Mickey, Donald and Goofy: The Three Musketeers | Animated and Underrated
There is nothing but good things emanating from this movie. Lovable characters, a well-rounded universe, a simple but effective plot, and happiness abounds. You don’t get much more fitting than that for a story involving Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Daisy, and Minnie. It’s a humorous and joyous romp that doesn’t try anything too difficult and simply provides a platform to give these characters their moment to shine in a feature film.
The Three Musketeers is perhaps the most appropriate concept for these characters that you could think of, because it allows this trio to work off each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a situation that brings out both. Donald is a chicken with a bad temper, Goofy is a clutz and a dim-wit who trusts too easily, and Mickey is a stead-fast hero with a heart of gold who unfortunately doesn’t always have an answer. But despite all of those issues, they persevere, work together, and stand-up against the forces of overwhelming evil and save the day, as one should expect. But their victory against all odds wasn’t always as clear in their films. And their personalities weren’t always as fleshed out as they are these days.
Mickey, Donald and Goofy: The Three Musketeers, besides having an unnecessarily long title, is a film that’s been a long time coming. Because before this film, we only ever got Mickey, Donald and Goofy stories in the form of shorts, or short films: one of which wasn’t even about them, they just happened to be in it. So in order to explain why this feature film is so ground-breaking, I’d like to go through some back story for you, to hopefully get you acclimated to the history of these characters.
Back in the 1930s and early 40s, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy Goof (yes that’s what they eventually named him) had only been seen on screen together in short cartoons: things such as “Mickey’s Service Station,” “Clock Cleaners,” “Lonesome Ghosts,” and “Mickey’s Trailer.”
Unlike his co-stars, Mickey was lucky enough to star in a portion of Fantasia in 1941, but only to a very modest and confused audience. It wasn’t until 1947 that the three came together for an epic theatrical tale, as yet another portion of a larger feature called Fun and Fancy Free. This film was one of Disney’s many anthology pieces at the time: which included Melody Time, Make Mine Music, The Three Caballeros, and Icabod and Mr. Toad. However, in Fun and Fancy Free’s case, it was a film constructed of left over and unfinished larger projects that were scaled down, and then strung together by a live-action portion hosted by both Jiminy Cricket, and Edgar Bergen with his puppets Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd.
The portion with Mickey, Donald and Goofy involved the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, and how Mickey and his friends were down on their luck and running out of food and supplies.
Then Mickey shows up with a box of magic beans, and during the night, the beans grow into a stalk that rises into the sky, where the three wake up to find themselves in a fantasy land that’s much larger than they are. They eventually enter into the castle of the giant, named Willie, and find the magic singing harp that had been kidnapped years before. They rescue said harp, race down the beanstalk, and cut the stalk down, effectively killing the giant as he falls to Earth. But then the film retracts that and just has Willie show up in the live-action portion where he lifts up the roof and talks to Mr. Bergen.
Anyway, after that film, Mickey and the gang’s final performance, together or apart, was in the late 1950s, just before The Shaggy Dog came out in 1959. By that point, Disney was still making some animated features, but was moving full swing into live-action comedies.
And so it wasn’t until all the way in 1983 that Mickey Mouse, Donald, and Goofy made a return to the screen in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Of course we all know that this movie wasn’t really about Mickey Mouse so much as it was about Scrooge McDuck, who himself had not made an onscreen appearance except for two money-smart educational shorts way back in the early 60s. Beyond that he was mostly a character of his own comic book series, along with Huey, Dewey and Louis.
Interestingly, back in Fancy Free, Mickey Mouse was not only played by Walt Disney, but by the studio’s chief sound designer, Jim MacDonald: who shared the role of Mickey in the final soundtrack. Jim would then carry the role for most of the way up until the early 1970s, when he handed the role over to his protégé, Wayne Allwine. Wayne then became the voice of Mickey from 1977 all the way until 2009, when he unfortunately passed away.
I’ll be honest, while Walt at the time in the 30s and 40s was the best person for the role, as far as he was concerned, his successor Jim had a much greater range and performance quality to his portrayal. And once Wayne Allwine took up the torch, he was able to improve and perfect the character well into the 2000s over a 32 year period.
And you can tell how the voice definitely improves as you watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol, 1990’s The Prince and the Pauper, 1995’s Mickey Mouse’s Runaway Brain, 2001’s The House of Mouse, and 2004’s The Three Musketeers. Which rounds out the spare few times that all three characters have appeared in a major production. Now of course the whole cast has been in more juvenile fare such as The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but I don’t care much for all that, and it isn’t really for me anyway. Though I’m sure the voice cast can’t complain, as it’s been one of the main shows that they can do their voices for.
Now as for the remainder of our main cast for The Three Musketeers, we have yet to cover the backstory of our villain, known as Pete, or Peg-leg Pete, or Black Pete as he is sometimes referred to.
Just like the rest of the cast, Pete’s last time on film was during the 1950s, when he showed up in three different Goofy cartoons. Pete is an odd character, because as the decades went on, he switched between different cartoon series, working himself into new dynamics. In the Mickey cartoons, he was the Bluto to Mickey’s Popeye. In the Donald cartoons, he served as a loud-mouthed superior officer during World War II, or as a disgruntled neighbor or something similar after the war. And in the Goofy cartoons, he was mainly just another type of dog-like character to change up the character designs. After 1954, however, he didn’t appear again until he showed up as the Ghost of Christmas Future in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and then showed up soon after as a vintage version of himself playing a police officer, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He was then able to reaffirm his villain status in 1990’s The Prince and the Pauper. And eventually became one of Disney’s staple villain characters once again.
However, in those previous 3 cases, Pete was not played by Jim Cummings. Jim didn’t come into the picture until the TV series Goof Troop and A Goofy Movie in 1992 and 1995. But from then on, Jim would be Pete’s sole voice actor, and an extremely befitting and intimidating one.
So then with all of that said, where does that put The Three Musketeers? Why is this film so important? Well it’s simple, really. In all of those previous cases, the dynamics of these three characters were not fleshed out and were not strongly defined. Goofy may have always been a dimwit, but he was never a dimwit with another side to him, another dimension. And while Mickey has always been billed as the straight-man infallible hero-type, he’s never really shown his vulnerability before. And while Donald has always been the hot-head and the selfish type, he’s never really been shown to be a coward who had to grow into his big-boy pants and gathered a little courage. But more importantly, the way in which all three of these characters interact with each other and support each other and converse with each other had never been this tightly knit or well-choreographed before. The comradery between the actors had never been at this level. And I think it’s precisely because these three actors, Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, and Bill Farmer were portraying these characters that they were able to grow and develop their roles as the years went on. And so it wasn’t even just that these actors were doing it, but that they had all this time on top of that to perfect their merry trio. Which means that this film could not have been made at any other time.
In terms of this film’s production, its instant likability comes through most proudly in its skill of animation, and its loose and self-referential humor. A lot of people out there are sure to dislike this film’s overuse of Disney in-canon references. But if you approach the film with the understanding that it was made specifically for die-hard Disney fans, then it simply becomes part of the experience, as it should be.
The animation is actually some of the best I’ve seen from Disney’s off-shoot studio DisneyToon: which is an amalgamation of their Australian, French, and Japanese studios. The expressiveness and fluidity is just as smooth, if not more so, than their work on A Goofy Movie way back in 1995. I think perhaps what stands out most are the characters’ eyes and lips. So much attention and detail was put into those two areas. I daresay it may even be more qualified than Disney’s own domestic studio was at the time. I don’t remember The Princess and the Frog making me care this much about its characters through their expressions.
The backgrounds are rather special as well. They’re painted in watercolors rather than acrylics, in a style that mimics early Disney and Warner Brothers productions, which often used watercolors to create a storybook aesthetic.
Perhaps the most obvious and vocal aspect of this film is the music, and I’m actually a bit uncertain with it. Part of me enjoys the proud, confident, yet dorky and almost improvisational way in which the characters sing their songs, especially Rob Paulson as The Troubadour (the Turtle). But the other part of me dislikes most of the songs because their lyrics become incredibly repetitive. The one word you will hear most in this film is “love.” There are in fact three whole songs devoted to it as the chief concept. We have “Love So Lovely,” “Sweet Wings of Love,” and “Chains of Love.” It’s so over-packed and yet so loosely written that it almost makes me think of a gag I once saw in an episode of the internet review series, The Nostalgia Critic: when he was talking about the lazily crappy songs from the Miramax version of The Thief and the Cobbler.
But even with all of that, I can’t help but feel a surge of strength and excitement whenever I hear that theme song, ”All for One, And One For All.”
At this point I’m sure you’re wondering where a synopsis is or where a plot description is. But believe me, the plot to this film is exactly what you think it is. And even if it isn’t, then you’re pretty darn close. Like I said, it’s simple, but extremely effective.
I think it’s safe to say that this review is pretty packed as it is. And because the story is so simple, I figure you won’t hate me for not explaining it more to you, that way you can enjoy the movie for itself. However, if you’re interested in learning more, I have plenty more to say about the film, especially about the three female characters: Minnie, Daisy, and Clarabell. So if you’d like to learn more, I’ll be writing an in-depth analysis on the unique similarities and differences between Disney’s The Prince and the Pauper and The Three Musketeers (starring Mickey, Donald and Goofy): which will aim to explain further why The Three Musketeers is such a great leap forward for all the characters involved. Once that article is up, you can find a link to it right below.
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Both The Prince and the Pauper and The Three Musketeers can be found on the Netflix Instant page if you search for them. And I would highly recommend viewing both to see the comparisons for yourself. The former film is also extremely short. But in quick summation, The Three Musketeers is the clear winner, improving on its predecessor by a galactic mile. And you owe it to yourself, if you are a Disney fan, and especially a Mickey Mouse fan, to watch this movie as soon as you have the time.