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Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Jeff Bennett, Susan Blakeslee, Susuan Boyd, Corey Burton, Amick Byram, Pat Carroll, John Cleese

It's Our House Now!
Rated G.

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 67 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 9/3/2002

• “Reel of Misfortune” Trivia Game
• 5.1 House Mix
• 5.1 Villains’ Mix
• Sneak Peeks
• Easter Eggs


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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Mickey's House of Villains (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Time for another “direct to video” escapade at the “House of Mouse”! From what I gather, the “House of Mouse” is a Disney TV show that essentially acts as an excuse to show a mix of cartoons both old and new. The “feature length” DVD releases that use the format don’t differ from that formula; both 2001’s Mickey’s Magical Christmas and 2002’s Mickey’s House of Villains provide a vague framework around which the presented shorts are based.

For Villains, we come to Halloween at the House. More villains than usual show up for the party, and we learn that they want to take over the joint. Led by Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) from Aladdin, they do so mid-show. Mickey (Wayne Allwine) then needs to figure out how to wrest control of the venue back from the baddies. In addition, Donald Duck (Tony Anselmo) dresses as the devil and tries to scare folks.

As I alluded, all of this acts mainly as a set-up for lots of cartoons. Villains includes eight different shorts. Three of these come from Disney archives. First we see 1952’s “Trick or Treat”, which features Donald Duck and his nephews. This cartoon also appeared on the Black Cauldron DVD. After that, we get two new pieces: “Mickey’s Mechanical House” and “How to Haunt a House”. An older piece comes next with 1937’s “Lonesome Ghosts”. It makes its third appearance here, as it showed up on the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and Mickey Mouse In Living Color DVDs as well. Then we see a new clip called “Dance of the Ghosts” before we return to the past with 1944’s “Donald Duck and the Gorilla”, the only vintage short found here that doesn’t also appear elsewhere. Lastly, Villains finishes with two more new cartoons: “Donald’s Halloween Scare” and “Hansel and Gretel”.

Not surprisingly, the quality of the shorts varies. In regard to the vintage clips, “Lonesome Ghosts” probably works the best as it offers a prototype of the Ghostbusters plot. It involves Mickey, Donald and Goofy in their usual grouping as semi-incompetent workers, and it offers some good material.

”Donald Duck and the Gorilla” and “Trick or Treat” provide the traditional battle between Donald and his nephews. Both follow this line to a fairly predictable degree, but they succeed nonetheless. “Gorilla” seems particularly dated at times, but both offer fun and lively experiences.

As for the new shorts, they have their moments but they don’t match up with the older ones. Actually, this material seems stronger than the usual modern Disney TV work, though none of them stand out as particularly good. Narrated by John Cleese, “Mickey’s Mechanical House” owes a serious debt to Dr. Seuss. The short offers a cute concept with mediocre execution, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the story had to do with Halloween.

“How to Haunt a House” obviously fit the theme more clearly, and this new Goofy piece comes in same “spirit” of his classic “How to…” clips. It tries too hard to be hip and modern, but it remains moderately entertaining. On an odd note, “House” displays an unusually unflappable Donald Duck; nothing seems to irritate him here!

We see more Goofy in “Dance of the Ghosts”. A Fantasia rip-off that shows Goofy in multiple roles, this lame piece never goes anywhere. “Donald’s Halloween Scare” seems awfully similar to “Trick or Treat”. Donald scares his nephews to steal their candy, and they plot their revenge. It doesn’t flop, but it also doesn’t live up to the quality of the older material. Lastly, “Hansel and Gretel” offers another Fantasia-style escapade in which Mickey and Minnie play the title roles. It seems more entertaining than “Dance of the Ghosts”, but it also fails to engage for the most part.

As I noted in my first review of the series, the whole “House of Mouse” concept never feels like anything more than a gimmick, and a weird one at that. Actually, I suppose the interaction of all the different characters could become amusing and clever, but that presupposes a higher level of effort behind the work. “Mouse” episodes seem cheap and quickly cobbled together, so while a few witty moments occur, the programs don’t possess the life to make them really succeed.

While I probably preferred Mickey’s House of Villains to the Christmas-related “House of Mouse” DVD, that remains fairly faint praise. The show seems like a cheap and easy way to create more animated product out of different properties. The piece includes enough new material to prevent it from totally falling into that trap, but the result still seems pretty lackluster.

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio C+ / Bonus D-

Mickey’s House of Villains appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Because the program featured clips from a span of years, their quality varied, but as a whole the show looked fairly good.

The recent material that comprised most of Villains demonstrated the usual concerns seen in cheap animation. Sharpness generally appeared reasonably concise and distinct, but some softness affected a few wider shots. Those concerns weren’t as evident during the older clips, which remained fairly detailed and accurate. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no concerns, and print flaws seemed relatively minor. Really, only the “vintage” clips displayed any problems, as I saw some grain and a few small specks during “Trick or Treat”. However, these problems appeared pretty minor and didn’t create any significant concerns.

Colors varied mainly due to the source materials. Without question, the quality of the animation strongly affected the hues. The “vintage” shots displayed tones that appeared markedly more rich and lush than the relatively crude and simple colors of the modern clips. To be sure, those tones came across as acceptably distinct and vivid, but the older image put them to shame via its warmth and depth.

In addition, black levels consistently appeared rich and dense. Those elements were consistent throughout the different shorts, as was shadow detail. Low-light sequences came across as appropriately opaque but not excessively thick, as dim shots appeared clear and easily visible. Ultimately, Villains offered a consistently good but unexceptional visual experience.

Though Mickey’s House of Villains included a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it didn’t provide too much sonic pleasure. Really, there was only so much the mix could do, since significant portions of Villains featured monaural sound. The three “vintage” shorts offered one-channel audio with no remixed expansion of the soundfield. As for the House of Mouse shots and the other shorts, except for the score they often seemed essentially mono as well. The music spread reasonably well to the sides, and a few ambient elements appeared at times, but as a whole, the image stayed pretty firmly within the center.

Surround usage appeared minimal. I heard a little reinforcement of some music and effects, but I detected virtually no split-surround information. The general ambience seemed subdued and didn’t add a lot to the package.

Audio quality was good but not tremendously strong. For the monaural sequences, the sound seemed just fine. These segments betrayed the limited response typical for one-channel presentations, and the advanced age of the clips obviously added greater restrictions, but overall I found them to offer nice, clear mono audio that seemed acceptably distinct and well defined.

As for the newer material, it also worked fairly well. Dialogue appeared natural and crisp, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects offered a minor aspect of the mix, but they came across as acceptably clean and accurate, and I detected no distortion. Music appeared surprisingly bland. The tunes weren’t distinctly flawed, but they failed to display much brightness or depth. Low-end response lacked much power, and the highs were slightly muted. The music seemed acceptable for the most part, but it didn’t appear as vivid as it should have. In the end, the soundtracks for Mickey’s House of Villains were serviceable but somewhat drab.

In regard to supplements, Mickey’s House of Villains only includes a few minor ones. First we find a trivia game called the Reel of Misfortune. This requires you to correctly answer five questions, and you can’t miss more than three of them. Since the problems seem very easy, that shouldn’t be an issue. The contest offers no real reward for a perfect score, so it seems moderately interesting at best.

Next we find two montages of Disney film clips. Actually, we get the same compilation twice, as the second one simply provides an alternate soundtrack. 5.1 House Mix shows the compilation with full music and effects, while the 5.1 Villains’ Mix just uses the effects. Oddly, the activity level of the surrounds seemed different between the two. The rears appeared much more active during the “House” mix; when I listened to the “Villains’” track, the usage was less out of control. In any case, these 182-second clips seem pretty pointless to me.

Within the Sneak Peeks area, you’ll discover a slew of advertisements for other Disney offerings. Some of these appear at the start of the DVD as well; when the disc begins to play, we find trailers for Treasure Planet, Beauty and the Beast, Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year, Lilo & Stitch, 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure. Within the “Sneak Peaks” domain itself, we see these promos plus additional clips for Country Bears, Inspector Gadget 2, and Teamo Supremo.

For a very minor Easter egg, go to the DVD’s main menu. It shows portraits a few villains. If you click on Hades, the Evil Queen and/or Ursula, you can watch short montages of their material. Oddly, Captain Hook appears at the top of the screen, but I couldn’t figure out a way to access his montage. Not that I really cared, for these pieces seemed pretty dull.

Disney always want to find new ways to repackage material, and the “House of Mouse” series seems like one of the cheesier attempts. Though not without its merits, Mickey’s House of Villains rarely comes across as much more than a cheap conglomeration of loosely-related clips, and the whole thing lacks inspiration. The DVD provides fairly good picture with average audio and a weak roster of supplements. Kids may get a kick out of Villains, but otherwise the DVD doesn’t provide much entertainment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0555 Stars Number of Votes: 18
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