**½/**** Image A Sound A Extras C-
directed by VARIOUS
by Walter Chaw Just in time for Halloween, Mickey's House of Villains collects eight animated shorts spanning sixty-some years while illustrating the creative flatline that Disney has experienced from its heyday to well into its current decline. The Mouse demonstrates, too, a tiresome reliance of late on loosely framed anthologies for their direct-to-video releases and this one is no exception, as a gallery of Disney rogues collect in a nightclub to plot the demise of proprietors Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, et al.
For whatever reason, this silliness facilitates an octet of shorts that run the gamut from great--in a 1937 kind of way (Lonesome Ghosts)--to garbage in a 1940s kind of way (Donald Duck and the Gorilla, How to Haunt a House), to "you don't know garbage until you've seen this" of the modern variety (the nearly-unwatchable Dance of the Goofys). A new version of Hansel & Gretel starring Mickey and Minnie (with the unintentional side effect of bringing the vague incestual undertones of Grimm's fairy tale to the fore) proves to be pretty decent, likewise Mickey's Mechanical House, which reminds a great deal of a Warner Bros. cartoon or two but has the advantage of being narrated by John Cleese. The highlight of the piece is the brand new Donald's Halloween Scare, balancing the sadism of scaring loved ones with the delight of watching animated ducks run around screaming.
Worth it almost just for the care that went into remastering the classic shorts, Mickey's House of Villains is presented on disc in a vibrant 1.33:1 video transfer with a lively Dolby 5.1 audio mix certain to drive parents crazy long about the thirtieth replay, though be advised that the older pieces are basically in mono. An extensive trailer reel plays before the presentation and can be accessed through the menu along with a tedious trivia game "Reel of Misfortune," DVD-ROM links, and three villain posters that "conceal" links to short video clips starring the villains in question. A "Fright Delight" music video montage (available with separated audio/effects tracks) rounds out the presentation.
MICKEY'S HOUSE OF VILLAINS SHORT SUBJECTS:
Trick or Treat (1952) ***/****
Mickey's Mechanical House (2002) **/****
How to Haunt a House (1999) */****
Lonesome Ghosts (1937) ***½/****
Dance of the Goofys (2002) ZERO/****
Donald Duck and the Gorilla (1944) *½/****
It's Our House Now (2002) **/****
Donald's Halloween Scare (2002) ****/****
Hansel & Gretel (2002) ***½/****
70 minutes; NR; 1.33:1; English DD 5.1; CC; DVD-5; Region One; Disney