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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