Jesus, Mickey & Joseph

Every year at this time, the media devote some of their attention to the subject of where one can go to gawk at the most elaborately decorated homes in the Valley. Why should we be any different? My own favorite, year in and year out, has been the row of condos on the northeast corner of 31st Avenue and Bethany Home Road. Each holiday season, this mini-community pays tribute to the Disney corporation with a brilliantly lighted diorama of full-size, two-dimensional wooden figures of characters from the Magic Kingdom in full holiday regalia, spread across the front yards and façades of all four homes. In past years, the display has often focused on characters from whatever blockbuster the studio was pushing on us that particular year -- Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King.

But apparently Tarzan just didn't have the right Christmasy feel, because this year, the mysterious artist (or artists?) of 31st Avenue and Bethany Home took a different approach -- a tribute to Mickey Mouse himself. And for glorious, apocalyptic holiday kitsch, it puts all past years, and all other displays of holiday excess, to shame.

The first yard, perhaps in anticipation of the upcoming IMAX/Disney collaboration Fantasia 2000, shows Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice, marshaling a bucket brigade of broomsticks and parting blue-plastic waters while a remarkable likeness of his wizardly boss glowers on from nearby. This yard also offers Mickey in Santa drag, Pluto and, incongruously, what appears to be the non-Disney Frosty the Snowman. The second yard is a sort of Disneyesque American winter wonderland, with Mickey decked out in a sweater, partying with Goofy and Jiminy Cricket, while Donald Duck builds a snowman, and Uncle Scrooge McDuck arrives in a sleigh, bearing gifts.

Yard three, for variety, is devoted to The Lion King -- the title character and his girlfriend, along with Pumbaa the Warthog and Timon the Meerkat, put aside their differences to celebrate the season with the villainous Scar. A hyena stalks through the background, and the wise mandrill Rifiki gazes down from the branches of a tree. Along with these wild beasts, tribute is also paid to domestic animals -- Dalmatians swarm throughout all the yards and loiter near the fire hydrants. I didn't count, but it wouldn't surprise me if there are actually a hundred and one of them.

While the first three yards are certainly synapse-overloadingly elaborate, it's the fourth, the northernmost, that's truly, jaw-droppingly wonderful. It is -- no kidding -- a Nativity scene, Disney-style.

Really, no kidding. Dalmatians help to herd the sheep. Pinocchio is a shepherd boy, as is poor Donald Duck, ever the frustrated actor with the unrewarding role. The Magi, present with their gold, frankincense and myrrh, are played by Goofy, the Beast from Beauty and the Beast and (appropriately) Aladdin. Eeyore is among the animals at the manger. Above its roof are the Heavenly Host, played by Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and the ever-leggy Pocahontas, who sports stylin' buckskin wings.

And at the heart of it all is a kneeling Minnie as the Virgin Mother, while nearby, the proud, smiling step-papa Mickey holds the Christ child. If you don't believe me, go see for yourself.

About this mesmerizing installation piece, what more needs to be said? Only this: Walt would surely approve of the artists' worldview.