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  Mickey's Christmas Carol Ha Ha Humbug
Year: 1983
Director: Burny Mattinson
Stars: Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Hal Smith, Will Ryan, Eddie Carroll, Patricia Parris, Dick Billingsley, Clarence Nash, Tasos Kostis
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Animated, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Eighteenth century London, and Scrooge McDuck (voiced by Alan Young) makes his way through the snow to his office where he works as a moneylender, pointedly ignoring any attempts to interest him in giving anything to charity. When he arrives, he admires his sign, which reads "Scrooge & Marley", and remarks Marley is now long dead, and was buried at sea to save cash on a grave. On entering, his sole employee Bob Cratchit (or Mickey Mouse - Wayne Allwine) is hard at work but asks for a day off tomorrow since it is Christmas Day. Scrooge reluctantly offers him half a day, and when his nephew Fred (Donald Duck - or Clarence Nash) arrives asking for a gesture of goodwill, he sends him on his way with a flea in his ear. What can possibly save this wretched soul now?

As this was based on one of the most-adapted classic novels ever written, you probably have a very good idea what can rescue Scrooge McDuck, but there was more to Disney's version of the Charles Dickens seasonal favourite than a simple retelling. Until The Little Mermaid happened along at the end of the decade, the studio's fortunes for its cartooning, the style that had made its name, after all, had severely dropped, with some years going by with no new releases at all, and the ones that did come out, like The Fox and the Hound or The Black Cauldron, were in no way enjoying the same impact on the global consciousness as the blockbusters from their heyday had. Indeed, Disney were considering getting rid of their animation department altogether.

This seems unthinkable now, as after all you think of Disney and you think cartoons, but until Mickey's Christmas Carol appeared the future looked bleak; it was a rare bright spot in that post-Walt era. The studio's live action division was going from strength to strength, especially Touchstone, but this little item, everyone would agree, proved they still had the talent and resources to craft something really special: a beautifully drawn half hour with genuine personality that demonstrated Disney did not have to be corny, and could even be pretty funny, something their rivals at Warners and MGM often prided themselves on being better at than the House of Mouse. The jokes in your average Mickey or Donald toon were a lot broader and more aimed at a younger audience than the smart-alecky gags in a Bugs Bunny or Tex Avery effort.

There was a sense of fun here, that despite the struggles the studio were suffering internally, they could still marshal something that showed off why they were so respected, never mind that their top animators were jumping ship. That director Burny Mattinson would go on to The Great Mouse Detective straight after may have disappointed at the box office, but he would be behind the storylines of plenty of Disney's renaissance into the nineties, and you can see his aptitude with character here in abundance. Cleverly, as the Muppets would do in their version of the story, he recast the Dickens archetypes as Disney characters, not just Mickey but also ones who would be known to the real fans who had stuck with them through thick and thin: Jiminy Cricket was The Ghost of Christmas Past, for instance, but Mr Toad was Fezziwig, and Daisy Duck the neglected love of Scrooge's life until money supplanted her. True, this was so condensed that the budget for a longer version seemed to have eluded them, but the fact it embodied the source with such energy and kindness was a real bonus. All was not lost for Disney toons. Music by Irwin Kostal.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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