Christmas time is here, but I’m not here to talk about Snoopy. I’m here to talk about another anthropomorphic animal.
Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge in Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
Not sure if it was 1984 or 1985, but NBC was playing a one-hour special with the main attraction Mickey’s Christmas Carol. But before we got to the feature, we had to watch three holiday-themed cartoons:
Pluto’s Christmas Tree…
The Art of Skiing (or Sheeiing)…
and Donald’s Snow Fight…
And then, with that famous Mickey face now wearing a top hat and scarf, the main feature could begin. (Yes, I should probably post the video of the cartoon, but I’m sure you can find it out there on your own. I’m building suspense. OK, I’m a scrooge. Bah! Humbug!)
For my 8-year-old self, this was probably my first exposure to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’m sure I thought this was the coolest since all the characters were now your favorite Disney characters. And Donald was nephew to Uncle Scrooge! Now that’s typecasting. Nevertheless, in 30 minutes, the Disney gang got to the heart of the story of Scrooge’s redemption.
To make sure our family could watch this again (and again), we taped it off the air using one of those new-fangled VCRs. I had become quite the remote control operator by this point, thanks to me taping episodes of the Transformers without the commercials. I am especially proud of the fact I paused and unpaused at one point (when Scrooge closes the curtains of his bed) so perfectly, you could barely tell there was a break.
At the time, I didn’t know that this was the first Mickey Mouse short since “The Little Things” in 1953(!), or that this was Wayne Allwine’s first appearance voicing Mickey. Sadly, it would be the last work of Clarence Nash playing Donald. And if you read the credits, you might spot a now-familiar name in the list of animators: John Lasseter, now the chief creative officer of the animation studios. Who knew that kid would go places?
All these years later, I finally procured a DVD of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, so now I can pass on the tradition of watching this with my children. And yes, I still choke up in spots. No, that’s not a tear going down my cheek right now. As an added bonus, the disc includes one of the three cartoons (the Pluto one). I do have the Donald toon on another disc, so now I just have to get the Goofy cartoon, and I can sorta kinda recreate the TV special.
Merry Christmas, one and all, and God bless us, everyone!
12/14/14: EDITED TO ADD: Thanks to the magic of Twitter user Dan Cunningham, I stumbled across this series of blog posts about the making of Mickey’s Christmas Carol by Mike Peraza, who actually worked on the film! Very enlightening stuff there.