Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 5, 2017)
With 2017’s Mickey Mouse: Merry & Scary, Disney provides a program that spans two holidays – and consists of two separate sections. The disc breaks into The Scariest Story Ever and Duck the Halls.
Aimed at the Halloween crowd, Story (21:34) focuses on Mickey’s (voiced by Chris Diamantopoulus) attempts to celebrate the holiday. He tries to tell the scariest of all possible scary stories – and flops, which forces him to try again and again to bring the terror.
In Halls (21:34), Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo) decides not to migrate south for winter so he can celebrate Christmas. This doesn’t go well, as the irascible fowl struggles to cope with the season’s cold.
To coin a phrase: this isn’t your father’s Mickey. Back in the “classic era”, Disney cartoons typically offered lovely animation but lacked the same bite and zaniness typical of the Looney Tunes shorts. Though those comparisons didn’t always fit, they stuck.
With Merry, we get a much greater nod toward a wackier sensibility than we found in the Walt era. There’s a definite shift toward outrageous comedy, with a 21st century vibe that leans toward irony and self-parody.
These choices could fail, as the segments of Merry don’t connect to the classic characters well. They’re essentially broadly stereotypical versions of the roles from Walt’s years, and their personalities shift some dependent on the settings.
In theory, this could – and probably should – flop. Merry should feel like a desperate, disingenuous attempt to update the characters.
To my surprise, it doesn’t, as the new versions of Mickey and company prove to be surprisingly amusing. Sure, they’re not all that true to their classic predecessors, but they entertain, as their newfound freedom works well.
Of the two programs, Story fares best, mainly because the manic energy suits the broad humor one can connect to Halloween. It throws nutty gags at us left and right, with a clever nod to Young Frankenstein on the way. This fast-paced short offers good amusement.
A little more sentimental and subdued, Halls still manages comedy. Despite the usual mushiness of the Christmas holiday, it continues an irreverent vibe – while it does go down a warm ‘n’ fuzzier path than Story, it’s still packed with plenty of jokes and nuttiness.
Those elements add up to another fun show. Halls throws a lot at the wall – including a quick allusion to The Shining - and it provides fine entertainment.
All together, Merry works surprisingly well. I feared its two programs would just offer cheap, gratuitous holiday product, but instead, they deliver clever, witty entertainment.