Toon Talk: 3 DVD Releases
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
MICKEY MOUSE CLUB: THE BEST OF BRITNEY, JUSTIN & CHRISTINA
But as for the discs at hand, the original Club set is probably the most desired for longtime Mouse fans. Despite the proliferation of "complete seasonâ€? DVD sets of everything from M*A*S*H to Punky Brewster flooding the marketplace, Mickey's first TV series has yet to have much of an appearance on DVD yet, save for last year's Walt Disney Treasures set, which only included the first week of shows. This new, bare-bones collection will only wet the appetites even more of all the hardcore Mouseketeers out there, but it will suffice enough for the casual viewer eager for a nostalgic taste.
Debuting in 1955 as part of ABC's deal with Walt to help finance Disneyland, The Mickey Mouse Club became an instant phenomenon for the fledgling media (Disney was the first major film studio to delve into television, with this show and Disneyland). Airing Mondays through Fridays in the afternoons, kids would race home from school, don their own Mouseke-ears, and turn on their sets to see their favorites: Bobby, Doreen, Sharon, Tommy, Lonnie, Darlene, Cubby, Karen and, most of all, Annette (these nine "coreâ€? Mousketeers would last through the show's entire original four-year run), plus "adult Mousketeers Jimmie Dodd and Roy Williams. Serving up healthy daily doses of variety show-level song-and-dance numbers, serialized episodes of such youthful adventures as The Hardy Boys and The Adventures of Spin and Marty, newly animated lessons in health and safety hosted by none other then Jiminy Cricket himself (once again voiced by the irreplaceable Cliff Edwards) and classic "Mousecartoonsâ€? ("with a meeska-mooska-Mousketeer!â€?), the show provided wholesome entertainment, with a dollop of education, that delighted and enthralled a whole generation.
Not so much a "best ofâ€?, but more of a typical sampling of the show, this DVD offers an episode (in glorious black and white) from each of the series' themed days, beginning with Monday, "Fun With Music Dayâ€? (original airdate: September 30, 1957). After Donald's infamous gong, things get off to a bang with a rousing, tap-dancing "Meet the Mousketeersâ€?, complete with the memorable roll call ("Sound off now!â€?), followed by Annette introducing a preview of the next Hardy Boys serial, The Mystery of Ghost Farm, starring Tim Considine and Tommy Kirk (who quite prophetically extols: "If you ever catch me wasting time with a girl, you can shoot me!â€?). Jimmie wraps it all up by playing a ditty on his trusty Mousegetar.
Tuesday is "Guest Star Dayâ€? (August 28, 1962), which opens with Mickey's famous "everybody neat and pretty?â€? and features ice-skating guests Willie Call (the Ice Capades' "bewildered ballerinaâ€? - yes, a drag queen on ice) and Olympic champion Ronnie Robertson. Rounding out the show is the Oscar-winning short Ferdinand the Bull (1938). Next is Wednesday, "Anything Can Happen Dayâ€? (November 12, 1964), the best of the batch with spirited performances from the Firehouse 5 + 2 (with Cubby guesting on drums), followed by the Mousecartoon Mickey's Nightmare (1932).
Thursday's "Circus Dayâ€? (October 11, 1962) features South American juggler the Hap Brothers (who enlist a reluctant Roy for their act) and the 1933 Silly Symphony, The Pied Piper, while Friday's "Talent Round-Up Dayâ€? (October 24, 1957), the American Idol of its day, showcases winners and "honorary Mouseketeersâ€? Cheryl Weinberg and Ronny and Riley Wilson ("from Chicagoâ€?). Wrapping up the week is the "Pineapple Princessâ€? herself, Annette, who narrates the "Mickey Mouse Club Newsreelâ€? Hawaiian Adventure. Each episode, of course, wraps up with the immortal "Alma Materâ€?: "Now its time to say good-bye to all our company ...â€?
What most struck me about the show (which Walt unceremoniously cancelled in 1959 after a flap with ABC, only to resurface in partially new syndication from 1962 to 1965, then onto immortality in syndicated repeats and on The Disney Channel) is how it didn't wear its educational message on its sleeve (unlike so many of today's children's programs), proving that through subtlety and by setting a good example (not to mention good ol' fashioned entertainment), one could get their message across effectively, messages that still hold true today.