Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Williams and Jones Carol

Chuck Jones decided to adapt "A Christmas Carol" and to help him do it, he enlisted one of the best animators he knew of: Richard Williams. Having seen work by Williams that literally animated Victorian artwork, Jones realized this style would suit Dicken's story wonderfully.

The design of the entire production almost looks like John Leech's illustrations for the original edition of the book come to life with a fluid and strikingly natural movement. There is some simplification done to make animation functional, but the amount of detail in every frame is simply amazing.

The one disadvantage that met Jones and Williams was the fact that they had to adapt the story into twenty-five minutes. While they set out to make the most faithful adaptation, they estimated that in order to adapt the book exactly, they would need at least seven more minutes. Hence, the story loses a few scenes and cuts many very short. The most notable omission is that Fan arriving to retrieve her brother from school is gone and we don't see Belle's life with her husband. The Cratchits are not seen mourning the loss of their son, but instead Bob himself is seen crouched by a bedside with a covered body on it crying, "My little, little child! My little child"

Voicing Scrooge was none other than Alastair Sim, bringing a new interpretation to the character twenty years after his famous turn in the 1951 film. (Apparently, he took some convincing, the final factor being that he would never need to play Scrooge again after doing it in such excellent live action and animated versions.) Michael Horden also reprises his 1951 role as Marley's Ghost, while Michael Redgrave narrates.

Perhaps the production's crowning achievement is the presentation of the Ghost of Christmas Past: an out of focus spirit, its gender is indeterminable both in look and voice. (It has a rather feminine skirt as part of its robe, though.)

Surprisingly, this version of "A Christmas Carol" has the distinction of winning an Academy Award. Though it was made for television, it was subsequently released in theaters. The outcry about a television production winning such an award set up a new rule for the Oscars: a premiere on television would invalidate such an honor.

Despite being one of the best versions of "A Christmas Carol," and quite possibly the best animated version, this cartoon has not been released on DVD. It received a release on VHS. However, a fan of Richard Williams' animation made a high definition version which can be seen on YouTube.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Michael Hodern also portrayed Scrooge in a 1977 televsion play version: