Yesterday’s Chradvent left me completely emotionally drained. It was very kind then of Disney to make theirs the next chronologically. Mickey’s Christmas Carol is typical cartoon fun; it’s nothing special but I’d say it’s probably the best family friendly, 25 minute long adaptation you could make bearing in mind the source material.
Let’s see who worked on this, then.
Ah, Glen Keane. He’d go on to do some incredible character animation during the Disney renaissance and recently went viral for an appearance on The Late Late show where he drew a 3D picture of Ariel in real time in VR. Who else?
Joh- ah. Never mind.
Can you guess which beloved Disney character is playing the part of Ebenezer Scrooge? Let’s just throw a dart at something. There isn’t a W. C. Fields Mouse which immediately throws the whole thing into contention. Let’s us probe the depths of the Donald Duck universe, which apparently exists and is distinct from the Mickey Mouse universe. But who? Who??
Ok enough it’s Scrooge McDuck.
Considering the title is Mickey’s Christmas Carol I thought Mickey might be our Scrooge. It seems obvious now that Scrooge McDuck would play Ebenezer Scrooge but bear in mind this was a good four years before Ducktales came out and McDuck was not a well known character outside of the comic books.
The premise here is very similar to Duck Dodgers or… ugh… Rich Little’s Christmas Carol in that established characters are actors in the story of A Christmas Carol. Scrooge McDuck plays Ebenezer Scrooge and is referred to as such. Mickey Mouse is Bob Cratchit, etc.
Right away we can see why each character was cast; Mickey Mouse makes sense as the good natured Bob Cratchit. Donald Duck is maybe the most obvious casting, being both the real (read: in Duck Universe) nephew of Scrooge McDuck and the fictional (read: fictional within Duck Universe) nephew of Ebenezer Scrooge; Fred. Makes Rich Little’s characterisations look even more arbitrary and stupid. Paul Lynde for Bob Cratchit? Inspector Fucking Clouseau as the Ghost of – no, no. It’s over now. I can stop.
Fred invites Scrooge over for Christmas dinner. He specifically mentions that they’ll be eating goose. Fatalistic. I presume this cartoon is set in the same universe, where famine has driven the desperate Donald to avian cannibalism. It’s even worse because later a named sentient goose shows up at Fezziwig’s party.
The animation is really smooth and pleasant to look at. Paused on some really good inbetweens that show great squash and stretch.
Next up are the chuggers. Who do we think, Chip and Dale maybe?
I, uh – who? Is that… Rat and Mole from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad? Christ, it is. Ok. I didn’t even think anyone at Disney had seen that.
There’s a nice bit where Scrooge palms them off by saying:
“You realise if you give money to the poor they wont be poor anymore, will they? And if they’re not poor any more then you won’t have to raise money for them anymore. And if you don’t have to raise money for them anymore then you’d be out of a job. Please gentlemen, don’t ask me to put you out of a job – not on Christmas eve.”
At least it’s something a bit different. It’s also closer in line to the sarcastic, witty Scrooge of 1951 than any version since.
Bob Cratchit goes home at 7pm (10 hour workdays, 6 days a week, thank god for the labour movement) and asks for half the day off for Christmas. This is the first version where he asks rather than being offered and where he only wants half the day rather than all of it.
Now, who did they choose to play Marley?
Goofy? Why the fuck would anyone want to go into business with Goofy? I literally can’t imagine anyone worse as a business partner. He’s got a massive gambling problem for a start.
I disagree with this casting; Goofy is playing out of type here and is not by nature a Jacob Marley. Oh well, at least he gets to do his signature yell.
Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past. That makes sense. We get taken straight to Fezzywig’s [sic] party and are introduced to the sentient goose that Donald plans to butcher and ingest.
Lots of cameos in this scene. As you can see, we get the rabbit children from Robin Hood along with a few Aristocats and Extended Duck Universe characters.
Fezzywig [sic] is…
Mr Toad? From The Adventures of Ichibod and Mr Toad? Not Baloo or… ok, sure, whatever.
We pan over to a young Ebenezer who is described as a “shy young man”. His Belle is Daisy Duck which raises a lot of questions re: intergenerational incest with Donald. (We never meet Fred’s wife in this version, maybe there’s a reason Scrooge disapproves.)
The Ghost of Christmas Present is Willie the Giant from Mickey and the Beanstalk. I guess he retrained following the famine.
He was probably chosen for his size (described in the novella as a “jolly Giant”) but if anything this role could’ve been swapped with Marley. The giant of the Beanstalk story hoards wealth like Marley and Goofy is easily good-spirited and jolly enough to be the Ghost of Present.
There are natural comparisons to be made between this and the 1971 Richard Williams version and yet the animation styles could not be more different. Both are good in their own rights but I’m struggling to pick out any scene or sequence in this that is particularly well animated or stylishly done. It sometimes feels like it’s going through the motions.
Bob Cratchit’s house then.
I understand why they wanted to cast only existing Disney characters into existing roles but they were scraping the bottom of the barrel here. The Cratchit children are quoted as being drawn from Minnie & Mickey’s nieces and nephews; Millie, Morty, Melody and Ferdie, forgotten ancients who haven’t appear outside of a few comic strips from the 1930s and Disney Golf for the Playstation 2. They are played so far out of character here though that they are essentially different characters.
The Ghost of Christmas Present tells Scrooge he sees an empty chair etc and Scrooge says “You mean the boy will…” because they can’t say the word “die” in a Disney film. This is immediately followed up by a horrifying scene set in a graveyard with lots of references to graves, dying and death.
(Ignore the ending to that clip.)
The reveal of Pete as Christmas Future is done in two stages and is altogether pretty menacing.
He’s smoking! You can ___ from smoking.
The shot where Scrooge falls into the grave is reminiscent of the scene from the 1970 version.
Also the weasels from The Fucking Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad are there. Someone in the production team really liked The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad.
Scrooge wakes up a reformed man etc. He accidentally busts his top hat on the way out, which is exactly what happens when Mr Banks reforms in Mary Poppins (maybe this was deliberate?).
Scrooge McDuck then gives 100 gold sovereigns to the chuggers which is a bit less than £5000 in today’s money. We can equivocally state that this is the most generous Scrooge yet. Also, what’s his actual net worth? I hope this is established at some point. That’s a lot of money to just chuck at someone on a whim. Proper philanthropy requires forethought and planning. What an amateur.
We don’t get a “why sir, it’s Christmas day” moment.
This is the first to have Scrooge visit Bob’s house to play a prank on him. Also, Scrooge offers Bob partnership in his business instead of just a raise. I hope Scrooge’s generosity hasn’t gone to his head and Bob has demonstrated enough acumen for this to be worth it. Wouldn’t want to jeopardise the business as a whole. Though I suppose anyone’s better than fucking Goofy.
That’s it really. There aren’t really any clever twists on the original that you would expect from a better Disney cartoon and it’s a fairly straightforward march through the story beats. Well animated but not really well animated.
6 1/2 Victories Through Air Power out of 10
Rule #5 of Chradvent was “easy on the cartoons”. I’ve limited myself to 5 for this month because almost every single cartoon you can think of has done their own version of A Christmas Carol. I think it might be the most adapted property outside of… The Bible? Maybe one of Grimm’s fairy tales.