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Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland DVD Review

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Program & DVD Details

Executive Producers: Rob LaDuca, Bobs Gannaway / Directors: Donovan Cook, Broni Likomanov, Rob LaDuca / Writers: Ashley Mendoza, Kevin D. Campbell, Don Gillies, Leslie Valdes / Producers/Story Editors: Mark Seidenberg, Leslie Valdes

Voice Cast: Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse), Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), Dee Bradley Baker (Various), Bill Farmer (Goofy, Pluto), Russi Taylor (Minnie Mouse), Jim Cummings (Pete), Tress MacNeille (Daisy Duck), Corey Burton (Professor Ludwig von Drake), April Winchell (Clarabelle Cow)

Running Time: 50 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
DVD Release Date: September 8, 2009 / Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); White Keepcase

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By Kelvin Cedeno

Disney is no stranger to the surreal world of author Lewis Carroll. Time and time again they've utilized Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass as springboards for films (the 1951 animated classic), shorts (Mickey Mouse's 1936 cartoon Thru the Mirror), and television series (the early '90s Disney Channel program "Adventures in Wonderland"). Walt clearly adored the whimsy and fantasy prevalent in Carroll's novels. He intended for his first full-length film to be an Alice adaptation
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that utilized both animation and live-action, an echo to his own Alice Comedies series that had little to do with Wonderland outside of name.

With that project finally becoming a reality next year through the eyes of Tim Burton, it seems logical that Disney would want to raise public awareness of Wonderland early. A low-key but effective approach has been implemented via their popular "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" series. After many delays, the direct-to-video special once again reunites Disney and Carroll in Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland.

Pete appears with a different sort of P.J. than usual as he gives Donald and Mickey some maddening riddles. The size effects of Von Drake's magic sparkles don't seem to be quite as effective as good old-fashioned mushrooms.

The program joins Mickey and the gang on Daisy's birthday. Donald plans on giving her a cuckoo clock as a present, but his trademark temper scares off the cuckoo bird. Determined to catch it before Daisy's surprise party that afternoon, Mickey and Donald follow it into the madcap world of Wonderland. Here, all of their clubhouse friends (minus Daisy, of course) appear as alter egos influenced by Lewis Carroll's classic menagerie of characters. Among these are Goofy Hatter (who has an affinity for chocolate milk),
the disappearing Pete the Cat, nutty twins Tweedle Chip and Tweedle Dale, and Queen Clarabelle, who never says no to a good croquet game. With the help of trusty pal Toodles, Mickey and Donald assist the eccentric personalities they run into in hopes of getting closer to the cuckoo bird.

"Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" has always been an exceptional preschool program from the get-go, but that doesn't mean it can't use some shaking up to break potential monotony. Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland does a fine job mixing the familiar with the out-of-the-ordinary. The marriage of Disney and Carroll has, for the most part, proven successful, and the episodic nature of the Alice books that lends itself perfectly to this show's format. Each Mouseketool used nicely links itself to an encounter, bookended with segments that feel free from some of the self-imposed restrictions of "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse."

It also doesn't hurt that this venture feels more ambitious than usual. With a widescreen aspect ratio and new settings to visit, this truly does feel like a special and not just an extended episode. It brings enough fresh material to the table to make it easier to swallow than the double-length episodes of something like "Little Einsteins."

Tweedle Chip and Tweedle Dale go on a never-ending tirade of questions that gets on Donald's nerves sooner rather than later. Queen Clarabelle shows that flamingos and hedgehogs are out while mallets and sparkly orbs are in when it comes to croquet.

It may seem like a nitpicky criticism for a series clearly aimed at a younger demographic, but it's befuddling trying to figure out how Wonderland relates to the established Clubhouse universe. When Mickey and Donald arrive in this surreal world, one would expect the characters they meet to be totally new individuals that reflect the "real life" ones la MGM's The Wizard of Oz. Instead, characters like Ludwig von Drake and Minnie Mouse outright acknowledge the fact that they're themselves, even if they exhibit slightly different personality quirks. This wouldn't be so odd if the whole experience were a dream as it was in Carroll's text, but there's no indication that these events were imaginary. To top it all off, none of the characters at the end even acknowledges the adventure. Of course, this could purposely be an intentional "Was it a dream or wasn't it?" approach, but the producers probably weren't putting that much thought or complexity into the narrative.

Only ardent Alice fans would scrutinize something clearly meant to be taken at face value. With that in mind, Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland is a fine entry into both the "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" series and the Disney/Carroll canon. It takes elements of two already strong properties and fuses them together in a memorable and charming manner.
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A bittersweet aura pervades this special, however, as this is likely one of the last times the public will get to hear new material from the recently deceased Wayne Allwine as Mickey Mouse. Such a thought adds a bit of melancholy to the experience, but it's also quite fitting that one of Allwine's last performances would hark back to a collaboration as old as the Walt Disney Company itself.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland comes to DVD in an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio. While not perfect, the transfer is still more than pleasing. Colors are bold and vivid, but don't feature the blown-out contrast that early episodes of the series did. Sharpness may be hard to tell due to the rounded nature of the animation, but it seems perfectly acceptable. Only a few minor instances of color banding and jagged edges mar an otherwise rich presentation.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is surprisingly active for a show of this nature. When it comes to animation, a certain level of fidelity is expected when you're dealing with effects and dialogue that are recorded and mixed from scratch. While there's still a general focus towards the frontal speakers, effects take advantage of the surrounds at times, as does some directional dialogue. Both these and the score come across cleanly and clearly.

On level 2 of the disc's Adventure Mode, the player must indicate the color of Goofy's grayed-out shirt. Even as "Goofy Goes Goofy", Minnie, Mickey, and Clarabelle act awfully nonchalant towards the new septuplet. Mickey and Donald glance up at the listings of the busily-animated main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Some minor supplements round out the disc. First is the option to watch the feature in Adventure Mode. Here, the program periodically branches out to questions that can be answered via the DVD remote. Level One uses only the left and right arrow keys and asks simple questions about what's on screen. Level Two uses all four arrows and is actually a bit challenging as it removes key elements and asks the player to identify what's missing.
The questions on both levels pop up too infrequently, but the seamless technology used to implement them is fairly impressive.

Finally, a bonus episode is included. Originally aired on November 20, 2008, "Goofy Goes Goofy" (24:03) focuses on the lovable, silly dog as he's multiplied several times thanks to a Professor von Drake experiment. Mickey takes it upon himself to make sure all the Goofys stick together for when the effects wear off, but this is easier said than done. There's not much to tie this episode to the main feature, but it still a welcome and entertaining inclusion.

Via Disney's FastPlay, the disc opens with trailers for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving 10th Anniversary Special Edition, Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, and Disney Movie Rewards. These can be found within the Sneak Peeks menu along with promos for Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, The Princess and the Frog, The Tigger Movie: 10th Anniversary Special Edition, "Handy Manny," and Little Einsteins: Animal Expedition.

The animated menu feature Mickey and Donald gazing up at an hourglass as Ludwig von Drake's bubbles float around them. Music is featured both here and in the submenus, but those merely feature static character images.

Disney tends to be hit or miss when it comes to disc art, and this time it's a miss. The gray disc is held in a white Amaray case which itself is housed in a shiny, embossed cardboard slipcover. Inside the case is a leaflet advertising other Playhouse Disney programs, a Disney Movie Rewards code, and an insert that explains how to access the "Adventure Mode" game.

Mickey, Donald, and Goofy Hatter try to beckon Cuckoo over to their not-so-mad chocolate milk party. It's not an unbirthday present, but Daisy is still excited over her new gift just as Cuckoo prepares to emerge.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland may disappoint Carroll purists or those expecting something more mainstream from Mickey and the gang. Those already familiar with the Playhouse Disney series, however, should find this a charming and creative breath of fresh air. The image and sound are both strong considering their limitations, and while the Adventure Mode doesn't add a great deal, the bonus episode is fun. Fans of the show are encouraged to pick this up. For those curious about a new Disney and Carroll marriage or one of Wayne Allwine's last performances as Mickey, the disc merits a rental.

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UltimateDisney.com | DVD Reviews | DVDizzy.com: Complete DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Disney DVDs | Search This Site

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on DVD:Mickey Saves Santa and Other Mouseketales Mickey's Great Clubhouse Hunt Mickey's Treat
Mickey's Storybook Surprises Mickey's Big Splash Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland Choo-Choo Express

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Reviewed September 10, 2009.