Disney has a record of creating memorable Christmas specials by packaging new content with classic cartoons. Anyone remember "From All of Us to All of You?" The most recent addition to my personal holiday collection is Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed In at the House of Mouse, released in 2001. While I wouldn't consider it a holiday must-see on the level of, say, The Grinch Stole Christmas, Mickey's Magical Christmas is pretty cute and definitely worth an annual viewing.
Recommend this product?
Based on the relatively short-lived House of Mouse series which aired on the Disney Channel in the early 2000's, this Christmas special features more recognizable Disney characters than you can shake a stick at. Mickey and Minnie apparently operate The House of Mouse, a live entertainment venue. Due to a Christmas Eve snow storm, all of its patrons (which happen to include representatives of practically every Disney movie) become stranded and are not the least in the holiday spirit. Particularly and predictably, Donald Duck is a real bummer. In an attempt to mollify his guests, Mickey puts on a show with music, live interviews, and clips from cartoons old and new including:
Donald on Ice (1999)
Pluto's Christmas Tree (1952)
The Nutcracker (1999)
Mickey's Christmas Chaos (2000)
Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy are front and center per usual. More fun, though, are the "blink and you'll miss it" cameos from audience members, which include Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, Timon and Pumba (The Lion King), Mushu (Mulan), the Queen of Hearts, Mad Hatter, and March Hare (Alice in Wonderland), Peter Pan, Dumbo, some dalmations, and many more favorites.
This "full length feature film" runs just 65 minutes which is a respectable length for a Christmas special but appears to be a bone of contention with many online reviewers. As a special feature, this DVD includes the premiere episode of the House of Mouse television show.
This Christmas movie is kind of like a stocking packed with treats. The House of Mouse format takes a little while to get use to - it's particularly jarring to see Disney heroes and heroines and the villains from their respective movies sitting at the same tables and laughing and clapping together. The plot is a little flimsy too - Donald is always a bit grumpy but here he comes across as downright jerky with his refusal to make the best of the snowed in situation. He's with his friends and girlfriend, after all! The cartoon content, however, is beyond reproach.
For me, The Nutcracker is the highlight of the newer features on this DVD. This charming short retells the traditional story Disney-style, with Mickey playing the nutcracker, Minnie playing the little girl, Donald playing the Mouse King (hilarious) and Goofy playing the Sugar Plum Ferry. The characters frolic and caper to the sounds of Tchaikovsky while a snarky narrator oversees. This 1999 short manages to retain the essence of Disney's great early cartoons while offering a more modern sense of humor. I laughed out loud at least three times. The two other modern cartoons, Donald on Ice and Mickey's Christmas Chaos, are cute as well but disappointingly brief. I would be surprised if either lasted more than two minutes.
I really enjoyed seeing two of my older cartoon favorites, Pluto's Christmas Tree and Mickey's Christmas Carol. Both of these have clearly been spruced up from when I used to watch them on the Disney Channel as a child and the film quality looks great. Pluto's Christmas Tree is a timeless Pluto versus Chip and Dale cartoon with a great holiday message from Mickey at the end. Mickey's Christmas Carol is one of the better adaptations of a familiar holiday tale and a catchy theme song ("Oh, What a Merry Christmas Day") that won't leave my head twenty-four hours after viewing. It's also one of the kinder, gentler and shorter versions of the Scrooge story, making it a great way to introduce kids to this much-adapted tale.
Overall . . .
Disney made some smart choices with this compilation. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much when I purchased this DVD but I actually like Snowed in at the House of Mouse quite a lot. Although some of its cartoons are available elsewhere, it's nice to have them as part of this holiday-themed package. I think this film would be enjoyed by families with children, Disney fans, or anyone hoping to get in the holiday spirit.
*You are all cordially invited to join my "Get Those Holiday Reviews Out" Write-Off!
*This review is also an entry in carstairs38's Second Annual All Things Disney Write-Off.
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