Mickey is blissfully naive (he’s dripping with it throughout the special), or else I’d be giving kudos to the lack of elitism…in a universe where villains are unambiguously evil…
But on Halloween, for whatever reason, the Disney villains all show up en masse and start complaining to each other about how the club is sappy and saccharine, and that Halloween needs to have tricks!
So they construct a plan…
Urh…rather, Jafar hints vaguely that he has something up his sleeve, that he will enact at midnight…
On what will be officially All Saints Day…the day after Halloween.
The special presses on with lame attempts at jokes (and this coming from a woman who loves bad puns), and some pretty good, fun Halloween or generally fear-related shorts. Among the classic cartoons are “Lonesome Ghosts” (1937), “Donald Duck and the Gorilla” (1944), and “Trick or Treat” (1952), the last one being my personal favorite.
Of the 1999 and up shorts, “How to Haunt a House,” “Donald’s Halloween Scare,” and “Hansel and Gretel” are cute and fun enough for me to recommend. Although the middle short has a good chuck of nightmare fuel in it.
Then, 3/4ths of the way through the special, Jafar finally gets off his @$$ and takes over the House of Mouse with the other villains. Why did he have to wait until midnight to do this? How are the villains taking over (aside from just taking the crew unawares), and couldn’t they have done this at any time, all along?
If Pete, the club’s landlord, is seen cheering in the crowd of villains during the lame song, will he have anything to say once Mickey and company inevitably reclaim the House of Mouse?
All these questions and more will never be answered.
Yay, cool cameos that ultimately do and say nothing! Just want we’ve always wanted to see from the unearthly force of power that is the Disney villains!
Also, Jafar is cool and all, but why is he specifically in charge? Why not Maleficent; Queen Grimhilde; or massive, monstrous Chernabog, who could crush the club with one wing?
Meh. Doesn’t matter.
So, now that Jafar is the host, what do he and the other villains do?
They show two shorts that don’t result in any of the main characters losing in the end, and are not any different in tone from the previous shorts.
They sit around while Mickey and the gang try to reclaim the club twice and fail, getting booed and hoisted off the stage.
Then, Mickey dons his Sorcerer’s Apprentice outfit, engages in a somehow really lame magic duel with Jafar, and loses his hat.
Then, the rest of his friends open a door, Aladdin shows up, and tosses them the lamp.
The villains scatter (for some reason), and Jafar is sucked inside, giving the House of Mouse back over to its rightful owners.
Thank you for your 70 minutes.
Television episodes, depending on the structure, have very low stakes and effects of the show’s greater world. Shows like House of Mouse, where every episode resets to 0 and mostly ignores past episodes, have the lowest of stakes because everything has to be alright in the end for the show to continue spinning it wheels. Unless the show is officially ending, it can be said that the status quo is God.
Everyone with a childhood and a working frontal lobe should know this to be especially true with Disney; the good guys won’t lose, because good must always ultimately triumph over evil.
This special has low stakes. Depressingly low. It seems like it’s trying to be interesting, but at the same time it’s not trying very hard at all. As if the writers thought that the premise was really good, but didn’t know how to go about adding spice and flair. So in the end, they just gave up and crammed the villain plot into the last 20 minutes of the special and just did what they always did with the rest.
Sure, Jafar becomes a genie in Aladdin, so I guess it makes sense that the lamp would defeat him. And maybe that was used or referenced in the show at some point; I honestly can’t remember. But within the episode, it’s never established. Nor is Mickey’s wizard hat and robes, for that matter. They just feel like deus ex machinas that didn’t need to be so.
If the writers had thrown in a little hint at them at the start, instead of, you know, teasing at a supposedly epic, evil revamping of the House of Mouse to come. That never happened.
As a result, the whole thing is lame and limp. Sugary junk food without even the most basic substance or value.
I like the special despite its faults, mostly because the shorts are good, and it’s nice and convenient to have cartoons of a similar theme (Halloween, in this case) grouped together for your viewing pleasure. Otherwise, it’s a dud that, from the point of view of another writer, is frustrating in how needlessly flawed it is. It was big enough to be the stuff of season finales, but not an actual movie, stand alone or otherwise.
Final thoughts, ranked in order of most crucial to least:
- The climax needed serious work (stronger setup and payoff)
- The villains’ schemes needed to happen sooner and quicker
- The villains either needed to do something that the main characters didn’t, or at least do it differently
- The movie could have worked as a regular half-hour episode or t.v. movie and would’ve lost almost nothing
- Why isn’t Chernabog back at Bald Mountain throwing his annual party?
6. Maleficent is not a queen. She’s the “Mistress of All Evil.”
There’s nothing really objectionable about this movie, and I find it nostalgic and enjoyable despite myself, but sadly, 4/10.
If you want a more epic and fun, non-canon gathering, and plotting, of villains, play the first Kingdom Hearts.
*As per usual, most of the pics don’t belong to me. The title card does, though. Twas done by the gracious and talented Zero, who can be found here. Check her out! 🙂