Aptly cast as rambunctious swashbucklers in a playful spin on Alexandre Dumas, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy are bound to please both long-time fans and newly-introduced toddlers as above-the-title stars of “The Three Musketeers.” One of the better Disney-produced made-for-video titles — indeed, one of the very few that conceivably could have earned respectable B.O. in theatrical release — pleasing, sprightly animated pic should generate excellent biz as rental and sell-through product.
Working from script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Mickey Evans, helmer Donovan Cook intros toon superstars as 17th century janitors who dream of becoming Musketeers. But vet cartoon villain Peg Leg Pete (voiced by Jim Cummings), thoroughly convincing as a treacherous Musketeer captain, repeatedly mocks the ambitions of our would-be heroes.
The big blow-hard takes unseemly pleasure in pointing out that Mickey (Wayne Allwine) is too small, Donald (Tony Anselmo) is too cowardly (and, frequently, too incomprehensible), and Goofy (Bill Farmer) is, well, too goofy.
And yet, when Princess Minnie Mouse (Russi Taylor) demands additional bodyguards after barely surviving an assassination attempt, Captain Pete calls Mickey, Donald and Goofy to active duty. Why? Because Pete figures the trio won’t be able to foil his nasty plot to kidnap the princess, lock her away in a dungeon, and claim the crown for himself. Not surprisingly, the bad guy gets a rude shock when the good guys use teamwork to transcend their limitations.
Hand-drawn animation is impressive throughout this production by Mouse Factory’s DisneyToons division. Kids of all ages will enjoy the just-fast-enough, not-too-furious comic action. But grown-ups may be even more amused by use of classical music themes by Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Offenbach, among others, in songs scattered throughout pic. Faint echoes of “A Night at the Opera” resonate in climax, which involves an on-stage battle during a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”
Three leads are engaging as they go through their familiar paces (and, thanks to well-cast vocal talents, speak in their familiar voices) while propelling narrative that owes less to Disney cartoon shorts than to classic “Mickey Mouse” comic books of ’50s and ’60s. In the grand tradition of those comics, “Three Musketeers” employs the klutzy criminal Beagle Boys as villainous henchmen.
Vidpic also includes welcome appearances by other second-tier Disney cartoon characters: Daisy Duck (Tress MacNeille) as Princess Minnie’s blunt-spoken lady-in-waiting, and Clarabelle Cow (April Winchell) as a Peg Leg Pete ally who switches sides when she falls in love with Goofy. Latter development, it should be noted, may represent the first interspecies romance ever depicted in a Disney toon.
For the record: “The Three Musketeers” is the first feature — a made-for-video feature, to be sure, but a feature nonetheless — to showcase Mickey, Donald and Goofy together in starring roles. Toon luminaries previously made joint appearances in several cartoon shorts, and in an extended segment of “Fun & Fancy Free” (1947). Funny “documentary” prepared as bonus feature for vidpic’s DVD edition explains why trio waited so long to find just the right star vehicle built for three.