Oh, boy! Believe it or not, the holiday season is here. These days, practically the entire last third of the year is a palooza of pumpkins and snowmen, ghost stories and joyful songs. Disney commemorates both Halloween and Christmas in a new DVD release, Mickey Mouse: Merry & Scary Holiday Collection. It’s a compilation of two 22-minute television specials derived from Mickey Mouse, the series of shorts that began airing on Disney Channel in 2013.
Produced by Disney Television Animation, the series presents a scrappy, quick-witted side of Mickey who is caring, but mischievous. This is admittedly a contrast to the way most other media presents a warmer, patriarchal Mickey, the leader of the Disney empire with decades of legacy. This is Mickey as he’s just getting his roots, and his pluckiness, heart for adventure, tendency for heroics, and love for his gal Minnie make him a dynamic character, especially to those who have never seen him in such a context.
The shorts are a delight—packed with Disney treasures, created with a visually inviting art style, and sprinkled with surprising moments of character development that, even after nearly 90 years of Mickey Mouse cinematic moments, still teach us new things about his relationships with his best friends. You can read more of our thoughts about the show itself in our review of its first season. Today we’re here to discuss its newest DVD, and what we find will make any Disney fan squeal.
The Specials ✮✮✮✮
Duck the Halls: A Mickey Mouse Christmas Special aired in 2016, but a quick Twitter search reveals it had little publicity and a large majority of the Disney/animation communities totally missed it. This means it’s new material to most viewers, and it’s a real treat. Essentially a Mickey Mouse/DuckTales crossover, it tells of Donald wanting to stay home to celebrate Christmas with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto while Daisy, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Scrooge McDuck, and Professor Ludwig Von Drake head south for the winter. In a huge boost of nostalgia toward the original DuckTales, Huey, Dewey, and Louie are notably and shockingly voiced by Russi Taylor, which personally made me wish the triplets were voiced by Taylor in the new DuckTales (even though I truly am enjoying the reboot).
In terms of character, it’s Mickey, Donald, and Daisy who really shine here. Mickey’s mailbox reads, “Mickey Mouse, a.k.a. Mr. Christmas,” and his excitement to show his good pal the joy of the holiday (and Donald’s response to that) make this a great Mickey/Donald development piece. Mickey has an almost SpongeBob-like quality in the way he’s ecstatic about Christmas, and while I realize that might not carry the most positive connotation, it works here. Mickey Mouse is ultimately considered the embodiment of happiness, so it makes sense that he would be cuckoo for Coco Puffs about the holiday that embodies joy. Meanwhile, Daisy’s reactionary dialogue and decisions toward Donald’s choice to stay for Christmas are prime Daisy Duck—laced with shade and doused with diva.
The Scariest Story Ever: A Mickey Mouse Halloween Spooktacular! is new for 2017. Above we said Mickey Mouse embodies happiness, and that fact is spun on its head here. Goofy even outright says it: “Mick, you’re from the happiest place on earth. Why do you think you know anything about telling a scary story?” Mickey sets out to prove him wrong as he gathers on Halloween night in his home for a spooky storytime with 1.) Goofy and Donald (ok…), 2.) Huey, Dewey, and Louie (cool!), and 3.) Morty and Ferdie (WHAT!). Yes, in what amounts to their biggest appearance OF ALL TIME, Mickey’s nephews appear alongside everyone else as main characters of this special. Little touches like that make this series really special, and let us know that it’s being created by animators who not only know Mickey’s history, but honor it.
The special is broken up into segments as Mickey tells different scary stories, which in my opinion is an overused trope for Halloween specials. Especially since this series so seldom expands beyond three-minute shorts, I would have preferred it to show us what it could have done with a longer Halloween story. Nonetheless, it’s still great fun, and to hear Huey call Mickey “Uncle Mickey” is downright adorable, and again tells us something about the dynamic between Mickey and Donald’s family.
Bonus Shorts ✮✮✮
Five shorts from the Mickey Mouse series are included as bonus material. All of them fall into the “scary” category, none complimenting the “merry” side. They’re not Halloween-specific, but their spooky subjects make them an appropriate fit here. They span across the first three seasons of the show, giving us a glimpse into the portfolio of the series and the improvement in quality with the passage of time (despite being pretty great since the beginning). The shorts included are Ghoul Friend, The Boiler Room, Black and White, Entombed, and Split Decision. All run about three and a half minutes, except the elite among them, Split Decision, which runs at seven minutes and co-stars Professor Ludwig Von Drake. They’re so quick in length that to provide plot summaries here would be to spoil a majority of the content, but rest assured they’re all fast-paced, wild, creative, and reminiscent of Mickey’s cartoony early days in the best way. They’re admittedly not the series’ best there are others with heavier Walt Disney influence that are absolutely stellar but that statement is only in comparison to its own standards.
From the perspective of “Should I buy this?”, the primary frustration here is the medium. This collection is only available on DVD, not on Blu-ray or digital. As discussed in our review of Tangled: Before Ever After, this seems to be a trend specific to Disney Channel-related programs. Nearly every other kind of Disney release gets multi-platform treatment. Disney Channel projects, though, only get DVD.
However, there are other ways to access the Mickey Mouse series as a whole, and those options end up being more economical. All 70+ shorts themselves (minus the Halloween and Christmas specials) are posted on the Mickey Mouse YouTube channel completely for free, which is incredible. It’s a treasure trove of excellent content, and if you haven’t checked out the series yet, that’s definitely an ideal next step. Did I mention… free!
All episodes of the series are also available for purchase in “volumes” (not seasons, oddly) on iTunes. The Halloween and Christmas specials are not part of these volumes. There are 7 volumes so far, all $3.99 per volume. So we’re talking $28 to digitally own them forever on your platforms. Not bad, but I hope we’ll one day get a full-blown, complete Blu-ray or digital collection.
You can purchase the Christmas and Halloween episodes on iTunes digitally for $2.99 each. Since there aren’t any real bonus features on the DVD aside from the 5 featured shorts (which you can watch on YouTube), that ends up being the best way to view this material unless it’s important to you to have a physical DVD, which sells for about $16.
But that’s admittedly a lot of problem-solving for the consumer to have to do. Why not just release the exact same collection from the DVD as a digital edition? This issue should not be present in 2017. I don’t hope the series ends anytime soon, but hopefully whenever it does we’ll get a shiny, complete set with all shorts and specials and behind-the-scenes footage to boot.
Purchase conundrum aside, when simply assessing the content, this series is the best thing to happen to Mickey and the gang in ages. With these two holiday specials we find proof that the tone, pace, and rules of the series can work in capacities beyond three-minute shorts. They work just as well in long-form, 22-minute stories. This gives hope to the future as the series is about to be the foundation for an even grander capacity, a theme park attraction at Walt Disney World. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is currently under construction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It will be the park’s centerpiece attraction (replacing The Great Movie Ride inside the Grauman’s Theater replica) and will take Guests on a whirlwind adventure as Mickey and Minnie’s afternoon drive goes haywire following a run-in with a locomotive conducted by Goofy. The attraction promises a new song and breakthrough technology, and will be set in the world of this new series of shorts. If the Halloween and Christmas specials are evidence of the brand’s shelf life, this attraction should hit all the right notes.
While the DVD might not be the easiest sell ever, the series certainly is, and the specials included on the DVD set are worth seeking out, however you choose to do so.
- Amazon: DVD
- Target: DVD
- Disney Store: DVD
- Duck the Halls: Digital
- Scariest Story Ever not yet available