Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was so successful on Disney Channel that it almost single handedly launched an entire network of preschool driven content, Disney Junior. After a decade on the air, Clubhouse ended its run with the announcement of a new series starring Mickey and his pals. Debuting on February 15th, Mickey and the Roadster Racers is finally here for a new generation of kids to meet Mickey Mouse.
Mickey and the Roadster Racers follows the two-stories-per-episode format of most Disney Junior shows. In its debut episode, “Mickey’s Wild Tire/Sittin’ Kitty,” the formula is quickly established and the first half of each episode is all about racing. Now residing in Hot Dog Hills, the “Sensational Six” run a racing garage and compete all over the world. Jimmie Johnson plays “Jiminy Johnson,” a racing legend coming to Hot Dog Hills. Mickey is all set to present him with a tire from his first racer as a gift, but things get tricky when Pete tries to take it from him.
Part two of each episode shifts gears, pun intended, as it shines a spotlight on Minnie and Daisy’s new business, Happy Helpers. In the first episode, they take a babysitting gig for a kitty who gives them an adventure all over town. Mickey and the other boys are nowhere to be found in the second adventure, making the series almost feel like two shows in one.
In a departure from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey and the Roadster Racers loses all attempts at audience participation and instead presents plot-driven story that doesn’t require your child to get up or yell at the TV for the characters to succeed. Toodles and the clubhouse have been left behind in the move to Hot Dog Hills, where all of the citizens appear to have fallen out of Goof Troop. This series also relies less on musical moments, with no songs beyond the theme tune in the series so far.
Premiering two episodes on the same day, “Goofy Gas!/Little Big Ape” offers more Hot Dog Hills fun. After inventing a new kind of gas, Goofy discovers that it makes cars go faster, letting him win a race. When a gorilla terrorizes Clarabelle Cow, Minnie and Daisy become gorilla catchers.
Last fall, Disney debuted another episode of the series at a Fathom Event to celebrate Mickey’s 88th birthday. “Race for the Rigatoni Ribbon/Roaming Around Rome” airs January 16th. In the first half, the sensational six are racing Pete for the Rigatoni Ribbon, a race through the streets of Italy. Minnie and Daisy get sidetracked shopping, Goofy finds the world’s biggest meatball, while Mickey and Donald learn a lesson in sportsmanship. In the second part, Minnie and Daisy fill in for a sick tour guide around Rome and end up impressing a tough critic.
The series looks at first glance like it was designed to appeal mostly to boys, but the second half of these episodes is a sharp contrast from the series’ racing premise. It’s akin to Garfield and Friends where after a Garfield story, you had to sit through U.S. Acres. As a result of this curious divide, I wonder if Mickey and the Roadster Racers will achieve a similar level of success as Clubhouse, which offered gender neutral fun on a consistent basis as apposed to this boys/girls storytelling format. But if the series doesn't work for the network, it could easily be re-toodle-d.