For the history of Mickey Mouse, check out the post here.
|Promo image for "Roller Coaster Painters".|
Feeling Disney had begun to lose touch with its characters and the traditions that built it, Roberts Gannaway and Tony Craig pitched a new series to the studio designed to recapture the feel of its golden days of animated theatrical shorts.
|Ludwig invents money!|
|Minnie being startled by an unruly trumpet.|
The majority of the skits involved individual characters from Mickey’s universe, including new characters Mrs. Turtle (Estelle Harris) and her son, Baby Shelby (Jeff Bennett). A recurring series would feature Mickey, Donald (Tony Anselmo) and Goofy (Bill Farmer) running some kind of specialized business; often with disastrous results. There were also several recurring 90-second gag segments marked with umbrella titles: Mickey to the Rescue, which showed Mickey rescuing Minnie (Russi Taylor) from the sinister machinations of his arch-rival, Pete (Jim Cummings); Maestro Minnie, which had Minnie trying to conduct an orchestra of sentient instruments as an homage to the Silly Symphonies series; Goofy’s Extreme Sports had Goofy showing off various sports to the words of an unseen narrator (Corey Burton); Donald’s Dynamite saw the hapless duck always ending up with a bomb he had to get rid of safely; Von Drake’s House of Genius explored the many inventions of Ludwig Von Drake (Burton); and Pluto Gets the Paper followed the misadventures of Pluto (Farmer) as he tried to retrieve a newspaper for Mickey. Goofy also starred in a segment of “How to” shorts with the narrator explaining to him how to preform his given tasks; an homage to the series of theatrical shorts that began with 1940’s Goofy’s Glider.
|Pluto battles some sticky gum for Mickey's paper.|
Disney’s Mickey Mouse Works debuted on ABC on May 1, 1999 as part of the Disney’s One Saturday Morning programming block. Each episode’s intro ended with Donald attempting to steal the spotlight in different ways and usually ending up being punished somehow for it (such as riding in on an elephant that ends up sitting on him, or opening an umbrella with his starring credit written on it only to be struck by lightning, etc.). These gags were removed for the broadcasts in Finland where the show was called Akun Tehdas (Donald’s Factory), due to Donald’s popularity in the country. The series was written by Gannaway and Craig, along with Tracy Berna, Kevin Campbell, Thomas Hart, Elizabeth Stonecipher, Jess Winfield, Steve Roberts and Rick Calabash. Stephen James Taylor composed the series’ music, and Toon City Animation, Inc. handled the animation duties.
|Minnie held captive by Pete and awaiting Mickey's rescue.|
Mouse Works ran for two seasons, receiving nominations for three Annie Awards, three Daytime Emmy Awards, winning two, and three Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards, also winning two. Despite that, and the high quality of the production, the series failed to draw a significant audience. Gannaway and Craig ended the series in order to retool and revamp it with a unifying feature, debuting Disney’s House of Mouse that January. House of Mouse would go on to reuse all of the shorts produced for Mouse Works, save “Minnie Takes Care of Pluto” and “Pluto Gets the Paper: Vending Machine” due to their violent content (which also got them banned from ABC after their initial airings, although were still seen in international broadcasts).
|Goofy prepares to tackle an EXTREEEEEEEEEME ramp.|
Even though Gannaway and Craig’s grand plan of reviving the theatrical short didn’t come to fruition, three of the gag segments were shown in theaters: “Goofy’s Extreme Sports: Skating the Half Pipe” with I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Mighty Joe Young; “Pluto Gets the Paper: Spaceship” with My Favorite Martian; and “Donald’s Dynamite: Opera Box” with Doug’s 1st Movie. Some of the shorts were used before and after Toon Disney’s Big Movie Show on weekdays, maintaining the Mouse Works closing credits.
|Some days Donald just can't get rid of a bomb.|
Several of the shorts from Mouse Works and exclusively from House of Mouse had been made available in Europe on the DVD Mickey’s Laugh Factory in 2005. “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Mickey’s Mechanical House” were included in Disney’s Learning Adventures: Mickey’s Seeing the World. Another collection of 10 Donald Duck-based shorts from both shows were included as bonus features on The Chronological Donald, Volume 4 in 2008.
“Pluto gets the Paper: Vending Machine / Donald’s Grizzly Guest / Donald’s Dynamite: Snowman / Mickey Foils the Phantom Blot” (11/6/99) – Pluto tries to get the paper out of a vending machine. / The rainy seasons drives Humphrey the Bear from his leaky cave to Donald’s house. / Donald discovers his snowman’s head is a bomb. / Von Drake’s mysterious package is stolen from Mickey, Donald and Goofy by the Phantom Blot.