Problem solving and basic skills, from the classic Disney crew
The Story So Far...
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is definitely not the animated version of the old Mickey Mouse Club (which, now that I write it, could be a pretty good idea.) It's really just your usual kids cartoon, blending in some education with a mission, but it does star some of the biggest icons in kids cartoons. As a result, it's got an instant in with any kid who's ever been to Disney or watched a Disney movie. That it also mixes in catchy, simple songs and makes the young ones watching feel like part of the show via direct address may be pages from an old playbook, but they still work, as evidenced by the way my little girl chants "Meeska Mooseka Mickey Mouse" along with the show.
The series shows the group trying to fix a problem each episode, like leading lost ducks to the beach or fishing for red gooey fish for a hungry kitten. They aren't mindblowing challenges, but enough to pad out a 20-minute show. Helping the gang is Toodles (or possibly Tootles) a Mickey Mouse symbol (ears and head) that appears when called and provides access to the mouseketools, four objects (one, a mystery item) which will help with the group's mission. Though the applications may be a little out-there (like using rubber duckies to weigh down a runaway bubble) it's a solidintroduction to problem solving, to go along with the lessons in counting and shape identification.
Like most such shows, formula rules the day, so each episode starts and ends mostly the same way, and you can be pretty sure how the story is going to progress, especially with the mouseketools device, since you need to use all four to complete your mission. Such segmentation is advantageous though, as it makes the episodes move fast and smoothly. Plus, the hot dog dance at the conclusion of each story features a fun little song you don't mind hearing a few times.
In addition to the main six stars, the show features some recognizable faces from Disney's animation past, including Figaro the cat and big galoot Pete. Pete though poses a slight concern, as he isn't the friendliest of characters, as anyone who remember his original appearances can attest to. Here, he's toned down a bit, but his behavior could be confusing to kids. In one episode, he'll be best buddies with Mickey and his pals, and then he's trying to rip them off when they rent a boat from him. It certainly isn't the finest modeling material on the subject of friendship.
Also less than impressive is the CG animation, which I would put a step below shows like The Backyardigans and the new Winnie the Pooh, at time looking like the incomplete renders you see in the extras on Pixar DVDs. Perhaps the intention was to keep it simple for preschoolers, as the character models are solidly crafted, but it doesn't look as good as other similar shows. That I'm familiar with the old Disney cartoons and the soulful animations of these characters doesn't help either, as these versions feel less "alive."
Here are the episodes included on this set:
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is just what you'd expect from a kid's show, as the dialogue is clean and clear, along with the fun, bouncy music. There's nothing dynamic about the mix, but your kids definitely won't notice that.
There's also a set of eight previews/commercials.
The Bottom Line