Christmas films sure are catchy and you can’t really get a film that’s any cheerier than a Disney themed title. Mickey Mouse and the gang are definitely well suited to the task and while this film is in the dreaded anthology format, it still manages to be a solid film that can stand up in its own right. The final special is naturally the best one in the batch, but I would go as far as to say that they’re all still fairly good. Given the short length, none of them drag on and they’re all written well. As it should be, considering how old this film is.
The first segment is about Donald Duck and his three nephews. They enjoy Christmas so much that they wish it could never end. The season agrees with them and quickly gets the Earth trapped in an infinite time loop. No matter what the ducks do to their presents and the environment, they are stuck in Christmas. They have to relive the same day over and over again for weeks and possibly even months. Can they learn to enjoy Christmas forever? Honestly, I wouldn’t have too much of a problem with the concept. If every day was Christmas, I’d love it. Granted, I wouldn’t want the day to repeat in the sense that all of my progress would be reset each time. I’d like for time to go on for everything I interact with even if the rest of the day is stuck in place. Otherwise, jobs would eventually reopen despite it being Christmas and that would defeat the purpose of it all. Several films like Groundhog Day have done this plot and it’s always pretty amusing. It is hard to believe that the ducks would fall for all of the same tricks three times in a row though. I think most of us could easily plan out how to dodge the unfortunate parts of a day if we had to relive it.
That segment started us off on a good note. The ducks learned to be nice to their neighbors and respect Christmas. Next up was Goofy’s adventure with Max. Max believes in Santa Claus and he wants to deliver a letter to him. Goofy manages to get the job done, but Pete rains on the parade by letting Max know that Santa doesn’t exist. The truth hurts and Max gets pretty sullen. By the time he snaps out of it, Goody ends up being the one who is down in the dumps. Can they get over the fact that there is no Santa? Naturally, it’s got to have a feels good ending so Santa does exist, but the heroes had already made peace with the fact that he might not show up. It’s fitting that Pete was the one to try and wreck Christmas for Max because he is always pulling stunts like that. He never gets tired or trying to put everyone down. Goofy and Max can’t really hold their own segment as well as Donald and the kids though. Goofy’s antics can be a bit much as he almost trips about 20 times in one scene and then Max wrecks the Christmas surprise that Goofy had planned for the kids. It was partially one of the little kids’ fault was, but I’m sure that Goody would have had a clever comeback ready.
The final segment is easily the best one and that is to be expected since it is about Mickey Mouse. He wants to get Minnie something really special for Christmas, but he doesn’t have any money. He expected to have enough from his job, but his boss stole it all for himself. His business burned away though so it didn’t last long. You have to admit that Pete makes for a perfect villain in these Disney shorts. There weren’t too many villains to use back in the day so Pete appeared quite a lot, but he never gets old. Minnie was also hoping for a Christmas bonus from her job, but there were some budget cuts so they gave her an old cake instead. The ending is quite tragic as both characters have to make the tough calls, but it also shows how selfless and heroic they are. It’s a pretty nice way to end the movie even if it’s somber at the same time. Hopefully both of them can find good jobs at some point so they can pay off the bills. After all, Minnie hid the letter, but she is close to being evicted from all of the bills. The two heroes need a serious long term solution at the ready before it’s too late.
Also as expected, the animation looks pretty good in the film. All of the character designs are on point and a lot of extra details are always in place. You’ll see Mickey quickly glare a few times as he dashed over to the store to get his present. The characters are all very expressive and that’s something that you miss in today’s animation. CGI just can’t get those effects down quite as tightly. You need crisp traditional animation to get these kinds of quick looks and the movie nails it.
Overall, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is a fun film. It’s not something that’ll knock your socks off or get you dizzy with hype, but it’s a fundamentally sound film from the bottom up. The three specials are enjoyable to watch and all have uplifting endings. The final one is a little somber, but still happy enough. The segments never drag on and the writing is on point. There are really no negatives to speak of here and the nostalgia alone is enough to warrant a watch. I definitely recommend checking this film out before Christmas. It’s really uncanny that we’re so close. It still doesn’t feel real yet, but I’m sure that it’ll start to sink in over the next few days. Christmas is a coming after all!