Monday, December 10, 2012

A Disney Carol

In 1983, the Walt Disney Studios released their first visual take on Dickens' story. Titled "Mickey's Christmas Carol," it featured classic Disney characters in the roles of the Dickens cast.

Scrooge is represented by Scrooge McDuck (voiced by Alan Young, his first time voicing the character he would later make famous on Duck Tales), Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse take the role of the Cratchits while similarly designed Mouse children serve the roles of their children. Goofy represents Marley, Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio represents the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willy the Giant from Fun and Fancy Free (specifically the Mickey and the Beanstalk segment) is the Ghost of Christmas Present, and a hooded Black Pete plays the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Rounding out the cast is Donald Duck as Fred, Daisy Duck as Belle, Mole and Rat from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (specifically The Wind in the Willows segment) and Mr. Toad himself is Fezziwig. Making appearances are the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, Cyril the Horse, Grandma Duck, Badger, Clarabelle Cow, Gus Goose, Horace Horse, Chip and Dale, Huey, Dewey, Louie and various characters from Robin Hood.

While the story is very condensed, the heart of Dickens' story has been eviscerated. Instead of being ignorant of what Bob's family needs, Scrooge pays him a pittance salary just to be miserly, allowing Bob one piece of coal a week. In addition to clerking, Bob gets an extra haypenny for doing Scrooge's laundry.

Fred heartily greets Scrooge with a wreath and is comically kicked out. Mole and Rat are sent off with an argument of "Giving money to the poor makes them not poor anymore, and since your job is collecting for them, you'd be out of a job." Gone is Dickens' much more meaningful writing off of the needs of the poor by suggesting they go to prisons or work houses.

And really, this is it. Mickey's Christmas Carol doesn't revel in that it's "A Christmas Carol," but rather that it is Disney. Scenes featuring characters from Disney films are almost copied, now with a Dickens theme. With the legacy of the Disney brand, it is almost shocking that Mickey and his friends could not set aside their antics as Mr. Magoo had done over 20 years before. Certainly Disney has better animation than Mr. Magoo, but the heart is not there.

"A Christmas Carol" was never about how one man could make a better world, but how we all can. And "Mickey's Christmas Carol" fails miserably to convey that message.

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