An Animated Christmas Carol 12 Day Countdown to the Holidays

14 Dec

A not so Animated Christmas Carol CoverThankfully, the animation medium has been kind in terms of how often Charles Dicken’s holiday classic has been reinterpreted. There isn’t that many when compared to how many times it’s been remade in live-action! By my estimate, out of the many versions that’s out there, I have a list of my twelve favourite animated Christmas Carol adaptations to enjoy every year. I have even included television specials. To be current, I considered Netflix’s animated release, Scrooge: A Christmas Carol, and unfortunately have to say this merry CGI musical is better off skipped.

Had Charles Dickens known about the legacy his tale had upon the entertainment industry, I’m sure the copyright law would have been changed to ensure his estate would get some payment. Sadly, his works are in the public domain. Thankfully, many productions acknowledge this author in the playbill, but in terms of his descendants getting royalties, I’m sure they’re all screaming, “bah, humbug!”

According to Collider.com, the earliest version is Marley’s Ghost (1901), directed by Walter R. Booth and produced by R.W. Paul. This work is impossible to find. Next is most likely Harold M. Shaw’s 1914 silent film short, and many more takes were made before Alastair Sim gave us the most beloved take with the 1951 motion picture. I have to give credit to the 1938 production; this actor made the character memorable, and he’s included in this list of animated works. They are ranked going from least to best:

The Stingiest Man in Town PosterThe Stingiest Man in Town
(Rankin/Bass, 1978)

This studio’s take is a departure from their cheerier stop-motion holiday works. In this earlier time, their holidays specials were on air every time December rolled around, and kids grew up watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

Although this work is a departure from style, and that the work was done at Topcraft, a Japanese animation studio, this title is worth noting because many of the animators would later be key staff members for Studio Ghibli! In regards to why this take is memorable is because of Tom Bosley. He lends his voice to play a bug named B. A. H. Humbug to narrate the story. Anyone who remembers this actor from Happy Days (He plays Howard Cunningham) will appreciate this take.

A Christmas Carol (Video 1994) - IMDbA Christmas Carol
(MGM, 1994)

This animated version spends a lot of time establishing the social, economic crisis the lower class often faced. When compared to a release nearly a decade later, this version is favoured over the other.

While it helps establish why Scrooge and Marley’s business exists, the social commentary doesn’t end there. By the time this cartoon gets to the story at hand, Scrooge takes a rat in as his pet, and the exposition delves into the relationship that he and Belle had. The details are very telling in this animated Christmas Carol retelling, and one doesn’t need to read the original work to know what they had was special.

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol - Wikipedia

Mister Magoo’s Christmas Special
(UPA Animation, 1962)

This musical puts Mister Magoo into the role, and this play within a play is fun to see, because both figures need to see the light. While one is more accepting of the holiday (the actor), the other is all humbug all the way. That is, he’s cast in a stage production of A Christmas Carol where what we witness is a show and the cartoon reality blend into one.

Although the work is quite dated because today’s audience doesn’t know who Jim Backus is, all I have to say is watch a couple of episodes of Gilligan’s Island. This character actor is perfect when considering the personas he plays are a match for Scrooge.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol
(2009)

This studio’s 21st Century redo to a CGI work is certainly dark. Instead of using familiar characters from their roster, we have a realistic depiction of the seminal tale, featuring a cast which includes Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Cary Elwes and much more.

The opening act is downright morbid. To hear Carrey portray the villain is even scarier, since he’s able to shed everything we know about him when behind the microphone than seeing him perform in front of a camera. When the animation shows Scrooge showing no compassion for his deceased business partner–prepared for burial according to Victorian tradition–what he steals is the perfect setup to explain why he’s getting haunted! As for the rest of the story, we know where that goes, and it’s welcomed for those expecting something cheery from the Walt Disney Studios.

Bah Humduck:
A Looney Tunes
Christmas Carol
(Warner Bros, 2006)

Warner Brothers must love Dickens’ story to reimagine the tale twice. But this time, Daffy Duck is the penny-pincher. In this modern update, he runs Lucky Duck Superstore, and runs the staff ragged. Much like the other cartoons featuring Porky Pig, this sidekick gets abused lots, and it’s a shame. This bit of comedy gets old fast.

Thankfully, the best bits concern the Tasmanian Devil torturing this duck. He plays the Ghost of Christmas Future, and it’s tough not to laugh at how scary he can become just to get Daffy to repent.

A Christmas Carol (1997 film) - Wikipedia

A Christmas Carol
(DIC, 1997)

This television special (now available on YouTube) features an all lineup with Whoopi Goldberg, Ed Asner, Michael York and Tim Curry leading the work. To hear Curry as Scrooge is a joy, since any fan of this talent knows he can pull it off!

What makes this take different is that there’s a bit of a Disney style influence in this animated Christmas Carol retelling. That is, Ebeneezer has a pet bulldog, who provides some humour in this film. Also, just like other takes, the scenes concerning Ebeneezer’s relationship with Belle really defines why this banker has lost his way.

Although the work is quite dated because today’s audience doesn’t know who Jim Backus is, all I have to say is watch a couple of episodes of Gilligan’s Island. This character actor is perfect when considering the personas he plays are a match for Scrooge.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol
(Disney, 1983)

Many Disney fans will say this seminal work is the best, and I don’t deny Scrooge McDuck is perfect in the role. This character was inspired by Dickens’ work and although his debut was on a comic strip, it wouldn’t be until decades later to become that miser he’s most famous for. Thankfully, this character has never been typecast, since he’s a beloved adventurer in Ducktales.

A Flintstones Christmas Carol - WikipediaA Flintstones Christmas Carol
(Hanna Barbera, 1994)

Fred Flintstone is Scrooge! What more needs to be said? This tale set in the Stone Age is multilayered because it sees this character and the role he plays both learn how to be nice. We’re presented with a tale of two Flintstones, something that Charles Dickens never imagined for his tale.

That is, the entire cast is putting on a stage version of the classic A Christmas Carol. And as we watch this Scrooge go through the paces in learning how to redeem himself, what’s presented is a mishmash of two storylines that teaches Fred some much-needed manners.

The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol (Short 2011) - IMDb

A Smurfs Christmas Carol
(Sony, 2011)

With no surprise, Grouchy hates Christmas and this variant of the classic tale smurfs things up differently. We’re not getting a play-by-play copy of the tale, but we have a look at what makes life in the village happy and why Papa Smurf is the Santa Claus for this world. He knows who has been bad or good, and no matter what, finds a reason to give joy to them all.

But in true Charles Dickens fashion, Grouchy needs to be visited by the ghosts of Christmas past. I liked how the CGI world transitioned back to the cel animation style of the 80s when this cartoon debuted, and it works very well to suggest where in time the story takes place. And instead of the ending most readers expect, we finally get something different.

An All Dogs Christmas Carol (Video 1998) - IMDb

An All Dogs Christmas Carol
(MGM, 1998)

This rollicking look at the seminal doesn’t begin until all dogs are ready to party. When Carface interrupts the festivities to say everyone has to pay up, nobody is happy.

This hoodlum is a different Scrooge, and when he steals a fund set up to help Timmy, a pup, everyone is up in arms! What happens next is basically a continuation of the animated television series. The evil Belladonna is responsible for what’s going on, and Annabelle gives Charlie a magical dog tag to use, and to see a canine take of the seminal tale is enough to show that even bad dogs can be nice once a year too.

The story construction is very Disney Afternoon. That is, we see a lot of humour in the same style as a Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers cartoon, and develop the pug’s backstory so that we can sympathise with him. He had a human owner once too, but after being abandoned, he became the ruffian that he was. That’s because he and Fat Cat are no different. It also proves that even some bad guys can find redemption.

A Christmas Carol
(ABC, 1971)

Alastair Sim lends his voice to this animated tale, and it’s terrific to see him willing to reprise the role. Although this version was made for television, its short length may have surprised some viewers. Most adaptations try to stretch this tale out to a 50-minute work, but here, the 25-minute work is perfect! Also, this particular broadcast for television is said to be more accurate than others for staying true to Charles Dickens’ vision.

Bugs Bunny’s
Looney Christmas Tales
(Warner Bros, 1979)

This holiday themed special features Yosemite Sam in the role of Scrooge, and that’s because his natural personality exemplifies why this Grump is what he is. Although this segment is shorter than the aforementioned favourite, Bugs Bunny is the perfect foil to show him how to get his holiday cheer on. I’m surprised that Dickens’ story can be compressed down to 12 minutes. As for those unwilling to sit through a longer work, this take gets to the punchline fast.

Also, Wile. E. Coyote and Road Runner do their usual cat and mouse chase through a strange rendition of “Winter Wonderland,” and Bugs meets the Tasmanian Devil (aka Santa) in a different rendition of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Quite simply, I love Yosemite Sam and Taz; they will always top my list in any holiday reimagining.

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