Now for one of my favorite Christmas Carol versions and the best animated version to come out, Mickey’s Christmas Carol. This is an animated short (about 20 minutes) that was released in 1983 with the rerelease of The Rescuers. It was the first theatrical appearance of Mickey Mouse in 30 years. (I would like to see another Mickey appearance soon!).
Originally it was a radio play by Disneyland Records and you can tell because the script is very well done. Scrooge is a bit of a smart-allick here and a lot of the witty dialogue helps temper the scary moments while still keeping the tension, and basic redemption effective.
|Alan Young||Scrooge McDuck||Ebenezer Scrooge|
|Wayne Allwine||Mickey Mouse||Bob Cratchit|
|Hal Smith||Goofy||Jacob Marley’s ghost|
|Eddie Carroll||Jiminy Cricket||Ghost of Christmas Past|
|Will Ryan||Willie the Giant||Ghost of Christmas Present|
|Will Ryan||Pete||Ghost of Christmas Future|
|Clarence Nash||Donald Duck||Fred, Scrooge’s nephew|
|Patricia Parris||Daisy Duck||Isabelle (“Belle” in the novella)|
Scrooge- Given they already had a character named Scrooge McDuck who is famous for skiing on his gold this was a no brainer. Alan Young is wonderful as Scrooge and gives a lot of humor to the lead vocal.
Differences- Obviously the biggest difference is we have our Disney characters anthropomorphized as the title characters of Christmas Carol. They pull a lot from Fun and Fancy Free and Ichabod and Mr Toad which I guess is understandable given they have a lot of characters that fit a Victorian era.
It’s interesting they went the Victorian route. A lot of the other cartoon versions such as Smurfs or Flintstones take the story into their worlds, but I like that it feels of period.
The introductory scene is fairly standard featuring Mickey as Cratchit, Donald as Fred (Donald just makes me smile every time I see him), and Rat and Mole as the benefactors.
Scrooge’s response to them is classic.
“well you realize if you give money to the poor they won’t be poor any more and if they aren’t poor any more than you won’t have to raise money for them and you two will be out of a job. Oh please gentlemen don’t as me to put you out of a job”
That is very clever and gives Scrooge a sarcasm and humor I don’t recall as pronounced in many other versions. I also like his next line:
“You work all your life to get money and people want you to give it away”. It is interesting because if his life work were painting people wouldn’t expect him to give those away for nothing but a life work of money is.
There is no ‘let them die and decrease the surplus population’ which is perhaps a bit harsh for this version so good choice.
With Past played by Jimminy Cricket. Their initial interaction is very good.
Scrooge says “I thought you’d be taller”
Jimminy “If men were measured by kindness you’d be no bigger than a speck of dust”
Scrooge “Kindness is of little use in this world”
So that becomes a theme of the program. Is kindness of any use? Later from Present we hear of ‘generosity’ and Present tells Scrooge he’s never given anyone a reason to be generous to him. That’s an interesting take on the message of Christmas Carol. The world is good and full of light but we have a responsibility to accept that light.
With Past we go right to Fezziwig’s (no childhood or other scenes) and it is mainly to introduce to Belle played by Daisy (and I think the only time Daisy is not with Donald). We then get to his counting house and I like that Scrooge is sentimental when he first see’s it, even excited.
This is before he see’s himself foreclose on Isabelle’s honeymoon cottage for being an hour late on the payment. It is dramatic enough to quickly explain to kids a complicated economic process of mortgages while getting the core emotion right.
Present takes him to see the Cratchit’s only (no Fred) and Scrooge is immediately taken with Tiny Tim. The Cratchit’s poverty is shown in a quick yet effective way with a turkey the size of a canary. That’s simple for kids to understand.Makes the point about suffering and poverty without dwelling on it too much for kids.
Present leaves him in front of the Cratchit’s house and he asks Future what will happen and Scrooge’s ‘Oh no. Spirit I didn’t want this to happen” is a very well delivered line.
The finale is very effective with Scrooge falling into the grave and pleading for change but I don’t think too scary for kids.
Strengths- Some may want to discount a Mickey Christmas Carol as more of a lark but I actually think it is a good adaptation, and it is great way to introduce small kids to the story. All the voice work is tremendous, and I like Scrooge’s sarcastic attitude. He gets the most glee out of his money and jingling the coins together than many other Scrooge’s. Mickey is of course great as Cratchit and the ghosts are all effective.
The script is the real standout. It’s very sharply done and teaches a lesson about kindness and generosity without getting to heavy handed(ignorance and want aren’t shown, no decrease surplus population). Instead of Scrooge being a bad man (not caring if people die) he is merely someone who isn’t allowing people to be kind to him, not allowing others into his life. It’s a slightly different take that I like.
As I said the finale is very well done. Crazy Scrooge is very good with him coming back to get his cane to be fully dressed in his pajamas. They do a good job throughout of painting a complex picture in one dramatic moment (like the honeymoon cottage bit tells kids exactly what they need to know quickly so it doesn’t feel like a mean-spirited film).
Weaknesses- I honestly could have seen this be a feature film. A few scenes could have been fleshed out even more. I could have seen Scrooge look in on Fred playing games in present or Scrooge as a child in the past segments. (Muppets does both very well).
Goofy is maybe a bit of an odd choice for Marley. He’s so loveable and silly it is hard to picture him as a bad guy. Perhaps a Disney villain might have worked better? But I suppose it helps relieve some of the scares for little kids.
The music is kind of a corny Christmas song but it works.
Certainly one of the best and that’s not just nostalgia talking, and like I said my favorite animated version.
30th Anniversary Blu-ray- (Some say online they clip off the top and bottom for wide screen. I did not notice a dramatic difference)
The recent blu-ray release of it is gorgeous. The HD looks bright, clear and beautiful. It includes 5 animated shorts that are very entertaining.
1. Yoldelberg- 2013 but done in the style of Mary Blair for the program Mickey Mouse, which I am intrigued to watch. Paul Rudish animates it beautifully.
2. The Hockey Champ- 1939, early Donald teaching Huey Louie and Dewey how to play hockey. I love Donald!
3. Pluto’s Christmas Tree- 1952, Pluto battles with Chip and Dale as they tease him from inside Mickey’s Christmas tree.
4. The Art of Skiing- 1941, The first of Goofy’s ‘how to’ series.
5. Corn Chips- 1951, Chip and Dale try to steal popcorn from Donald and it gets out of control. I didn’t realize Chip and Dale were a part of so many shorts?
As you are watching the blu-ray you can also pause for sing along segments of our favorite carols. It would be nice if they had a behind the scenes or other bonus features considering its a 30 year anniversary blu-ray but all in all I’m satisfied with the restoration and blu-ray.