Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999)

Christmas viewing continues and the next film on the list is this hidden Disney gem. Beloved by 90s children around the world, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas was a direct-to-video anthology film made up of three short films that follow Donald, Goofy and Mickey, respectively. The connective thread is that each segment is represented by a present that sits under a tree as Kelsey Grammer recounts the lessons of each segment’s meaning in verse. I think because it was released at the start of Disney’s direct-to-video obsession of the late 90s/early 00s, people tend to forget or not realise that this film even exists.

It made for an interesting and nostalgic watch as I haven’t seen this in decades. The first thing I noticed was that the animation is very dated and doesn’t have the same sharp quality and attention to detail that the Disney Animated Classic Features have. With two of the segments based on classic short stories and one being an original, the writing is inconsistent as the middle segment differs greatly and creates a disconnect in the film as a whole.

The first film, Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas, is probably my favourite of the three. Based on the 1892 short story “Christmas Every Day” by William Dean Howell, the film follows Donald’s adorable nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie as they learn the true meaning of Christmas as they are forced to relive the day again and again thanks to a wish they made on a falling star. Living Christmas repeatedly makes them understand that family and love are the most important things.

The second film follows Goofy in A Very Goofy Christmas as he tries to give son Max the best Christmas ever. Probably my least favourite of the three because it is so different in style and tone that causes a fragmentation in the overall film. As Goofy tries to instill the Christmas spirit in his son, Max, who is filled with doubt when Pete tells him that Santa isn’t real. Of course, in true Goofy style, it is filled to the brim with slapstick humour. After a while, it does get a tenous and you find yourself rolling your eyes rather than rolling on the floor with laughter but it’s a sweet short nonetheless.

The final segment in the film is Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi. Based on the short story The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry, Mickey and Minnie’s Gift of the Magi sees the characters slaving away at difficult jobs. Mickey plays a harmonica and works temporary jobs for quick money wanting to get a necklace chain for Minnie’s special watch whereas Minnie works at a busy department store and is saving money to get Micket a case for his harmonica. The consequences are heartbreaking as each sells their prize possessions meaning the presents now won’t serve their purpose.

A charming idea that harks back to the Disney anthology films of the War years, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is a delightful and festive treat which can be enjoyed by all ages. It may look a bit dated, especially to people who may be unfamiliar with Disney’s direct-to-video craze of the early 00’s. Of course, the standard overall isn’t as high as the true Disney Classics but it is good to watch even if it is to tick the box on your Disney watch list.

What do you think of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas? Let me know in the comments below!

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas is available on Disney+.

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