Many years ago I went to a Disney on Ice show. I ended up having a great time because rather than just have the characters skate for 90 minutes, they gave this show a plot! There was an actual story, as the Wicked Witch from Snow White cast a spell and kidnaps Minnie, Daisy, and some human girl. Of course Mickey, Donald, and a human guy have to charge to the rescue. They have a sword fight to rescue the girls, and it was just so cool to see a story rather than just a boring ice show.
Why am I telling you this? Because that is what I am reminded of when I watch the TV special I want to talk about today which premiered in 1988. Mickey’s 60th Birthday!
This reminds me of the ice shoe because rather than just get a glorifed clip show we get a special which has a story! Is it a good story? Well, that’s another discussion entirely. This is one of those programs where What seemed really cool as a kid seems down right peculiar today when looked at with adult eyes. In fact, the more I watch it the more I realize that they really missed the target with this. Let’s take a closer look.

The Plot-
During the taping of Mickey’s birthday celebration, he comes across his old Sorcerers Apprentice hat. He disobeyes the wizaerd (some unknown wizard by the way) and puts it on. After Roger Rabbit causes some chaos with a dynamite in a cake, Mickey uses the hat to resolve the siutation. The sorceror, angry that Mickey used the hat when he has his own magic, casts a spell on Mickey which makes it so that no one can recognize him.
John Ritter plays an anchor covering the story that the rest of the world thinks that Mickey is missing and is searching for him, While clips are shown of Mickey’s 60’s years, Mickey is forced to try to convince people who he is. Despite his best efforts he is unable to convince the casts of Family Ties and Cheers (imagine Mickey dancing on the Cheers bar…yeah, weird). While this is going on, Donald is accused and eventually tried for Mickey’s disappearance, even though Donald insists he is innocent.
Mickey returns to Disneyland where a janitor is sad that Mickey is not showing up. Phylicia Rashad appears (you know, I think this might have aired on NBC) and sings a song called Magic. Mickey joins in an elaborate dance number which pleases the sorceror enough to break the spell. Mickey is “found”, Donald is free, and after a big parade (and a poitnless Bette Midler cameo) Mickey is reunited with Minnie and all is well.
WHAT I LIKED:
Family Ties and Cheers-There are things to love and hate here. Looking at it as a kid watching this in 1988 how could you not get a kick out of this? It was just surreal! I mean it’s up there with the Sesame Street episode with C3PO and R2S2! The scene of Mickey dancing in the Keaton kitchen and on the Cheers bar are just one of those moment you never forget. Once again it does feel like we stumbled onto an actual episode of both shows. But as an adult….more than in a second.
John Ritter-He never disappointed and he doesn’t here. He is the newscaster and hosts the clips which are cool. Even underplayed he is funny.
Roger Rabbit-It’s a real shame that Roger didn’t pass the test of time. He was around for awhile but now not so much. Now I have not been to Disney in awhile so correct me if I am wrong. So it is nice to see him here. Oh, and cute moment, the actor who does Roger’s voice appears as himself in a scene where he talks to Roger!
The Clips-When the special is not hawking for NBC and focus’s on Mickey and his 60 years it does a good job. The clips work and the presentation is fun. There is even one segment which is a clever series of stop motion effects which feature all the Mickey toys which have been made over the years.
The final music number-What can I say? It’s very well done…..considering no Disney characters appear in it! When the story is dispensed we finally see the real celebration in Disney World, and I find myself wishing we had more of this and less of the fake newscasts.
What I HATED:
Family Ties and Cheers-On the other hand….Who came up with this idea? First of all, I can buy that the two casts do not recognize Mickey. What I don’t understand is why none of them think an animated, talking mouse is a little out of the ordinary! Do they see lot’s of them? They try to pass it off that the characters believe it’s a little person with a funny hat…..sure. Second, the logistics are way off. Mickey traveled from Disneyland to Columbus, OH to Boston, MA, back to Disneyland all on his own power in a few days? Wow. Finally, I never would have though of this as a kid but shame on you NBC for using Mickey’s birthday to plug your own shows! At least in the Earth Day Special the cameos weren’t there just to plug for the network. They had characters from CBS, NBC and Fox shows on a special that aired on ABC…in fact in many ways ABC came out badly in that one. Think I am wrong? Ed McMahon, Hunter, and LA Law also make cameos…Aren’t all kids familiar with L.A. Law??? And why would Mickey walk into a bar? Man this hasn’t aged well………
The Forced Michael J Fox Cameo-During the Family Ties scene, only Justine Bateman, Tina Yothers, and Brian Bonsall actually appear. Of course Michael J Fox was the big name and face of that show. So how do you get around it when the actor does not appear? You show a clip from the show of course! The clip is pointless and has nothing at all to do with the main plot of the special. Ok it’s supposed to give Andrew motivation, but come on! By the way, Brian Bonsall is clearly not playing his character correctly in this! I imagine Gary David Goldberg wanted no part of this, network mandated I am sure. A few years earlier NBC did a special called Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search for Santa Claus which also had real cast members from the shows but it was done soooo much better.
Donald Duck-Ok, this is just me but I have always hated the “rivalry” between Donald and Mickey. I know it goes back to the old Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song, and an old cartoon they show on the special where Donald is heckling Mickey when he is being a magician, but why can’t they be friends? Yeah Donald is a hothead but that doesn’t mean he’s a jerk. I could be wrong but it seems that the Donald is jealous of Mickey stuff has faded over the last several years, and I hope so because I always hated that. What a horrible lesson for kids, if you come in second it’s ok to whine and pout about it. And the whole trial thing in this seems way to harsh on poor Donald since he is accused based on circumstancial evidence at best. To bad Black Pete wasn’t around in this time, he would have really spiced this thing up!
The Sorceror’s Motive-I watched this again to refresh my memory, and I have to say I don’t get what the sorceror is thinking here. So Mickey used the hat? He didn’t cause damage like he did in the original Sorceror’s Apprentice, so what’s the problem? In fact he puts on quite a show! So the sorceror then causes a world wide panic just to teach Mickey a lesson he didn’t need to learn? How does Mickey break the spell? By singing and dancing about magic….yeah sp? and entertaining the gang in Cheers wasn’t enough? The resolution is to fast and the sorceror is lucky Mickey is such a nice mouse! Fortunately years later this foolishness would fade and Mickey would use the hat to save the day in The House of Villains.
The lack of Disney characters-One downside to this is that Mickey appears in animated form, I would have liked to see the live version. But I can deal with that. But where is everyone else? Roger gets more screen time than Donald, Minnie gets a cameo….and that’s it! Why couldn’t they have put more Disney in this and less NBC? The parade at the end is about it and that is only screen for a few minutes! Why not have the Disney characters searching for Mickey, like Goofy looking in bizarre places or something.
Final Thoughts-So, how do I rate this special? I never forgot it so I guess that counts for something. I can’t believe I am going to say this, but where the story made the ice show memorable in a good way for me as a kid here the story makes this special memorable in a bad way, because it takes away from the reason the special is on. During the ice show the story made the ice skating cool, I was invested. Here the story distracts from Mickey and his birthday because we don’t really see how it effects him or his friends. The Family Ties and Cheers scenes are done through THEIR eyes not from Mickey’s point of view. I never forgot it, but I remember this for the Cheers and Family Ties stuff, not sure if that is a good thing. The story isn’t focused with lots of plot holes, even Donald being arrested is only alluded to. Where the Earth Day Special was to long, this was much to short! Why only an hour? Also there is hardly any original animation in this, they just record audio over existing cartoons which is LAZY! I know in 1988 animation was not as easy, but come on! There is good in this. I do like how they show the world reacting and how much Mickey is loved. The clips are really well put together also and almost make this show worthwhile. But the filler is, well, filler!
Final analysis? I really wanted to go easier on this but watching it as an adult is much different than watching it as a kid. Maybe I am being to analytical here. To be fair It is a fun special to watch but it could have been SOOOOO much better. The Walt Disney World 20th Anniversary Special in 1991 used the story format better and was a stronger special…maybe I will talk about that someday.  On the plus side I got to see the actual celebration for Mickey’s birthday in Disney World in 1989 which was awesome. They had a stage show which puts this hour long special to shame! I was also there for Donald’s 50th Birthday. Ah, but that’s a story for another day!
Before I go, I still can’t decdide on a name for this series. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

By richb

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