Happy holidays, everyone. Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”
… and we’re taking a detour here for a second. It’s the day after Christmas, and I’m not here. I’m actually at Walt Disney World, and I’m not writing anything this week. So we’re going to talk about Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
Title: Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Source materials : A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Background: This was the first original Mickey Mouse theatrical cartoon produced in over 30 years. With the exception of re-releases, Mickey had not appeared in movie theaters since the short film The Simple Things . Many additional characters seen in the film had also not appeared in a theatrical cartoon for several decades. The film was also the last time in which Clarence Nash voiced Donald Duck. Nash was the only original voice actor in the film as Walt Disney, Pinto Colvig, Cliff Edwards, Billy Gilbert, and Billy Bletcher had all passed away. It was also the first time in animation that Scrooge McDuck was voiced by actor Alan Young who would continue to be the primary voice actor for McDuck until the actor’s death in 2016.
Plot: On Christmas Eve in 19th-century London, Ebenezer Scrooge (Scrooge McDuck), a surly money-lender, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He declines his nephew Fred (Donald Duck)’s invitation to Christmas dinner, then brushes off two gentlemen fundraising aid for the poor. His loyal employee Bob Cratchit (Mickey Mouse) requests to have Christmas Day off, to which Scrooge agrees (albeit reluctantly).
Scrooge continues his business and goes home just before midnight. In his house, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley (Goofy), who warns him to repent his wicked ways or he will condemned in the afterlife like he was, informing him that three time-travelling spirits will visit him during the night. As Marley leaves, he falls downstairs after he avoids tripping over Scrooge’s cane.
Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Jiminy Cricket), who takes him back in time to his early life. They visit his time as an employee under Fezziwig (Mr. Toad). Fezziwig throws a Christmas party where the young Scrooge meets a young woman named Isabelle (Daisy Duck), whom he falls in love with. However, the Ghost shows Scrooge how Isabelle left him when he chose his wealth over her, even showing her a foreclosure notice on her cottage. A distraught Scrooge dismisses the Ghost as he returns to the present, lamenting his past actions.
Scrooge next meets the gigantic, merry Ghost of Christmas Present (Willie the Giant). Scrooge and the Ghost visit Bob’s house, learning his family is surprisingly content with their small dinner. Scrooge takes pity on Bob’s ill son Tiny Tim. The Ghost remarks “If present shadows remain unchanged, I see an empty chair where Tiny Tim once sat”, then disappears.
Smoke fills the streets, revealing the Ghost of Christmas Future (secretly Pete), who appears as a silent, cloaked figure; the Ghost takes Scrooge to a future cemetery, where Scrooge is shocked to see Bob and his wife mourning Tiny Tim’s grave. He then overhears two weasel gravediggers who are amused that no one attended the funeral of the man whose grave they are digging. After the weasels leave, Scrooge asks whose grave this belongs to. The ghost lights a cigar, revealing himself as Pete and darkly remarks “Why yours, Ebenezer Scrooge”. The ghost shoves him into his empty coffin which opens to reveal the fires of Hell, laughing uproariously while Scrooge vows to repent.
Awakening in his bedroom on Christmas Day, Scrooge decides to surprise Bob’s family with a turkey dinner and ventures out to spread happiness and joy around London. He accepts Fred’s invitation, then donates a sizable amount of money to the gentlemen he earlier spurned. Scrooge then goes to the Cratchit house, at first putting on a stern demeanor, but reveals he intends on raising Bob’s salary and making him his partner in his counting house. Scrooge and the Cratchets celebrate Christmas.
Animation: Animators: Glen Keane, Mark Henn, Ed Gombert, Dale Baer, David Block, and Randy Cartwright. Effects Animators: Ted Kierscey, Jeff Howard, Mark Dindal, and Jack Boyd. Animation Consultant: Eric Larson
Voice Cast: Alan Young as Scrooge McDuck. He is also known for playing Wilbur on the television show Mr. Ed, where he put on an American accent. He recently passed away in 2016. Wayne Allwine took over the role of Mickey Mouse in 1977, and played the role until his death in 2009. Hal Smith as Goofy and Ratty. He was the voice of Owl in Winnie-the-Pooh and played Otis on The Andy Griffith Show.
Eddie Carroll took over the role of Jiminy Cricket in 1973 after the death of original voice actor Cliff Edwards until his death in 2010. Will Ryan as Willie the Giant, Pete, Moley, and a weasel will also appear in An American Tail and The Land Before Time. Patricia Parris as Daisy Duck. A frequent voice-over actor, she appeared in several animated television shows.
Clarence Nash in his final appearance as Donald Duck. He played the role from 1934 to his death in 1985. After Nash’s death, Donald’s voice has been taken up by Disney animator Tony Anselmo, who was trained under Nash personally.
Critical Reception: Film critic Leonard Maltin said that rather than being “a pale attempt to imitate the past”, the film is “cleverly written, well staged, and animated with real spirit and a sense of fun.” Robin Allan stated that the film calls to mind the similarities between Walt Disney and Charles Dickens, in terms of both the work they produced and their work ethic. However, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert of At the Movies gave it “two thumbs down” as they were both disappointed. Mickey’s Christmas Carol was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Animated Short Subject of 1983.
Next Week: We return to our regularly scheduled feature with The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh