#UnpopularOpinion? Maybe, but one of my favorite Christmas movies probably isn’t what you’d expect.
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999) is my FAVORITE Christmas movie, in fact it’s probably the only one I consistently watch every year. This movie came out when I was seven years old (straight to video) and with it a little bit of classic Disney magic made its way into the 90s. I was instantly reminded of the classic Disney cartoons I still watched on a fairly regular basis (though by 1999 they were just starting to really go out of style).
It brought back classic characters you don’t see much of these days anymore, along with Max and Goofy who I was all about in the 90s thanks to A Goofy Movie. And Mickeys Once Upon a Christmas covers everything I love about Christmas movies while simultaneously excluding everything that I don’t.
Part of the success of this movie in my opinion is that it’s really broken down into three shorts (though they sort of come together at the end). I think part of my issue with a lot of other Christmas movies is the predictability, and the fact that by halfway through the movie you know what’s going to happen, you’re totally familiar with the setting, and really you’re just waiting for the story to move along. With shorts this isn’t really the case, because you simply don’t have time to get to that point.
The one cliche that understandably is tackled in Mickeys Once Upon a Christmas is the characters not knowing the true meaning of the holidays. This is at the center of every character dilemma in this film (along with about 90% of other Christmas movies) but the specific issues are unique to each story and each one comes with a different resolution.
The first short follows Donald’s family in a “Groundhod Day-esque” setting where Huey, Dewey, and Louie wish it could be Christmas every day. They have a blast opening their gifts early and spending nearly the entire day playing with new toys rather than spending time with the family. After a couple of days of Christmas, the holiday dinners and repetitive interactions with out of town family members begin to wane on them and they decide to play some pranks to spice things up, effectively “ruining” Christmas.
The “ruined” Christmas helps them realize the true meaning of the holidays, and they vow to make the next day’s Christmas the best one yet. When they go above and beyond doing things for the other members of their family the following day, the “spell” is broken and it’s finally December 26. It’s a classic (and at least somewhat predictable) tale, but the classic characters and the short (rather than full length) style of storytelling make it work really well and it’s just a story that I love watching year after year.
The next short features Max and Goofy– Max is younger than he is in A Goofy Movie, and it’s really a nice change to see his character not being a bratty teenager. He believes in Santa, and of course Pete of all people gets it into his head that Santa isn’t real. Goofy understandably does everything he can to convince his son otherwise, though it seems everything is working against him. As expected, Santa is real and both characters discover this for sure eventually, but not without the real world lesson of Goofy expressing that all he asks Santa for is Max’s happiness (and Max in term goes and shares his favorite gift with his less fortunate neighbor).
Mickey and Minnie star in the last short which is ALL TOO REAL when you re-watch it as an adult. Long story short, Mickey and Minnie are both working nonstop to be able to afford a nice gift for one another for Christmas, but Christmas Eve comes and they still don’t have the funds. Minnie going through her mail and being overwhelmed by bills is honestly a trip. She ends up trading her watch that was a family heirloom at a pawn shop for a harmonica case (for Mickey’s harmonica), but Mickey ended up trading his harmonica for a chain for Minnie’s watch. If their interaction during Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire makes you tear up be sure to grab the tissues for this one!
Are these shorts predictable? Yes… but honestly I think all Christmas movies are predictable to some extent, that’s why I really prefer that these are shorts. For a straight to video production the quality is also unexpected. The animation is certainly not on part with a theatrical release, but for a 1999 straight to video animated story it’s actually pretty good.
If you haven’t seen Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas, and you love all things Disney and Christmas, definitely give this one a chance! The three shorts fly by and are easy to squeeze into the busy holiday season, and you won’t regret the chance to see these lovable Disney characters.
Have you seen this one? Let me know (or share your favorite Christmas movies!) in the comments below.