Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An Animated Scrooge

A Christmas Carol(1982)
Director: Jean Tych
Cast: Ron Haddrick, Robin Stewart, Barbara Frawley

Several versions of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol have been adapted to animated form, from the celebrated(though sadly unavailable) Chuck Jones version of 1971 to comical tales with Fred Flinstone and Mr. Magoo. My personal favorite of the bunch is this 1982 made for television adaption, which was created in Australia. Obviously done on a limited budget with mediocre animation, this version actually manages to follow the novel closer than most other adaptions out there.

This version begins with an unitentionally comic intro of Scrooge walking down a street and shaking a loaf of bread out of a poor boy, with little to no explanation. After that, it's more or less the usual format with Scrooge telling off the money-lenders, as well as his nephew and Bob Cratchit. Some of the dialouge is simplified, while alot of it is curiously intact. For example, Scrooge uses the term "job" rather than "dituation" in regards to Cratchit, but most of the prose from Dicken's story are there.
The Marley segment is very well handled with the minimalist animation serving the picture well to build a creepy atmosphere that more expensive productions would miss. This depiction of Marley's ghost is of a  frightening, raspy-voiced specter, complete with a face resembling a kabuki actor!
Most of the scene is the usual business, save for a moment where Marley askes Scrooge if he is cold, and ends up tossing one of his former partner's chairs into the fireplace! This cartoon is also notable for being one of only two versions(that I recall) that contains Marley's onscreen death, his face becoming a skull and his spirit lifting away. It's rather ghoulish for a supposed family film!
The Ghost of Christmas Past is presented as a child, looking like a character from a Roman play. The flashbacks aren't monstrously in-depth, but there's a decent amount of exposition. This even contains a young Scrooge believing that Ali Baba is waiting outside, but realizes it was a flight of fancy. This is directly from the story and was also used in A Christmas Carol(1984) with George C. Scott.

The Ghost of Christmas Present retains white hair throughout, looking much like Santa Claus. His visit is expanded upon throughout the city of London, as he shows Scrooge the importance of Christmas. There's an amusing segment involving the Ghost sprinkling cheer onto the poor's turkey dinners, with Scrooge declaring he prefers cold toast and coffee! Happily, this version also contains the children, Ignorance and Want, which are far too often ignored from other versions, depsite the symbolic importance that they represent.
By the time, the Ghost of Christmas Future arrives, the cartoon has swung into full on horror mood, with the black draped ghost resembling a floating shroud. All the major moments are included here in all there ghoulish glory. I was surprised to see the image of Scrooge discovering his own corpse in this version, but it's here as well.
The graveyard towards the end of the travels is one of the best depicted in any version, with it's bare trees, black sky and forelorn graves straight out of Edgar Allan Poe. Scrooge's plead for redemption provides a beautiful payoff and his ensuing reformation is still touching, as he joins his nephew on Christmas, purchases the turkey for the Cratchit family and raises his employee's salary. It ends quickly, but leaves a pleasant aftertaste, as this has been a most delightful Christmas treat.

I often find myself watching quite a few versions of this story during the holidays, and this one has quickly become a perennial favorite, for whatever reason. I think it has to do with the era it was made, perhaps serving as a nostalgic link to my own childhood, when these low budget, low-tech cartoons were commonplace. It may also be that this is a surprisingly accurate, yet easily digestible adaption and can be enjoyed by all ages.
There are many Chrsitmas Carol adaptions to reccomend, but if you are willing to try out something different, or wish to expose the younger crowd to this timeless story, this may serve as an adequate primer.

1 comment:

  1. This is my absolute favorite version of this story. I cannot find it anywhere. Any tips on how to get a copy of it?