Sunday, 19 December 2010

CHRISTMAS MICKEY-TAKING

Readers of some of my other blogs will know that I am a devoted admirer of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and have written a book, articles, radio programmes on the subject as well as making (and appearing in) my own theatrical adaptation.


One of my favourite movie versions of A Christmas Carol - actually, there's not many that aren't favourites! - is Mickey's Christmas Carol.

Produced in 1983, the film featured – as you will all be aware – Donald Duck's uncle, Scrooge McDuck, in the Ebenezer Scrooge role and Mickey as the old skinflint's put-upon clerk, Bob Cratchit.

Other familiar Disney characters involved included Daisy Duck as the love of Scrooge's younger self and Goofy as an accident-prone Ghost of Jacob Marley providing more laughs than frights...

The Ghost of Christmas Present (below right) was played by Willie the Giant who had previously appeared in another Mouse cartoon, 'Mickey and the Beanstalk', in the 1947 Disney feature, Fun and Fancy Free. The other Ghosts - of Christmas Past and Future - were played by Pinocchio's pint-sized conscience, Jiminy Cricket, and Black Pete (aka Peg Leg Pete), Mickey's arch-Nemesis from the early cartoons and comic strips.

1122_mickeychristmascarol

The film, which picked up an Academy Award nomination was animated by a new generation of Disney artists who would go on to become future stars of animation including Glen Keane (responsible for the Beast in Beauty and the Beast and the title character in Tarzan) and Pixar founder, John Lasseter.

The film received a lot of publicity at the time since it was Mickey's first film appearance in 30 years. Indeed, I appeared on BBC TV's Newsnight (wearing a Mickey Mouse sweater) where I was interviewed about Mickey's career and come-back.

What I knew at the time (being an anorakish Disney nerd) was that this wasn't the first time Mickey Mouse and Co had had a bash at A Christmas Carol.

In 1975, the Disney company had released a gramophone record on the Disneyland Storyteller label entitled An Adaptation of Dickens' Christmas Carol Presented by the Popular Repertory Company, The Walt Disney Players.

The cast was a little different: the Ghost of Christmas Past and Future were played by Merlin from The Sword in the Stone and the Wicked Witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

2268150246_9bc3140777

I loved the conceit of Disney characters belonging to a rep company - a similar idea to that previously used in the 1962 TV show, Mr Magoo's Christmas Carol and which would be later revisited in 1994 for A Flintstones Christmas Carol.

The Disney album was written and co-produced by the Scottish-born actor, Alan Young (well known as the human lead in the classic TV sit-com about a talking horse, Mister Ed) and this record later became the inspiration for the movie, although Alan Young (who had also spoken for Mickey Mouse and Merlin) almost didn't get to reprise the role of Scrooge McDuck.

For some reason - the studio said they thought Young wouldn't want to play the part - were auditioning another actor who just happened to know Alan Young and showed him the script. Young immediately realised that it was, in fact, a version of his script and the part he had created on record! A request to be auditioned led to some embarrassed back-peddling by the studio and Young, once again, got to play the miserly, curmudgeonly Scrooge.

What is fascinating is to discover - courtesy of Disney History - that years before the film or the record Donald Duck had played all the parts in a comic-strip version of A Christmas Carol published in the December 1949 edition of The Rexall Magazine, given away by the Rexall Drug Company. Although Uncle Scrooge had made his comic book debut two years earlier, in 1947, this version of Dickens' story features his nephew, Donald and an all-duck cast!

DDuckXmasCarol

And now I find that there was yet another Dickens-inspired piece of Disneyana somewhere between the appearance of the Rexall version and the release of the long-playing record.

Entitled Walt Disney's Christmas Carol, it featured a mouse not called Mickey, but Cedric, and was published in a Christmas number of McCalls magazine in the 1950s.

You'll find this charming little story with its original illustrations at 2719 Hyperion.

So, there you are: four Carols for the price of one blog!

AND...

You can find out why and how Charles Dickens came to write his famous seasonal tale (and how it has been variously interpreted across the years) over at my other blog in a post entitled Christmas Brought to Book.

1 comment:

Andy J. Latham said...

I had no idea there had been so many Disney interpretations!

What, I have to ask, is with Micky's extended absences from film? I mean we haven't seen him in anything for years now apart from preschool TV shows like Clubhouse Mickey. I thought there was a plan to do a new Mickey short after they had done the recent (well actually it's not that recent now) Goofy one.

Bring back Mickey!!