Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers
*½/**** Image B Sound A- Extras C-
screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Mickey Evans
directed by Donovan Cook
by Bill Chambers I must confess to something like a fetish for the joint screen ventures of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy, animation's answer to The Ritz Brothers. Their 1937 short Lonesome Ghosts is one of the essential building blocks in my love of cinema: I used to own a silent 8mm cartridge of it that could be viewed by handcranking a to-the-eye projector, and I unwittingly taught myself persistence of vision through bored frame-by-frame dissections of Mickey tiptoeing across the floor and Donald losing his cool. And as far as Mickey Mouse is concerned, he has Donald and Goofy in tow in his best colour outings--with a handful of exceptions (such as 1941's guardedly wistful The Nifty Nineties, or the Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence from Fantasia) that cast Mickey as an emblem of virtue rather than as a virtuous individual (thus seizing on the iconic resonance of the character's design), Mickey's solo shorts circa the war years are far too polite for their own good. Mercurial Donald and accident-prone Goofy add a much-needed pinch of salt.
Messrs. Mouse, Duck, and Goofy reunite in the current, straight-to-video release The Three Musketeers, and with it they become literal successors to The Ritz Brothers. ("Leave it to Beaver" fans will recall that Beaver was caught writing about Allan Dwan's slapstick The Three Musketeers in place of the Alexandre Dumas novel after his book report got to the part where "they all started plucking chickens and throwing the feathers all over the place.") Directed by Return to Never Land perpetrator Donovan Cook and co-scripted by David Mickey Evans, whose name I haven't seen on a picture since The Sandlot, The Three Musketeers isn't one of Disney's loose literary adaptations so much as a riff on a household concept, with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy Wizard of Oz-ian screw-ups given a shot at redemption by the nefarious bloated-Goofy they call Pete, who hires them to guard Princess Minnie as part of a plan to steal the throne from her. Naturally Minnie and Mickey make eyes, Donald has meltdowns, and Goofy mines stupidity for genius. The triumvirate ultimately saves the day because this is a cartoon--and because Pete's plot to take over the kingdom is the most asinine thing a screenwriter ever concocted: It entails standing up at the opera and shouting "I'm king of all France!" Gee, why didn't Napoleon think of that?
A gag involving a windmill seems influenced by the Dwan version, while the Wizard of Oz blueprint is so manifest--Mickey needs athleticism (a good heart, in not so many words), Donald needs courage, Goofy needs a brain--that it's a mystery why the film wasn't conceived whole as a salute to L. Frank Baum's enduring mythology. In short, The Three Musketeers is a patchwork of borrowed elements (I caught myself smiling at a reference to 1939's beloved Mickey/Pluto starrer The Pointer); as a result, it never transcends pastiche, never threatens to supplant oral tradition as the classic "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment from Disney's lopsided 1947 portmanteau Fun and Fancy Free (to which The Three Musketeers pays homage by introducing our heroic trio in a state of destitution) and 1983's sensational Mickey's Christmas Carol have more or less succeeded in doing. And so it doesn't work as a combined Mickey, Donald, Goofy effort, either, because their archetypal personalities require the support of an inspired script. This time, they're the ones playing the lonesome ghosts--Mrs. Rayburn would not approve.
Disney's DVD release of The Three Musketeers is on a par with their previous dtv product. The film doesn't look like anything special (it's too bad they didn't honour Walt's vision of a big-screen outing--at least that would've beefed up the drawing style), but the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is crystal clear and sufficiently vibrant. The accompanying 5.1 soundmix is presented in your choice of DTS and Dolby Digital, but since a few over-the-shoulder voices are the only real spice to the track in the first place, you can't go wrong with either. Extras include a quintet of deleted scenes running 5 minutes with optional commentary from DisneyToons VP Brian Snedeker, the majority of these elisions taken from pencil tests and revealing that the character of "The Troubador" (a turtle who originally served a function closer to that of Alan-A-Dale from Disney's Robin Hood) suffered the deepest cuts in the editing room.
The assembly-line video for "Three is a Magic Number" by some literally anonymous boy band joins a special jump-to-a-song feature, while the interactive "Opera-Toon-Ity" stands alongside "The Many Hats of Mickey" (essentially a library of vintage clips) under "Games & Activities." In addition to a 5-minute 'cast commentary' with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy pretending to be corporeal movie stars, find within the "Backstage Disney" sub-menu the requisite making-of "Get the Scoop" (10 mins.). Interestingly, storyboard artist Kirk Hanson in the latter channels his inner Mickey better than the film's own Wayne Allwine. "Sneak peeks" at the all-CGI Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Aladdin, Home on the Range, Mulan, "House of Mouse", "Disney Princess", and "Magic Quest 2" round out the platter; Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas, The Lion King II, and Aladdin previews also precede the main menu. Note that The Three Musketeers inaugurates the new "Fast Play" process, a mode of viewing the DVD's contents in their entirety without having to touch the remote. Originally published: August 31, 2004.