Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Mickey's Christmas Carol

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the routine by now.  I watch a movie and blog about it.  Simple as that.  Kinda missed last week because I was off on Christmas vacation, but I'm back now with a Christmas movie!  Here's my look at Mickey's Christmas Carol.  This is originally in my notes at November 4, 2018.

Well, Halloween is behind us, meaning we're moving on to Christmas.  When I snatched up The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, I decided to also grab Mickey's Christmas Carol.  Like a few other Christmas specials, I'm starting to get pretty PO'd at how they're being savagely edited to fit in more commercials, so picking it up on home media is the only way to get it uncut.  Mickey's Christmas Carol, you see, is actually a theatrical short film...although, at 28 minutes, a rather long short film.  It originally hit theatres in the holiday season of 1983, in front of Disney's latest re-release of The Rescuers.  Even nabbed an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short.  In the past, Disney would leave it uncut, add some commercial breaks, and throw in some of their other holiday-themed short films to pad it out to an hour-long Christmas special.  These days, though, they edit Mickey's Christmas Carol to a TV-friendly 22-minutes so they can add commercials. 

But the film does mark a bunch of firsts for Disney.  It's when Alan Young became the official voice of Scrooge McDuck.  Young was a veteran Hollywood character actor, best known as the star of Mr. Ed back in the day.  A few years ago, I read the story of how Young won the role.  You see, Mickey's Christmas Carol is actually based on a record album Disney put out in the early 1970s.  It was an audio play, and Young was the special guest star playing Scrooge.  Young was actually deeply involved in its production, even helping to pen the adaptation.  Flash forward about a decade, word gets out that it's being adapted into a feature film, and Young wants in.  He has agent make the calls, he gets the lead role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, as played by Scrooge McDuck.  At the end of the recording session, Young finally asks the director, "Look, I gotta know.  I loved working on that album back in the day.  I loved working on this film.  How come you never reached out to me?"  The director shuffled his feet and said, "Well, Mr. Young, we were afraid that a star of your stature would think that doing a voice in an animated film was role that was beneath him."  Young rolled his eyes and said, "You remember how I got famous, right?  It was by talking to a horse on TV.  Trust me, there's no such thing as a role that's beneath me."  And he was the official voice of Scrooge McDuck until he passed away at 97 just a couple years ago. 

I was also going to say it was the first time that Wayne Allwine did the voice of Mickey Mouse, and he voiced Mickey until he passed away in 2009.  But then, looking it up online, Allwine had been voicing Mickey since 1977.  This was just the first time he did for a theatrical production. 

It was also a notable last.  It was the final time that Clarence "Ducky" Nash did the voice of Donald Duck.  Nash was Donald' Duck's original voice actor, having done Donald Duck's voice since the very first Donald Duck shorts in the 1930s. 

I think you're familiar with this cartoon from its repeated holiday airings over the years.  It's yet another adaptation of A Christmas Carol, this time with all the roles filled by your favourite Disney characters.  Scrooge McDuck is Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey Mouse is Bob Cratchett, Donald Duck is Scrooge's nephew Fred...you get the gist.  It was neat watching this so soon after The Wind in the Willows because characters from that film are well-represented.  Rat and Moley are the canvassers who try to get Scrooge to give to the poor, and Mr. Toad is Mr. Fezziweg, Scrooge's boss when Scrooge was but a young apprentice. 

I'd like to seek out that original album version.  There's only two major differences between the album and the short, and that's in the casting of Disney characters.  In the film, the Ghost of Christmas Past is Jiminy Cricket.  In the album version, it's Merlin from The Sword in the Stone.  And in the film, the Ghost of Christmas Future is Peg Leg Pete.  In the original album, it's the Evil Queen from Snow White

But watching it again tonight, I couldn't help but feel that the film felt...kinda flat.  As re-tellings of A Christmas Carol go, it's rather perfunctory, adding nothing new to the story.  The pure novelty is seeing this massive cast of Disney characters all sharing the screen for the first time.  I wrote off that flat feeling over the years as TV edits, but watching it again tonight...no...it's all there in the film. 

But I still have overwhelming nostalgia for it.  I have fuzzy memories of when it hit theatres in 1983.  Like a lot of other Disney films, it had a massive marketing push, and I remember it being a really big deal.  Oh, how amazing it could have been if it was made just five years later as the Disney Renaissance was getting underway, with a massive push of talent behind it. 

And I'll end with another notable last that it boasts.  To date, it is the final Disney animated short with no end credits, ending simply with the words, "The End.  A Walt Disney Production." 

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