Mickey Saves Christmas (2022)

Well, this is the worst thing I've seen this year.

I mean, okay, the year isn't over yet, and I'm playing a little fast and loose with the term "worst". They poured time, money, and effort into this stop-motion special, and the finished project reflects that. It's just... that's part of the problem.

If you're going to invest in this art form, I expect something notable about the end result. And this... it's just empty. Soulless. Pointless. It feels like executives went over the script with a magnifying glass and meticulously removed anything anyone could conceivably find objectionable. What's left is less a story than a branding exercise showcasing the studio's intellectual property in the least interesting way imaginable.

To the limited extent it matters, let's talk about the plot. This special starts with Mickey decorating a cabin for Christmas and picking up his friends, who have been celebrating in town. Through it all, Mickey's dog, Pluto, wants to play, but Mickey is too busy getting ready for Christmas. When he finally takes Pluto out, things go wrong, and the decorations are turned off, just as Santa Claus is landing. This results in his sleigh crashing and the gifts for kids in town being lost.

Since the elves already went home for the holidays, Santa has no one to help him, so of course all the trademarked Disney characters step up to offer their services. In the confusion, one of Santa's reindeer is left behind. They realize they're a deer short when they reach the North Pole, so Santa and Mrs. Claus go back to find it while the Disney characters get to work on presents. Again, Pluto gets them into a little trouble, but eventually they get everything ready. Only Santa's still not back, and it's getting late, so they find one of his old sleighs and hitch up a couple young reindeer. It's not enough, so Pluto joins the team, and they're able to return to meet up with Santa and deliver the gifts. Mickey learns a valuable lesson: that decorating isn't as important as spending time with those we love, and we learn that we're never getting these twenty-four minutes back.

To be clear, the dull, generic plot and pedantic moral are the least of this thing's problems. This could easily have salvaged the experience with jokes, had they been funny. Alternatively, if the three-dimensional designs for the characters had been visually interesting, it would give this some reason for existing beyond adding yet another Christmas special to the schedule. But the characters look lifeless and hollow; there's no real beauty or imagination in how they're made. The closest we get to an artistic decision is having Mickey's ears move to ensure they're always visible as circles, in keeping with his model sheet. That occasionally means one appears on the back of his head, incidentally, which is distracting as hell in three dimensions. I suspect the decision was actually made for artistic reasons, but it honestly feels like Disney being precious about their brand recognition.

Everything about this is boring. Everything you expect to get from the medium is lacking, and in its place you're left with... well... nothing. You get nothing, aside from a Nightmare Before Christmas callback when the gang makes a duck. Avoid this at all costs. There's no shortage of great stop-motion Christmas specials out; this isn't one of them.