Friday, November 11, 2016

ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE CARTOONS BLOGATHON: A Christmas Carol (1971)


Steve of MovieMovieBlogBlog is hosting The 2nd Annual One of My All-Time Favorite Cartoons Blogathon.  I'll never forgive myself for missing the first one, but you can click HERE to enjoy all of the contributions this time around.

October has turned into a month-long celebration of Hallowe'en and is a traditional time to indulge in our favourite ghost stories.  It is in December, however, that the greatest ghost story of them all holds sway over much of the world's imagination.  Time has not dimmed our fascination with Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol which first appeared in 1843.  Readings, live performances, radio adaptations and multiple films and parodies have entertained in the centuries following the story's debut.  Certainly we still enjoy hearing and watching Ebenezer Scrooge go through his yuletide transformation as much on our 30th or 60th encounter with the tale as with our first.  One thing that may be missing is the thrill of the ghostly encounters which is so potent when we are young or hearing the story for the first time.

The supernatural aspect of the story is made clear from the opening credits of

Richard Williams'
Production Of

A Christmas Carol
by
Charles Dickens

Being
A Ghost Story
Of Christmas.

The credits run over scenes of a Victorian Christmas in a grey London with a choir of children's voices singing God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.

  

Richard Williams, Chuck Jones

This Oscar winner for Best Short Subject, Animated Films elegantly and eerily takes us back to the true haunting of Scrooge.  1971s A Christmas Carol co-produced by Chuck Jones and director Richard Williams was created for television, but theatrical showings allowed for its Oscar nomination.

Legend Richard Williams is a Toronto born artist, animator and former jazz musician.  His other Oscar acknowledgements include work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and a nomination last year for Prologue.  Fellow legend Chuck Jones, whose influential entertainments range from his years at Warner Brothers and beyond, received three Oscar nominations, one win for The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics and an Honorary Award.

The actors are more than usually suited to their voice-over tasks.  Michael Redgrave (The Lady Vanishes, The Importance of Being Earnest), with his rich, distinctive and oh-so-British voice is the narrator; confidently drawing us into the world of the story.




Cast as Scrooge and Marley is Alastair Sim (Green for Danger, Stage Fright), whose portrayal of the character in the 1951 film release rates among the favourite of that character for many fans.  That earlier film has become such a tradition that hearing Sim recreate the role feels natural and familiar.  It is Scrooge as he should be.  Michael Horden (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) was the tragic Marley's Ghost to Sim's Scrooge in 1951 and recreates that role here.  It is a perfect pairing.  You can also see Horden playing Eb himself in a BBC production from 1977.




The original musical score by Tristram Cary (The Ladykillers, Five Million Years to Earth) creates a chilling and insistent mood of the mysterious forces at work in the story.

The character animation suits the descriptions of the author and the early illustrations of John Leech.  Tiny Tim is adorable without being cloying.  Marley's Ghost is a frightening aberration.  Old Fezzieg is a darling and the Christmas spirits embodied as we would imagine them to be.  Animation is the perfect medium for creating a Spirit of Christmas Past according to Dickens' description.




The scenes move swiftly from one to the next, but do not lessen the impact of each one.  We see the brightness of young Scrooge's imagination in his lonely schoolroom, the lovely green garden where the adult Scrooge spurns love, the grim, rat infested hovel of the pawnbroker, the grey wild sea at night.

The emotional impact of A Christmas Carol is retained and enhanced in this compact yet artistic retelling.  A perfect companion on a snowy December day, and one of my all-time favourite cartoons.






9 comments:

  1. I know I've watched this, Pat. THANK YOU SO MUCH for reminding me because I'd completely forgotten about it. Time to try and find a copy for my grandkids and I to watch - well maybe when they're a bit older. (I can keep it to myself for now.) You are perfectly right, this is a wonderful adaptation. Oh and how I wish I'd known about this cartoon challenge! I would have loved to contribute.

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    1. I'm so pleased I could remind you of this treasure. It is currently available on the inestimable YouTube. I always hesitate to mention such a thing because posts come and go so often there.

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  2. I never heard of this one! And I thought I knew most of the Chuck Jones cartoons made. It sounds great and I'm eager to watch it this Christmas season, especially to hear that Tristram Carey music. :-)

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    Replies
    1. A nice cup of cocoa and a cozy sweater are perfect accompaniments. Enjoy!

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  3. Surely I've seen this...I've watched dozens upon dozens of adaptations, parodies and pastiches of my absolute favorite Christmas story. Yet the screenshots you used don't trigger even a wisp of a memory. So maybe not. Gotta look for it now. And I'll add a mention in my gradually blossoming tribute to Dickens' classic tale and the appearances on the theme on film due to be posted on my blog on Christmas Eve.

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    Replies
    1. It is definitely worth your time.

      My special needs son bought the 2001 Christmas Carol: The Movie because he recognized the title (likes Mickey's and Muppet's), but it is such a dog neither of us can stand it. I didn't think it possible that anyone could wreck such an immortal story.

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  4. I've never seen this, but I know about Richard Williams. I wrote about his passion project, THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER, and its sad fate, several years ago. I know he's an unsung hero in animation circles, so I imagine his take on Dickens has gotta be as good as you say.

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    Replies
    1. I came across that piece of yours when I was looking for stuff on Richard Williams. The interference is akin to espionage.

      Take a peek. I think you'll be impressed.

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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