This is why doing this kind of project is beneficial. It forces me to watch things I would not normally watch and every once in a while I’m pleasantly surprised. So is the case with Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece but it was way better than I thought it would be.
I will say this was my first introduction to Mr Magoo. I have not seen the tv show or read any of the comics but as its own feature you didn’t really need to be familiar with any of the backstory so that didn’t matter.
I guess Mr Magoo is a controversial figure for how he portrays the visually impaired and I can see that but in this feature there aren’t many pratfalls aside from a crashed car at the beginning. At first I was wondering how Magoo would see the ghosts and all of the things they were showing him but they kind of forget about the blindness for most of the movie.
The animation was much better than I was expecting. It was done by UPA animation who were behind the Dick Tracy cartoons and it has an Al Hirschfeld look to it. It reminded me of the Gershwin segment of Fantasia 2000.
The songs are also pretty good by Julie Styne and Bob Merrill who wrote Funny Girl that launched Barbara Streisand’s career.
I found out in my research that Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol was the first holiday program produced especially for television. Interesting right?
Trailer: (It must have aired the same time as Snow White given this trailer)
Jim Backus- Ebenezer Scrooge/Mr. Magoo
Morey Amsterdam- James Brady
Jack Cassidy- Bob Cratchit
Royal Dano- Marley’s Ghost
Paul Frees- Stage Director/Charity Man//Fezziwig/Old Joe/Undertaker
Joan Gardner -Tiny Tim/Ghost of Christmas Past
Jane Kean- Belle
Marie Matthews- Young Scrooge
Laura Olsher- Mrs. Cratchit
Les Tremayne- Ghost of Christmas Present
Scrooge- Mr Magoo is Scrooge. The whole program keeps remarkably true to the story and that is true with Scrooge. It’s a little confusing what Magoo can and cannot see. Sometimes it seems he can’t see a person standing in front of him and others he can read his initials on a pair of cufflinks.
It is also a little hard to understand Magoo sometimes. But other than that he is a pretty good Scrooge.
Differences- Like I said, it actually stays pretty close to the source material.
Like the Flintstones Christmas Carol it is part of a play but that is more of a framing device where in Flintstones we go in and out of the play more often. This Mr Magoo goes to the play and then we are pretty much watching the play the whole way through.
Strengths- There were actually quite a few. As I said the animation was pretty good. The backgrounds, colors and style of it I really liked.
The singing on all the songs is very good (it is supposed to be on Broadway after all). I particularly liked Jane Kean as Belle singing Winter Was Warm.
Also, the script is pretty straight from the book. I was impressed they kept the decrease the surplus population and Tim talking about being a cripple and Jesus. Often those sections are softened for kids.
Like I said, it can be tough to understand what Magoo is saying. Also, the blindness is inconsistent and I guess it offends some people. I didn’t think it was mocking in this version. In fact, most of the time I forgot he was blind.
Also the moving around of the spirits seemed to serve no purpose and if people are expecting a comedy they might be disappointed. There aren’t really any laughs. It is played like a straight forward telling of Christmas Carol.
Other than that. I really liked it. I am surprised how much I enjoyed it. The animation is pretty good, with good music and it stays pretty close to the feel of the book. Aside from the Disney, this is probably my favorite animated feature length version I’ve seen.
It just goes to show with good writing any concept can be entertaining.