[14 August 2014]
The 10th anniversary Blu-ray release of Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers takes classic Disney characters and drops them into the world of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. It’s a modern take on a classic story; but, unfortunately, it is more disjointed than clever.
Opening with a turtle troubadour as narrator, the movie immediately sets up its contemporary version by having him read from a comic book, rather than the more traditional fairy tale-like tome. Referred to as “our own nutball animated version” by Brian Snedeker, one of the executives involved in the movie’s making, this is not a faithful retelling of the Dumas story. The premise centers on a scheme cooked up by Captain Pete, head of the Musketeers, in which he plans to kidnap the princess in order to become king. When his many foiled attempts (usually carried out by his flunkies, the Beagle Boys) lead the princess to request her own personal bodyguards, Captain Pete assigns Mickey, Donald, and Goofy to the task, as they are completely inexperienced and untrained.
Unsurprisingly, this leads to many close calls, mishaps, and misunderstandings that eventually culminate in Mickey, Donald, and Goofy saving the day. In addition, they all find love: Mickey with Minnie, the princess; Donald with Daisy, her lady-in-waiting; and Goofy with Clarabelle. Throughout, the Troubadour serenades them, but in a break from narrator tradition, he becomes involved and directly influences the story. While this approach isn’t inherently a problem, as many other Disney classics come from a similar mold, here it comes off as lazy and uninspired.
Personality-wise, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are pretty close to their traditional counterparts, if a little flat, but Minnie and Daisy are reimagined in ways that are grating and frankly, insulting. Firstly, the voice work for the two characters is jarring; Minnie comes off as shallow and airheaded, and Daisy is supposed to be some amalgamation of a tough talking sassy sidekick. Their characterizations are the most difficult to get past. Though length may be a contributing factor to how rushed the story sometimes feels, it’s no excuse for the thin characterizations that often serve only as props in setting up cliché moments and jokes. These are established characters that should be fairly easy to transfer to any number of stories, as the much superior adaptation, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, can attest. Unfortunately, this movie muddies them to the point that they rarely feel like their classic versions.
Another problem with Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers is the quality of the songs. Where Disney movies have almost always excelled in its original songs, clever, catchy, and heartfelt, and in its expert use of classical music, this movie falls flat. The reworked versions of classical and operatic pieces are more often than not bland and forgettable, therefore adding little to the story.
The movie isn’t a complete failure, however. The 2D animation is great and a further example of just how recently Disney was still employing the style. It’s always exciting to see fast-paced scenes animated so well, and there are even some touches that serve as callbacks to Disney’s traditional details. For instance, Pluto shapes his tail in the form of a motor in order to quickly steer a boat to shore. This bit is a only a few seconds long, but these small nods to the old Disney cartoons are a reminder of the cleverness that can go hand-in-hand with these movies.
In an effort to modernize, Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers fails to create a high quality reimagining. Instead, the movie is disjointed and difficult to pin down, tone-wise. The film tries to do too much, and in its efforts to be action-packed, funny, contemporary, and still tell a classic story, it becomes muddled. It’s a shame, because The Three Musketeers is exactly the kind of story that would’ve been an excellent choice to get the Disney animation treatment, but this version fails to hit the mark.
The Blu-ray release comes with several bonus features, including “Get Up and Dance”, an inexplicable dance-along to the song “All for One”. There are also deleted scenes with commentary by Disney executive Brian Snedeker, an in-character commentary on selected scenes, and sing-along songs. Snedeker’s commentary is the most interesting if only to gain insight into the approach chosen in making the movie.