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The Mickey Mouse Club: Week One DVD Review

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Walt Disney Treasures: The Mickey Mouse Club

Disc 1: (Click title to view that portion of the review)
Monday: "Fun With Music Day", Tuesday: "Guest Star Day", Wednesday: "Anything Can Happen Day"

Disc 2: (Click title to view that portion of the review)
Thursday: "Circus Day", Friday: "Talent Round-Up Day"

Video and Audio

Bonus Material:
"The Leader of the Club", Galleries, Mouseke-Memories, The Mouseketeers Debut at Disneyland, Opening Sequence in Color

Closing Thoughts

Running Time: 270 Minutes (4 hours, 30 minutes)
(235 - programs, 5 - introductions, 30 - extras)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio) / Dolby Digital Mono (English)
Rating: Not Rated / Originally Broadcast between October 3 and October 7, 1955
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned / DVD Release Date: December 7, 2004
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $32.99


Each wave of the Walt Disney Treasures has had one entry of predominantly live action television programming. It has become a staple for this line of 2-disc limited edition tins since it was launched in 2001, albeit one which generally doesn't garner as much attention as the collections of cartoon shorts.
The premiere batch of Treasures included Davy Crockett: The Complete Televised Series, which marked Walt's first and unprecedented success in a medium that was still relatively young.

In the fall of 1955, just one year after his weekly "Disneyland" series met with positive reception, Disney tried his hand at a daily television show. That show was The Mickey Mouse Club, the lone television entry of Wave 4's Treasures. The Mickey Mouse Club began quite ambitiously as a one-hour variety show for children, to air on ABC at 5:00 each weekday afternoon.

Head Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd was joined by more than a dozen charismatic kids (not child actors) who went by their real first names, which were printed on their Mouseketeer shirts. The first five episodes, having aired the week of October 3, 1955, are included in this 2-disc set. A pretty standard format emerges in the show's first week on the air. Each day has a different theme, from Monday's "Fun With Music Day" through Friday's "Talent Round-Up Day."

Every other day, the show would open up with the Mickey Mouse Newsreel, which was pretty much like the newsreels that once played in theaters, only focused on and targeted to children. The Newsreel covers 'local news' stories (such as profiles of individuals, events, or communities) on an international scale, and often looked at what was going on for the Disney Studio. Next, there would generally be entertainment from the set as the Mouseketeers would sing (Jimmie Dodd wrote a number of songs for the show), dance, or welcome a guest for some type of performance.

There were about 300 episodes of "The Mickey Mouse Club" aired in total during the 1950s. Head Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd delivers his signature closing message.

Following this would be a serial adventure, with a single storyline carried through the entire week in roughly 10-minute daily installments. The serial in these first shows is "What I Want To Be", a career-exploring journey for children that devotes its first week to being an airline pilot or hostess. Rounding out the episode (which without commercials, runs about 46-48 minutes) each day is a cartoon short from the "Treasure Mine", generally featuring Mickey Mouse or his peers Donald Duck, Goofy, or Pluto. After the "Mousekartoon", Jimmie Dodd would stand before his 12 young co-stars, hands in his pockets, and deliver a message of some kind, which often linked to some other Disney venture.

Stars would emerge out of the Mouseketeers, and indeed,
the original cast included a 12-year-old girl named Annette. The world would come to know her, sometimes with her last name Funicello, in Disney films and a variety of beach-themed musical comedies.

This set keeps the brief sponsor messages intact, which mention familiar names like Coca-Cola, Betty Crocker, and Wheaties, as well as extinct products like TVTime Popcorn and Sugar Jets. Likewise, the commercial break transitions are retained, making reference to the ABC network the show aired on. (On a side note, Walt Disney was not a big fan of commercials. He considered constant interruptions "bad showmanship" and word is that his dislike of commercials led to the show's end after three seasons of original episodes.)

PACKAGING

This December's batch of Treasures sees a few packaging changes made to the series. While still presented in double Alpha keepcases (now white, not black) and housed in nice-looking silver tins, there are no wraparound bands on the outside. These featured the signature of Walt's nephew, Roy Disney, who is no longer at the company which bears his name. Much of the well-known information that was on the bands ("2-Disc Set", "Limited Series") has been relegated to stickers on the outside plastic wrapping.

As with Wave 3, inside the keepcase, you'll find a certificate of authenticity which lists the number of your individual copy out of the 130,000 Mickey Mouse Club Treasure sets produced. In addition, the usual collectible card is present; this set's card features the cover artwork from the sheet music folio for "Mickey Mouse March", the show's opening song. Lastly, there is the standard 8-page booklet with information on Walt, Leonard Maltin's introduction to this set, a listing of contents, and colorful cover art from the "Musical Highlights from the Mickey Mouse Club TV Show" record.

DISC 1

Treasures host Leonard Maltin aptly and concisely introduces us to this set (2:30). Maltin contextualizes The Mickey Mouse Club by recalling the significance of a one-hour daily children's program in a simpler age with much less media to choose from. He affirms that while it is firmly grounded in the values and attitudes of the 1950s, the series remains vital a half-century later due to the personalities of the show.

"Fun with Music Day" include this guy's barnyard impressions. Alvy Moore and youngsters Pat and Duncan explore two airline careers in the "What I Want To Be" serial. The Mouseketeers sing about shoes.

Fun with Music Day (Monday, October 3, 1955) (46:05)

This very first Mickey Mouse Club episode sets up its structure. This episode and others begin with an elaborate three-minute animated opening, which features some early Disney film characters like Jiminy Cricket and Dumbo in addition to short stars like Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Pete, and The Three Little Pigs. The first segment is the Mickey Mouse Club newsreel. Like the rest of the program, this report is geared towards younger viewers. A couple of Mouseketeers take an airboat ride with a Seminole down in Everglades, Florida. In Rome, some Italian youths mix music with motion as they perform Cinderella's "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" in their native language on an amusement park ride. A roundup briefly shows some projects currently-in-production at the Disney studio including the Davy Crockett "River Pirates" adventures, "Spin and Marty", and a behind-the-scenes look at the Mouseketeers.

After this, there's some dancing and the Mouseketeers are introduced. Then, there are two silly musical numbers, one involving farm animal cut-outs and the other all about shoes.

Next, in Part 1 of the recurring "What I Want To Be" series, Mickey Mouse Club "special agent" Alvy Moore heads to an airport looking for a couple of kids to see what it's like to man a real life airplane flight on TWA. His search leads him to Pat, a girl who pretends to be an air hostess, and Duncan, who has "no time for kid games." Though very cheesy, this serial is the most entertaining sequence of the episode.

The first "Mousekartoon" out of the "Mickey Mouse Treasure Mine" is the 1948 short "Pueblo Pluto." These would always lose the opening credits (and color) when presented on the show. Following that, head Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd explains the schedule that The Mickey Mouse Club will be following, telling viewers about some things they can look forward to and explaining each day's theme. After the end credits of this and every other episode for the week, there is a promo for Walt's True Life Adventure film, The African Lion.

Sooty and his friend Harry Corbett have some misadventures setting up a TV from Mickey. Guest star Wally Boag has fun with balloons. Duncan participates in a model airplane competition in Part 2 of the "What I Want To Be " serial.

Guest Star Day (Tuesday, October 4, 1955) (47:47)

As promised last time, England's TV stars Sooty (a hand puppet that I'm told is supposed to be a bear) and his "friend" Harry Corbett make their Mickey Mouse Club debut. They struggle to set up a miniature television set that was a gift from Mickey.

Next, living up to the name of the day, the Mickey Mouse Club welcomes "balloonologist" Wally Boag as their guest star. Boag discusses his new form of psychology based on different ways of blowing up balloons into animals. I doubt kids would get the sophisticated adult humor Boag prattles out, but his quick, fluid balloon work is sure to hold captive young audiences. After a break, Boag returns in front of a different group. This time, he plays bagpipes while continuing with his lighting-paced jokes.

The second installment of "What I Want To Be" catches up with Alvy Moore and his two new young friends. Alvy watches Duncan overcome conflict in a model airplane flying competition. Pat warns Alvy about Duncan's foe, who turns out to be not so bad. Not quite as entertaining as the first encounter, but it eventually leads us to the TWA flight tour that it's apparently all about.

In the cartoon short, "Mickey's Kangaroo", Mickey and Pluto get a package from Australia that makes things interesting. Afterwards, Jimmie talks about perseverance, which conveniently ties in to a husband-wife cameramen pair filming the wild for Disney's new feature The African Lion (which is again promoted after the credits).

Jimmie helps the Mouseketeers form a gadget band. I'm still not sure what's going on in this segment. Mickey  Donald  Goofy: The Service Station

Anything Can Happen Day (Wednesday, October 5, 1955) (47:10)

The middle of the week brings the unpredictability of "Anything Can Happen Day"! Like the first episode, this one opens with the Mickey Mouse Newsreel. The more interesting subjects include an African tribe, a Kentucky teenager awarded for his farming and named "Mickey Mouse Club Boy of the Week", and a two-year-old swimmer.

Next, Jimmie and the kids give a rollicking performance using objects like bottles and combs for musical instruments, and some mustachioed man comes in for a wacky Hawaiian story.

Part 3 of "What I Want To Be" has Alvy taking Duncan and Pat to the airport to get some training. While Pat is left on her own to fend in hostess school (the door reads "Women Only"), Duncan gets to go inside the control tower and learns what air traffic controllers do.

The cartoon is "Mickey's Service Station", in which the feisty Pete gives Mickey, Donald, and Goofy ten minutes to fix his car. In his closing message, Jimmie encourages children to help their parents tonight not out of magnanimity, but so that they can watch the night's "Disneyland" episode together.

DISC 2

The second disc opens with another introduction from Maltin (2:03), in which he talks about the different days of the week for the show and their significance.

Jiminy Cricket in the short "I'm No Fool With a Bicycle." High times with the Dewayne Circus Troupe. Pat worries about losing her pigtails in Part 4 of the "What I Want To Be" serial.

Circus Day (Thursday, October 6, 1955) (46:02)

This fourth episode opens with the Jiminy Cricket short "I'm No Fool With a Bicycle." Like the other shorts in the "I'm No Fool" series, Jiminy imparts wisdom here, occasionally resorting to song.
Join the Disney Movie Club today!
The subject is obviously the bicycle, and Jiminy tells you the right way to ride one if you want to live to be 23, 33, 103... He also tells you about the way a fool rides a bicycle and what happens to him. This short is a definite highlight of the set, and it's the first time it's available on DVD in the US.

Next, the Mouseketeers join in on some fun-spirited acrobatics with the DeWayne Circus Troupe. These hijinks are followed up by the fourth installment of "What I Want To Be", which has Pat learning about all the work that goes into being an airline hostess. (There's lots of bending!) She has second thoughts when she learns that to be a hostess, she'd have to have her pigtails cut. Then, Duncan learns about how pilots use information about the weather to plan their flights.

This episode's "Mousekartoon" is the charming short "The Wise Little Hen", which is noteworthy for containing the very first appearance of Donald Duck. In his closing message, Jimmie talks about the way riding the Mark Twain riverboat at Disneyland reminded of his childhood, and how his youthful experiences were most satisfying when he paid his own way. So, he encourages kids to earn some money and treat themselves.

Boxing short woes in the Mickey Mouse Newsreel. Cubby O'Brien wows his castmates with his lightning-quick drum skills. Pete holds up Minnie in "Two-Gun Mickey."

Talent Round-Up Day (Friday, October 6, 1955) (47:35)

The Mickey Mouse Newsreel opens the show and looks at 8-year-old boxers (including one whose trunks just won't stay up), a bunch of Little Leaguers who get baseball tips from the New York Giants, and some mountain climbers.

On the set, a boy named Larry Ashurst plays the trumpet and is named the first "Honorary Mouseketeer." Then, regular Mouseketeer Cubby O'Brien plays drums with his brother and father, and they put on quite an impressive show. Like Larry, the O'Brien trio are promised a Mouseke-treasure later.

Next is Part 5 of the "What I Want To Be" serial, in which Pat takes her final hostess test and gets her wings. I wrongly assumed the end of the week would mean the end of this set of stories, but Alvy Moore promises more "tomorrow", which must mean it continued through the following week.

The "Mousekartoon" presented is "Two-Gun Mickey" which has Mickey and Minnie doing battle with (who else?) Peg-leg Pete in the Old West. In his talk following this, Jimmie encourages children to smile at people so that like a mirror, they'll see a smile right back, and then, the aforementioned Mouseke-Treasure is unveiled.

Those Mouseketeers sure know how to party hearty. Twelve-year-old Annette Funicello was among the original MMC cast. Larry Ashurst becomes the first Honorary Mouseketeer on Friday's show.

VIDEO & AUDIO

When assessing the audio and video quality of this set, it's important to remember that you're dealing with a daily TV show that is nearly fifty years old, and not something shot on high quality film stock from the same year. That said, the video quality is quite satisfactory. Presented in the original 1.33:1 fullscreen broadcast ratio, the picture is grainy, but mostly clean.
The opening animation shows signs of wear, as do the Mousekartoon shorts included in each episode. The "What I Want To Be" serial displayed pretty consistent and pleasing video. The Mouseketeer set footage shows some grain, but this too for the most part, appears to have been cleaned up sufficiently.

The audio is presented in Dolby Mono, and it's easy to recognize the shortcomings of sound technology used for '50s television programs. There's a dated quality to the soundtrack, which seems appropriate for the opening "Newsreel" segments but somewhat disappointing for the music-oriented Mouseketeer acts. For me, the thin-sounding audio was easier to get used to than a recurring synching issue. The audio is slightly out of sync in portions of several of the episodes. This was most evident in Tuesday's show with the fast-talking Wally Boag, but I also noticed it in some of the serials and Mouseketeer performances. Audio synching is a relative thing, so some may not notice at all, and it's never off by more than fractions of a second. Nonetheless, it was apparent enough to knock a few points off the audio presentation.

As usual, Leonard Maltin hosts the bonus features. Six of the original Mouseketeers gather in front of the show's curtain and remember "The Leader of the Club." The "Inside the Clubhouse" Gallery.

BONUS FEATURES

Like the episodes, the bonus features are split across the two discs. Disc 1 contains two supplemental offerings. First and foremost is "The Leader of the Club", a 9-minute tribute to head Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd. Six of the original Mouseketeer kids (Sharon Baird, Bobby Burgess, Lonnie Burr, Doreen Tracey, Craig "Cubby" O'Brien, and Karen Pendleton) share their reflections on Jimmie, who died in 1964, with Leonard Maltin. Dodd is remembered as a great man and a father figure to the cast, who remained grateful for his opportunities with Disney. There's some archival home video footage of Dodd on vacations, and some radio clips of interviews he gave, including one where he recalls his first job at Disney, writing a song about the pencil.

Also on Disc 1 are three Galleries. "Inside the Clubhouse" contains mostly black-and-white still photos of the cast on the set or behind-the-scenes (54 stills). "Spreading the Word: Mouseke-Promotion" showcases ads and merchandising connected to the program (17 stills). "Sketching the Ideas" houses 9 stills that conceptualize the graphic design of the show.

Disc 2 contains three additional bonus features, but no additional "Still Frame Galleries" that are mentioned in the insert booklet.

Bobby Burgess is one of six Mouseketeers who reflect on the show in "Mouseke-Memories." Color footage of the Mouseketeers rehearsing for their debut performance at the opening of Disneyland. The "Mickey Mouse Club" opening animated sequence in color.

In the most substantial extra on the set, "Mouseke-Memories" (14:25) reunites six of the original Mouseketeers (seen earlier in "The Leader of the Club"). They recall how they got cast, the somewhat competitive atmosphere of the show, Walt Disney's personal involvement on the series, "Mooseketeer" Roy Williams, the fans that have followed them through reunions and Disneyland shows, and Annette Funicello. This somewhat brief retrospective featurette is kind of like The Mickey Mouse Club itself -- entertaining and a bit hokey. The latter can be seen when the Mouseketeers make
interviewer Leonard Maltin an "Honorary Mouseketeer" and sing their closing song. In any event, I'm glad that Maltin and Disney made the effort to catch up with some of the kids from the show for this standout bonus.

Three months before The Mickey Mouse Club first aired, the gang of Mouseketeers made an appearance at Disneyland to celebrate the opening of Walt's theme park. "The Mouseketeers Debut at Disneyland" (3:10) edits together black and white footage from that live television broadcast with newly-discovered rehearsal clips in color, bringing to life the Club's debut musical performance.

Lastly, there is the "Opening Sequence in Color" (3:00) which presents the inspired and elaborate opening animation in full color as it was created. The brief introduction from Leonard Maltin explains that even if the show would only air in black and white, Walt thought ahead and decided to create them in color. It's interesting to see and an appropriate inclusion. (The different days of the week were uncovered in color for last spring's Mickey Mouse in Living Color Volume 2.)

Like past Treasures sets, the menus are colorful 4x3 screens. An instrumental of the theme song plays over the Main Menu, others accompany the additional menu screens. Each episode offers a Scene Selection menu which allows quick access to 6 or 7 different chapters from the show.

The Episode menu on Disc 1. The Mouseketeers are 'all ears.'

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With this Mickey Mouse Club set, Disney proves that you can get an entertaining Walt Disney Treasures set out of pretty much any four hours of the studio's vintage programming. Giving five episodes of a daily TV program the same weight as the 5 Davy Crockett episodes or decades worth of animated shorts seems questionable, but there is a similar type of nostalgic value and appeal to this show as other Treasures.

The Mickey Mouse Club definitely remains entertaining forty-nine years later, even if it's a considerably different type of experience than it was for the kids who watched this after school when it first aired. I don't think this low-budget variety show is as likely to please as some of the other vintage material released through the Walt Disney Treasures line. But I found it rewarding to relive the first week of a simple and somewhat hokey program as it first aired, and it certainly won't disappoint those familiar with the Club from reruns or a '50s childhood, or who approach it with the right expectations.

Still, I'm not sure if this is the best route to take in releasing The Mickey Mouse Club. Having just five out of 300 episodes (and there's even more when you consider the '70s and '90s versions) presents such a small taste of a series that made a strong impression on a generation. We certainly won't see sixty different Mickey Mouse Club tins of this type issued, and we might not even see anymore. If this is the only such set released cost effectively, then we can all surely be grateful for its existence. But I know I am strongly interested in seeing much more.

Some collectors of the Walt Disney Treasures line see a firm divide between "animated" and "live action" content, and may only choose to pick up releases of the former class. Those who pass on The Mickey Mouse Club on this basis will be missing out on a rewarding trip down memory lane to enjoy an energetic program that rarely re-airs and has never been recreated by any other producer of entertainment. (Not to mention that Disney animation was a staple of the show.) While the packaging may have changed, this Mickey Mouse Club set upholds the Treasures tradition of presenting the studio's vintage material with care. The tiny slice of the show offered may be a tease for much more, but the four hours of content plus a solid half-hour of bonus material give us plenty to enjoy for the time being.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Now Available on DVD:
The Best of the Mickey Mouse Club (Review)
Mickey Mouse Club: Best of Britney, Christina & Justin (Review)
Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Spin & Marty - The Mickey Mouse Club
(complete first season of serial plus the Mickey Mouse Club episode that introduced it)

Coming to DVD Soon:
November 14, 2006: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales (3-episode compilation of the Disney Channel's hit new animated series)
December 19, 2006: Walt Disney Treasures: The Hardy Boys - The Mickey Mouse Club (complete first season of serial plus the Mickey Mouse Club episode that introduced it, and more)

Related Reviews
Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Spin & Marty The Best of The Mickey Mouse Club
Mickey Mouse Club: The Best of Britney, Justin & Christina The Shaggy Dog (The Wild & Woolly Edition)
Babes in Toyland The Misadventures of Merlin Jones Vintage Mickey
Walt Disney Treasures: Davy Crockett - The Complete Televised Series Walt Disney Treasures: Tomorrowland
Walt Disney Treasures: Elfego Baca The Swamp Fox - Legendary Heroes Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland USA
Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at the Disney Studio Walt Disney Treasures: The Complete Goofy
Walt Disney Treasures: Disney Rarities Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White
Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White, Volume 2 Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color
Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Volume 2 Walt Disney Treasures: Walt Disney on the Front Lines

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Review posted December 4, 2004.