DVD Review: Mickey's Magical Christmas -- Snowed in at the House of Mouse (2001)

Now Available on DVD

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Unless you were forced to watch Bambi’s mother die repeatedly as the cinematic children’s version of Walken and De Niro playing Russian Roulette in The Deer Hunter, there are far worse places to be Snowed In than at the House of Mouse. Regardless of that, even with nearly forty of Walt Disney Animation’s most memorable heroes and villains all enjoying the hospitality of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, you’re bound to have one guest who is having a hard time getting into the season mandated "Christmas Spirit."

Yet this time around, the attendee who cried “Humbug” is none other than Mickey’s best friend and arguably Disney’s most popular animated character in the form of Donald Duck as the one who continued appearing in shorts when budget cuts dropped the content from Disney’s roster five decades ago. Of course, the Donald decision not only guarantees our immediate interest but it also pays homage to the Scrooge McDuck character used in both Duck Tales and Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which is squeezed inside this made for DVD feature length work.

With Mickey breaking out classic Walt Disney animated favorites to cheer him up, it helps provide a greater semblance of the idea that this is a wholly original and unique project. And no doubt this wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if the holiday dissenter had been one of the most wicked queens or nefarious evil-doers ever drawn by the House of Mouse.

Although a major part of the appeal of the re-release of 2001’s holiday hit is that it attracts all generations and audiences by culling from more than seventy years of Disney characters as one can see on the box alone, the inclusion of the villains seems especially illogical as even those who perished in their feature films have miraculously survived in what feels like a self-conscious franchise celebration or movie within a movie a la Robert Altman’s The Player.

Needless to say the youngest viewers may be a bit confused to see some of the characters who tried to kill many of their favorites all sitting side by side at a banquet like the animated individuals are playing various versions of themselves. Yet those who have grown up truly devoted to the House of Mouse will find that childlike confusion has been replaced with disappointment throughout the sixty-five minute running time since over half of the content is just repackaged classic holiday bits strung together like shiny tinsel on a new tree.

It’s as fun to play Where’s Waldo by spotting such beloved heroes as the Dwarfs, Belle, and Ariel as though we saw them in the audience at the Academy Awards but their presence is merely decorative-- both on the gorgeously packaged box and in the film that gives them an obligatory line or two to say in between recycled content like Mickey’s Christmas Carol and Pluto’s Christmas Tree.

The latter short film which is easily my favorite holiday creation from Walt Disney would normally have been worth the price to own it and share with the next generation, had the same exact two holiday shorts and a few others not been released just a couple of weeks ago by the studio as part of Disney’s Animation Collection. Although the sing-along options, the insertion of Mickey and Minnie's Nutcracker into the feature, and a few bonuses help pad out the disc, it’s ultimately one of the weaker offerings by the company in a crowded year of superlative releases.

And this is a fact that's made all the more apparent by the lack of interest displayed by Disney that I witnessed as soon as I pressed play on the screener and discovered that the studio hadn't even bothered to swap out the original trailers for titles like Atlantis, Cinderella II and Return to Neverland, which precede the feature complete with their 2002 release dates.

For, in a year when Disney delivered such masterful new restorations of Pinocchio and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs along with three Pixar titles on Blu-ray including Up as well as countless other stellar offerings, the lack of attention displayed on this disc is disheartening. Rolling out the same previews in this re-release and dropping it back on shelves just weeks after more than half of the content was included on another title makes Mickey’s Magical Christmas feel lost in the snowstorm despite the fact that as always, the House of Mouse will continue to provide great comfort and warmth for those seeking escapism on the level of a rental.

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