Mickey returns in 'Prince and Pauper'

January 11, 1992|By Steve McKerrow

Yaayyy, Mickey! Yaayy, Mickey Mouse! Remember that part of the opening to the old "Mickey Mouse Club Show"? It's appropriate again as Walt Disney's most famous creation debuts this weekend in a new featurette that has the look of the old, classic Disney animation.

"The Prince and the Pauper," a 23-minute adaptation of the classic Mark Twain tale, makes its debut at 7 p.m. tomorrow on the Disney Channel, in advance of a screening of "The Sword in the Stone."

By comparison to that pale 1963 feature film, done at a time when the great Disney animation style had been considerably thinned, the new feature seems, indeed, the intended evocation of the classic Disney look.

A lush and sharply detailed watercolor style, particularly of backgrounds in the medieval period piece, may remind viewers of "Pinocchio" or "Lady and the Tramp."

"We wanted the film to have an Old World look that was very rounded, bold and three-dimensional," explains director George Scribner, describing the new work in the premium cable service's magazine.

"The Prince and the Pauper" marks the first new appearance of Mickey Mouse in a lengthier production since "Mickey's Christmas Carol" appeared in 1983.

As for the story, it is also classic Disney -- meaning the outline of the original literature is still more or less intact, but with a lighthearted overwash. And that means Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck are here, too.

Mickey has the usual double role. He is a pampered prince, whose father, the King, is on his deathbed, and also the look-alike commoner, a lowly seller of kindling.

Pluto is the means for the role-playing switch, as he slips into the castle gates. Chasing him, Mickey is admitted by a guard who takes him to be the young prince. And soon, the prince has saved "the beggar boy" from the evil captain of the guard and arranges to trade places, envying his freedom from care.

Will you be surprised when it is Goofy who saves the day, rescuing both prince and pauper from the usurpation designs of the guard captain? Not at all, but the action plays pretty well.

A moment as magical as any in the Disney cartoon memory occurs late in the story, when the king succumbs and the perspective turns outside to track the fall of crystalline snow, slowly blanketing the ground.

The Disney Channel says the new feature also launches its 1992 Animation Celebration on the Sunday night "Magical World of Disney" series. Next up in the monthly screening is the 1951 "Alice in Wonderland," to be screened Feb. 16.

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