A Look Back at “Mickey’s House of Villains”

Does anyone else remember Mickey’s House of Mouse?  It was a TV show with a fun, wacky premise: Mickey and his fellow “classic” Disney characters (i.e. Minnie, Donald, and Goofy) ran a night club that played old and new Disney cartoons.  The guests could be anyone from the Disney animated films, from Chernabog in Fantasia to Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King, and they would all interact with their hosts, depending on the episode.

It hasn’t aged very well for me- I thought the jokes were hilarious when I was younger, but not so much anymore.  Nonetheless, I love the idea behind it and how it brought all of the Disney characters together under one roof.

As a kid, when I found out that Disney was planning to release a Halloween special in which the villains would team up to take over the House, I just about exploded with excitement!  Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.

Technically, there’s a plot.  It’s Halloween at the House of Mouse, but the villains aren’t having a good time.  Cruella de Vil complains that with Mickey running the club, it’s “all treats and no tricks.”  This year, however, Jafar has a plan: they’re going to wait until midnight and then take over the show.  Unaware of any problems, Mickey kicks off the Halloween party with some spooky cartoons.

Now, a typical episode of House of Mouse involved Mickey presenting his guests with short cartoons starring himself and his friends.  Some of them were old theatrical shorts, and others had been created recently.  That took up a significant portion of each episode.  Yet, from what I remember of the episodes that I saw, there was a balance between how many cartoons we saw vs. the daily antics going on in the House of Mouse.  And sometimes they’d change things up a little, by having the guests watch things like Clarabelle’s gossip rumors.

House of Villains doesn’t have much in the way of balance.  We see Donald trying to scare the guests, Jafar telling the villains they’re going to take over the House at midnight, and then it’s one cartoon right after the other.  There’s no breathers in between.  Mickey announces a cartoon, and then another Halloween cartoon is shown.  It ends, the movie cuts back to the House of Mouse for a split second, and then it’s on to the next cartoon.

And then, forty-five minutes into the movie (keeping in mind that House of Villains is just a little over an hour long), the villains take over.

Yes, the plot doesn’t get started properly until the movie’s more than halfway finished.

AND THEN, with Jafar, Ursula, Cruella de Vil, Hades, and Captain Hook in charge of Mickey’s club, they decide to do…NOTHING!  (Jafar is the proud owner of a Magic Conch Shell, apparently.)  The nice characters get locked in the cafeteria, Mickey gets kicked out, the House gets redesigned to have a sinister red glow, and then Jafar starts showing cartoons again.

Cartoons.

Again.

(Gif found here)

It’s such a shame because the movie had a cool premise and they hardly did anything with it.  Iago accuses the group of being “a bunch of dull villains” in one of the opening scenes.  They don’t exactly prove him wrong here.  Plus, there’s no reason why the Disney heroes couldn’t have lent Mickey a hand.  How did they all get locked in the kitchen so fast?

It is nice getting to see some of the old Halloween cartoons.  The best one stars Goofy in “How to Haunt a House,” followed by the last cartoon that has Mickey and Minnie reenacting “Hansel and Gretel” to the music of “Danse Macabre.”  In that sense, the movie gets me into the spirit of Halloween, so I like watching it in October.  But it’s a guilty pleasure at best.  Plus, any enjoyment that one can get out of the cartoons feels tainted because they’re not what we came to watch.  Disney advertised a big epic showdown between Mickey Mouse and the worst of the Disney villains.  Yet that’s not what we’re getting.

The result?  House of Villains has a nice Halloween vibe at times, but it feels cheaper and lazier than your average direct-to-video Disney sequel.  Last year, I put it on a list of fun Disney movies to watch around Halloween; but after watching it again this year, I think I was being too kind.

If you’d like to experience your favorite Disney villains teaming up to cause havoc, do yourself a favor and play the Kingdom Hearts games instead.  Their plots may be too complicated to follow, but at least they have plots.

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Seven Spooky Disney Stories to Watch on Halloween!

Are you having trouble getting into the Halloween spirit?  It happens to the best of us.  So here’s a list of Disney movies or specials to watch that can help.  Most are Halloween-themed, but not all, starting with:

7. The Haunted Mansion

Okay, I understand why a lot of people don’t like this movie.  It has some cringe moments, namely things like the villain summoning the powers of Hell and everyone but the screaming housekeepers reacting with puzzled, “Huh?” looks that do NOT fit the situation at all.  I’ve also previously discussed on this blog that I don’t think the “workaholic husband” plot works well here when both parents are supposed to be business partners.  There’s never a point where they discuss why the mom is able to have a career and provide emotional support her family while the dad can’t seem to manage it.  It’s a shame because that could have been a very interesting idea to explore.

Still, I enjoy watching this movie.  I like the Haunted Mansion, the backstory for this movie with Mr. Gracey and Elizabeth, the ghost characters of Ezra, Emma, and Ramsley, the set design, and some of the ideas in the movie.  It’s a creepy, gorgeous house and the special effects are nice.  While I am looking forward to Guillermo del Toro’s reboot (whenever it comes out…), I recommend giving this movie a try, just for fun.

6. Toy Story of TERROR!

Although this was advertised as Pixar’s first Halloween special, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Halloween other than to poke fun at scary movies.  That said, it was made by Pixar, so of course it’s quality entertainment.  It didn’t make me laugh as hard as I expected, but I like how they had an explanation ready for why the toys were getting snatched by an unseen monster.  It’s great that they made Jessie the protagonist this time around and Combat Carl is one of the best parts of the special.

If you haven’t seen it on TV yet, don’t worry!  It’s available on DVD.

5. Mickey’s House of Villains

This is another entry that’s a little iffy, quality-wise.  The advertisements made it look like a fun adventure where the Disney villains would try to take over Mickey’s night club, the House of Mouse, and Mickey and co. would team up to do battle with them.  Instead, it was more of a collection of Halloween-themed Disney cartoons with Jafar’s plan being an excuse plot to tie it all together.  So that was pretty disappointing.

Yet, it IS a collection of Halloween-themed Disney cartoons, so it’s actually done a better job of getting me into the Halloween spirit in past years than other films on this list.  So if you liked the House of Mouse TV show, or if you just want to watch some good Disney cartoons, you might like it.

4. “Summerween” from Gravity Falls

You could probably watch this episode of Gravity Falls without watching the rest of the show and be able to follow along and enjoy it.  But if you love supernatural shows that can be funny, scary, intriguing, and emotional, you ought to watch the entire series.  It’s amazing.

Technically, this episode doesn’t take place on Halloween because the show occurs during the summer months.  The kids’ Grunkle (Great-Uncle) Stan explains that in Gravity Falls, everyone loves Halloween so much that they also celebrate it in the summer and call it Summerween.  Apart from doing things like changing pumpkin jack o’lanterns to watermelon jack o’lanterns, it’s basically the same holiday.  The opening scene where the Pines Family wrecks havoc in the Summerween Superstore is one of my favorite openings in the whole series.  It’s funny and the story is all about the dilemmas that can come from celebrating Halloween as we grow up.  This makes it a great episode to watch on Halloween.

3. The Nightmare Before Christmas

I know this one is really, really obvious, but I can’t not mention The Nightmare Before Christmas!

It’s lower on the list because it’s a bit of a Halloween movie and a Christmas movie.  It begins just as Halloween has ended for another year and the story is about Jack Skellington’s plot to take over Christmas.  I guess I think of it as more of a Halloween movie because most of it takes place in Halloween Town, not Christmas Town.  So it doesn’t really look like a Christmas movie even as they talk about it.

It’s a great movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet, now’s a wonderful time of the year to try it!

2. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The whole movie’s good, but I’m only talking about one half.  Mr. Toad doesn’t have anything to do with Halloween, as funny as his story can be.

First of all, when I first watched this Disney movie, it surprised me because I’d read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving, and the cartoon was a very faithful adaptation of the short story.  In the book, Ichabod Crane is a selfish jerk, and he’s selfish in the cartoon too.  Katrina Von Tassell doesn’t act like a sweet Disney love interest; she openly manipulates Ichabod and Brom Bones to get their attention.  The whole short is basically the book in animated form with some songs and slapstick comedy.

Although it doesn’t start out on Halloween, it does end with a Halloween party at Mr. Von Tassell’s house and then with the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod through the woods.  He may be one of the scariest villains that Disney has ever animated.  He’s so memorable that he leads the parade every year for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in Disney World!  Plus, Brom’s song, “The Headless Horseman,” is very catchy and I love listening to it on my Halloween playlist in October.

1. Hocus Pocus

Yeah, I know.  Of course.

Believe it or not, I only saw this movie for the first time a couple of years ago.  I hadn’t even heard of it before until I watched the Nostalgia Chick’s review of it.  So I really shouldn’t have liked it because it’s such a silly movie made for kids.  But for some reason, I did and it really does get me excited for Halloween.  I think that’s mostly because it actually takes place on Halloween, unlike most of the other movies on my list here.  So there’s many scenes that take place while kids are trick-or-treating or adults are having Halloween costume parties.  The setting of the story in Salem, Massachusetts also adds to the ambience.

The Sanderson Sisters are mostly fun villains, although they can also be pretty creepy too, since their goal is to eat the children of Salem and they almost succeed.  I absolutely love Bette Midler’s version of “I Put a Spell on You” and Sarah’s creepy song, “Come Little Children.”  I really wish Disney would release those songs on iTunes already.  (But I highly recommend buying Erutan’s cover of “Come Little Children” as an excellent substitute for the original.)

Although it’s a goofy movie and the constant jokes about Max’s virginity are weird and uncomfortable, Hocus Pocus does a good job of capturing the fun of Halloween.  It’s a perfect movie to watch every October!

Honorable Mention: Halloweentown

I hear that this is a great Disney Channel movie that a lot of people remember from their childhoods.  Unfortunately, I cannot confirm or deny that, because I’ve never seen it.  But if so many other people like it, it’s probably good.