Film Review: Mickey's Christmas Carol
In 1983, Burny Mattinson released Mickey’s Christmas Carol, an animated short film based off Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Starring Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Hal Smith, Eddie Carroll, Will Ryan, Clarence Nash, Patricia Parris, and Dick Billingsley, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short and was the only Mickey Mouse short to involve John Lasseter as an animator. The first original Mickey Mouse short to have a theatrical release since 1953, it was the last film in which Nash voiced Donald Duck. Broadcast on several television stations throughout the years, it has aired every Christmas season since 1985 on Canada’s CBC.
Scrooge McDuck is an old moneylender in London, abusing the employment of Bob Cratchit (Mickey Mouse) But one night, Scrooge’s old partner, Jacob Marley (Goofy) shows up as a ghost wrapped in chains and weighed down by locked boxes. Marley warns Scrooge that he must heed the advice of three spirits visiting him that night or he will be condemned as well. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Jiminy Cricket) shows him how he came to be the man he currently is; The Ghost of Christmas Present (Willie the Giant) shows him how Cratchit suffers; The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows his eventual fate.
As an adaptation of one of the most popular Christmas tales, Mickey’s Christmas Carol does well in distancing itself from other renditions. While it does leave some aspects of the plot out, or just cuts them down to their core, in order to tell a novel in the time span of 30 minutes, the film does it well. during Scrooge’s visions, the audience sees Tiny Tim during the present at Cratchit’s home, but when it comes to detailing what eventually happens to the character, it’s given a few seconds and there’s no dialogue. This doesn’t harm the story though as it conveys everything the audience needed to know without going into details that didn’t need to be stated for a short film. What’s more is the lack of dialogue makes it a better scene too. Other adaptations will show the Cratchits trying to be strong while this one shows that they’re trying to, but it’s difficult. Also cut is the death scene of the Ghost of Christmas Present, who just vanishes when Scrooge’s back is turned. This too makes perfect sense, seeing as it would be terrifying to see someone as lovable as Willie the Giant produce Want and Ignorance before turning into a skeleton.
Interestingly, this is one of the few adaptations to actually portray Scrooge as falling into hell during the climax of his time with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. It comes about in a spectacular way, too. Scrooge is shown a freshly dug grave, the owner of which had no one come to his funeral, but it’s his grave and he’s shoved into it as flames shoot up from the bottom. Coupled with Scrooge’s begging for mercy and screaming that he’ll change while holding tightly onto a twig. It perfectly displays the intensity of what Scrooge believes to be real and his desperateness to avoid the future that he’s on his way towards.
Speaking of this scene, it’s also a rare occurrence of having the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come speak. What’s really notable is that he’s played by Pete, who is in one of out of character roles where he plays a good guy. It works though, seeing as he’s purposefully trying to scare the life out of Scrooge in order to make him change his ways. Pete, in all his cigar-chomping ways, has the voice, demeanor and personality to do just that.
But where Pete’s casting is done well, there is some odd casting choices, such as Goofy as Jacob Marley. It’s pretty off-putting, seeing someone as naïve and lovable as Goofy put into the role of someone who was embezzling from the less fortunate. There’s also Donald Duck as Fred. It’s strange seeing someone who’s entire character is built on having a short temper made to play someone with a cheery demeanor that’s slow to anger, only getting angry after being thrown out of Scrooge’s office.
It is mentionable that Mickey wasn’t made into Ebenezer Scrooge, even though he’s given title billing. Even with Pete, Goofy, and Donald having roles that don’t exactly fit their personality, having Mickey be someone as curmudgeonly as Ebenezer Scrooge would be a little too much.
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