Sunday, December 5, 2010

Let's Review a Movie: Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)

My favourite month of the year is here so let’s have fun and review some holiday films. And since today is also Walt Disney’s 109th birthday we’re kicking things off with one of the studio’s adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol.

First off the movie gets major points for managing to condense the whole story down to a half an hour running time without making it seem overly-rushed. The only place I think could do with a little more fleshing out is the Christmas past scene. Scrooge is told after he says that he doesn’t want to see anymore that he fashioned these memories himself. Which he did, but the ghost only showed Scrooge one bad memory and one happy memory. So the line doesn’t make a lot of sense in this context. Having at least one other sad memory would make this flow better in my opinion. The scene that I think works the best being short though is the whole thing of Christmas future. This works completely from Mickey’s wordless mourning over the grave of Tiny Tim, to the weasels digging the grave, to the striking of a match to reveal Scrooge’s name; and then the ghost flipping back his hood and lighting a cigar as casually as he pleases. Saying his only, and awesome, line “Why yours, Ebenezer, the richest man in the cemetery!” This line just really sums it all up. Scrooge has spent his life acquiring wealth to the point of being a ruthless cold-hearted bastard, and where did it get him? Six feet under in a pine box just like everyone else. Except that those, like Tiny Tim, who were kind and generous have those that miss them, Scrooge is alone. No mourners at his gravesite, no friends come to bid him farewell. Having Pete as the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is just the icing on the cool scene cake.

In terms of casting Disney characters in the Dickens roles I think they did a great job overall. Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge is a given, but making Donald into nephew Fred is really interesting, because it’s not often that we get to see him, eternal Butt Monkey that he is, as the optimistic cheerful guy trying to get other people to lighten up and have some fun. Also it’s a wonderful final performance for Clarence ‘Ducky’ Nash. Mickey the eager optimist that he is was a solid choice for Bob Cratchit. Jiminy Cricket and Willie the Giant work great as the ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Present. The only really questionable choice was Goofy as Marley. I mean robbing the widows and swindling the poor? Goofy? Really? Oh, well the whole cane and the watch that first step gags are funny so I can live with it. Finally I love the use of so many other minor characters in the Disney line-up for the extras. It is so much fun playing ‘spot the character’ in the background of almost every scene.

On the whole this short film is very good. The story works, the vocal performances are great, the animation is wonderful as always; and the thick lines of the Xerox process gives the whole thing a kind rough ink and paint look that one might find in a novel; the opening and closing credit illustrations help establish this look as well. Truly a well told adaptation worthy to be on any Christmas movie must watch list.

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