Three Scrooges, Part 7: Animated Carols

Three Scrooges, Part 7: Animated Carols
Thought of the blog: So what exactly was wrong with Tiny Tim?  Here’s a great site with a logical explanation:
Another break of format…
                “A Christmas Carol” is a 25-minute animated short from 1971. It is the only version of the tale to win an Academy Award. It was produced by Chuck Jones (best known for his Warner Brothers work – Bugs Bunny, Daffy and the like) and featured the voice of Alistair Sim as Scrooge and narrated by Michael Redgrave.
                It deserved the Oscar – although its length was so short it left out many vital scenes and dialogue, what it did present was excellent. It’s hard to believe this came from Chuck Jones – you can see hints of his style throughout but it was otherwise very realistically drawn.
                Marley was horrifying. The Ghost of Christmas past shifted quickly between a young girl and an old woman. Her figure shifted constantly – at some points it looked as if she had three eyes.
                But it was too short. Some of the final scenes went by in a flash. Scrooge spoke to the young lad outside his house; fade; Scrooge buys the prize turkey; fade; Scrooge is greeted by his nephew at the party; fade; Scrooge offers Cratchet a raise; etc. It’s almost as if the producers said “We only have four minutes left! Hurry!”
                The lack of score adds to the rapidity – when the ghosts whisks Scrooge away to the past, present or future it nearly gives you vertigo!
                But it did include parts of the story that are rarely seen – the trip to the miners-lighthouse-ship and mention of the religious significance of the holiday – other than Cratchet speaking of Tiny Tim in church hoping others will see a cripple and etc.  (Here as in the book Marley stated his eyes were “never raise(d) … to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode”.).
                I put this under the “Rare” category as I have not seen in broadcast and only occasionally see a DVD for sale. I found it in YouTube. It is worth the search.
                “A Christmas Carol” animated TV special from 1969 was my first exposure to the novel, so I remember it more fondly than it may deserve. It proved so popular that the company producing it created several more literary adaptations under the umbrella “Famous Classic Tales” that would air throughout the year. For example, I remember seeing “Last of the Mohicans” on a Thanksgiving afternoon.
                It’s a good cartoon and a nice jumping off point for children or anyone interested in first seeing the story. Marley was the most frightening of any adaptations – he was a phantom with no resemblance to his former self.
                Scrooge argued with the ghosts – the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past did nothing to change his mind. “Hard work made me what I am!” “Lonely?” “Successful!”
                The break-up with Belle is usually a “bell”-weather (ouch) for his conversion.  Here though he said, “had she married me she would have been a rich woman now.” It is not until he sees his silhouette on the slab that he finally realizes what his lifestyle has wrought.
                The artwork isn’t Disney and nor is it on part with Chuck Jones’ Academy Award-winning short two years later; but it’s not BAD. One trouble I had with it (being a one-time cartoonist) is sometimes the proportions are way out of whack.  Look at the gravedigger during Marley’s funeral – his hands and arms are HUGE compared to his head. This happens a lot in the cartoon.
                Oddly, when Fred invites Scrooge to dinner they break into song. There is no other musical interlude in the show – almost as if they had changed their mind about making it a musical but hated to waste the one song they recorded.
                You can find this on YouTube either divided into chapters. I typed in the word “complete” in my search to find it uninterrupted.
                “The Stingiest Man in Town”. Rankin/Bass (of Rudolph and Frosty fame) produced this cartoon in 1978. Walter Matthau (a good choice – he chews the scenery and you can tell he enjoys the taste) provided the voice of Scrooge. As is the case in Rankin/Bass holiday specials a famous star plays a narrator having little to do with the story (Jimmy Durante for Frosty, Burl Ives for Rudolph). Here we have Tom Bosley as B.A.H. Humbug. … Yeah, I think so too…
                This cartoon came between Rankin/Bass’ “Hobbit” (1977) and “Return of the King” (1980) – every character has a pudgy hobbit-look to them, almost as if to keep in practice. Scrooge looked vaguely like Matthau, though. As with the Tolkien adaptations produced before and after, musical interlude abound in this movie. As with the Tolkien adaptations produced before and after, they are mostly forgettable.
                And the songs are constant. Dialogue for a few minutes, then a song. I found it tedious and overlong after only 15 minutes of viewing; so I count this as a “never-viewed” Scrooge…
NEXT: Silly Scrooges
Copyright 2012 Michael G. Curry

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