3 out of 5
Directed by: Alonso Ramirez Ramos, Eddie Trigueros and Dave Wasson
While the 2013 Mickey Mouse series and the 2020 Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse share some creatives, and are definitely like-minded in terms of extreme stretch-and-squish animation style and a willful embrasure of randomness, the time gap between the two does seem to have leant the latter a bit of a sharper edge. The animation is that much more unpredictable and insane; the humor is that much smarter, bridging the gap between kid antics and more adult non-sequitur humor.
Going back in the chronology to view this special from the Mickey Mouse era, when I’ve become very endeared to the Wonderful World episodes, definitely shows this divide, also accepting that just by going to a narrative that has to hold a half hour instead of 15 minutes, you sacrifice some goofiness (no pun intended) for linearity. Halloween Spooktacular! is fun and has plenty of wacky visuals, but it’s not non-stop: there are down beats in the pacing, and the story fits a pretty traditional model, excepting some of its more outlandish jokes. The animation is timed incredibly well, going overblown or playing it cooler at the perfect points to milk the most extreme version of the intended tone from any given scene, but it’s all within a realm of Looney Tunes-style mania – we don’t go towards the more surprising surrealism of Wonderful World.
Mickey has Donald and Goofy and the various nephews and kids over for what’s promised to be some ultimate scary story telling. Things start out well – for the stories, and for us, the viewer – when a Frankenstein riff turns absolutely absurd, but the Dracula and Hansel & Gretel bits thereafter are definitely more predictable, and the special has to build itself up to a payoff (a story that actually scares) that it can’t quite get to. As mentioned, each bit has some successful gags that break the mold; otherwise, nothing’s too off-map from what you’d probably expect from the story set up, beat by beat.