First cartoon of Chradvent!
A Christmas Carol (1971) was animated by Richard Williams (the mastermind behind the animation in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the essential Animator’s Survival Kit and semi-lost animated feature The Thief and the Cobbler).
Also on the team was Ken Harris who animated the greatest animated short of all time with the producer of this film Chuck Jones. As a result, this is fucking beautiful.
Remember the incredible title cards from the 1970 version?
Yeah well fuck you how about 24 of those every second?
Alastair Sim and Michael Horden reprise their roles from the 1951 film as Scrooge and Marley respectively. Their performances are nowhere near as dynamic or interesting as in 1951 because these versions of the characters are severely abridged to make way for reproducing A Christmas Carol as simply as possible. Each essential beat of the story follows the previous. Marley knocker. Marley ghost. Grave/ gravy. Christmas Past. The bare essentials. There is no story department because the story is a wire frame from which to hang some very pretty pictures. As such, all things considered, this is probably the most faithful adaptation yet.
This is the opening shot; an extended pan and zoom using extreme perspective and fluid camera movements to introduce us immediately to Scrooge. No messing around.
Props to Richard Williams for being the first director to faithfully adapt the original description of the Ghost of Christmas Past that I mentioned previously as:
“being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom where in they melted away”
Although, to their credit, I suppose replicating the effect in live action would probably put too much strain on the actor’s spine.
The character animation is incredible. Ken Harris was responsible for Scrooge; I’ve clipped him delivering his surplus population line. So, so good.
And here when we see Scrooge aging up, transitioning between segments in the Past stave.
The film races through Christmas Past, faithfully hitting each essential story beat for the bare minimum amount of time necessary. It was only scrolling through the YouTube comments afterwards did user 2071Johnny raise a very good point about the inclusion of the scene where Belle breaks up with Scrooge:
“You could’ve fast forwarded past that, spirit. In not one single installment has the lose end of his love life ever been tied up. Kind of a harsh filler.”
And you know what, he’s absolutely right. The other segments of Past (school, Fezziwig) allow Scrooge to reflect on his issues around loneliness and making merry. They’re both tied up in the end as part of Scrooge’s redemption arc. But the love angle of the Scrooge story is literally never resolved. It is established across multiple versions that Belle was the only person Scrooge ever loved and it is always left unresolved. Always.
[Edit: I have been informed that the arc is resolved in Scrooged. I look forward to watching it later this month.]
And while we’re on the subject, why does Scrooge die if he doesn’t reform? Does he get murdered? Do the spirits murder him? Does Bob Cratchit murder him? Is it the raw power of Christmas bonhomie that keeps his yuletide heart beating?
Back to pretty shots.
There really isn’t much else to say. I would only remark that Alastair Sim is probably there for nostalgia; he is not replicating his 1951 performance as his version of Scrooge is very different to Richard William’s version of Scrooge. That was fine for that and this is fine for this. Sim reads the lines well and you can tell the voice direction was good but it does not reach the lofty heights of his 1951 characterisation.
You have to consider what a project is trying to achieve when evaluating how good it is. This project achieved exactly that which it set out to achieve; to animate A Christmas Carol. It was unconcerned with frills or interpretation.
As such rating it as I have done this past week becomes incredibly difficult. As an adaptation of A Christmas Carol it is far from Superior but as a short film in its own right it is absolutely exceptional.
6 Garrett Gilchrist restorations out of 10 with the caveat that in any other context it’d be a 9 or 10
I might retcon this rating later, I’m more uncertain of this than any rating yet. It’s a third rate adaptation but a first rate cartoon.