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"The Three Musketeers": All For One In One Good DVD

You know, for being Disney’s trademark characters, Mickey Mouse and friends sure don’t appear in many cartoons anymore. Aside from House of Mouse and its DTV, the gang is pretty much relegated to Disneyland. Well, that all changes now, as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy all come together for their very first feature-length film together. As we all know, previous Disney DTV movies have been met with lukewarm reception. So, is this more of the same, or will this movie be a glorious addition to the Mouse House’s collection?

3 Musketeers Mickey, Donald, and Goofy (along with Mickey’s faithful dog Pluto) are mere janitors in 17th Century France. All they want is to be Musketeers, proud warriors serving the people of France. Unfortunately, they have to get past Captain Pete in order to become Musketeers. But when a failed attempt at keeping Princess Minnie “safe” leads to her wanting the perfect bodyguards, Pete offers the job to our heroes. Unbeknownst to them (but quite beknownst to us) this is a ruse by Pete: He wants to kidnap the princess so that he can gain the crown and become King of France. Now, our heroes need to pull together, overcome their weaknesses, and stop Captain Pete once and for all.

You know, there are so few true “family” films anymore. Most films nowadays are strictly kids fare that will leave adults either confused, frustrated, or both. This is not one of those films. The movie never takes itself very seriously (the audience figures that out early as the movie opens to a Masterpiece Theater-like movie set, with the narrator being a small turtle reading a comic book version of the movie), and it succeeds because of this. There are parodies all around the movie, most of them from previous classic Disney shorts, and they are all well integrated. It also pokes fun at itself, with Minnie remarking about how she and Mickey have the same last name as well as Daisy’s impression of Donald (one of the funniest bits in the movie). Though the movie starts up rather slow, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, most of the movie moves at a brisk pace, never really stopping for anything. It’s a really fun film to waste some time with. There are no heavy sad scenes or any extreme violence. It’s actually much like the Mickey shorts of old. Oddly enough, it isn’t packed full of Disney stars. You have Mickey, Donald, Goofy, their girlfriends, Pluto, Pete, and the Beagle Boys (from Ducktales), and that’s it. I was expecting cameos from Chip and Dale, Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, etc., but they weren’t there. The movie doesn’t suffer at all from the lack of cameos, it’s just a bit weird, that’s all.

Animation is pretty good, considering it’s Disney, and pretty standard, considering it’s a DTV DVD. Transfer is excellent, with no flicker or noticeable errors or anything. The colors are bright and cheery, with nice French backgrounds and some nicely animated water. As this is a flagship Disney title, it’s a musical, which means new songs. Well, kind of new anyway. The creative staff took classical symphonies from Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and many other composers, and made silly, but enjoyable, songs out of them. (Let’s leave aside that these are nineteenth century composers whose works grace a story set two centuries earlier.) None of the songs are going to top “Friend Like Me” or “I Just Want to be King,” but they fit the movie just fine and are easy on the ears, which is a plus. The voice cast is pretty much the same from House of Mouse, which is another plus. All the voices sound absolutely perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing about them. If there’s one thing Disney does right, it’s their voice cast (and that includes the Ghibli dubs).

Extras are decent for a DTV. There is a music video to “Three is a Magic Number,” the official marketing theme song for the movie. Pick any random “hunky” boy band team and you pretty much have the song figured out. We also get a “Song Selection” page which allows you to view all the songs by themselves, though Goofy’s love song to Clarabelle is missing for some odd reason. You also get two DVD games, a seeming requirement nowadays for kid DVDs. The first one is basically a build-your-own-opera by picking the background, the singer, and other stuff like that. The songs are even sillier than in the movie, so you may end up with a tall, lanky woman wearing a pirate’s outfit singing about how much she likes cheese, while two cardboard pirate ships try to shoot each other down. It’s fun the first few times, but like all other DVD games, it’s not worth multiple viewings. The other game is not even a real game, but should interest classic Disney fans. Basically, it’s a collection of clips from Mickey’s most famous roles, including Mickey’s Christmas Carol, The Prince and the Pauper and, of course, Fantasia. Strangely, Steamboat Willie, Mickey’s first cartoon, is missing, though two other black and white shorts are shown.

Extras also include deleted scenes, complete with commentary, and most of them simply ruined the pacing of the movie, which results in a good joke getting axed. After that, we have a short featurette with the creative staff of the movie. It offers some nice tidbits (such as the fact that the original concept is based on Walt’s idea back in the 30′s), but since it treats the cartoon characters as actual actors, we never get to see the voice actors/actresses, which is a real loss. (The most interesting thing about the featurette is the background. If you look behind the director, you can see, clear as day, a Powerpuff Girls poster. I have no idea how that got in there, but it was pretty funny.) Lastly, we have Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Pete in a short commentary from a particular scene in the movie. It’s short, but what’s there is pretty funny. There are also trailers for the upcoming Mulan, Lion King II and Aladdin two-disc Special Editions, a sneak peek at Mickey’s new 3-D Christmas movie, as well as various other Mickey-related features.

This DVD also is the first (I believe) to feature some new technology from Disney called “Fast Play.” Basically, it automatically plays the feature film, followed by most of the bonus features, without having to go to the menu screen. No doubt this is for confused parents who just want to watch the movie and can’t figure out this “newfangled” DVD system. For those who are more experienced at navigating DVDs, you can just skip this feature. It’s a pretty nice inclusion, as I know several people who, for some reason, can’t navigate the menu screens (even though it’s not all that hard to begin with).

Overall, this is a worthy pick-up for anyone who likes Disney in the least. This is a true family film, and one that can be watched again and again without getting old. Films that you can just sit down and watch are all too rare, so when something this special comes along, you don’t want to miss it.

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