Before I talk about our introduction to the character Ebenezer Scrooge, I just want to say that I really love the opening of this short film. You have the classic Mickey Mouse logo at the start, only this time he's dressed up for Christmas; you get some nice pictures of what you're about to witness in the story (Even though I kind of feel like it's giving the fun and surprises away in this adaptation); the transition to the story is fantastic; and the song that plays during the opening credits called "Oh, What A Merry Christmas Day", is really beautiful and Christmassy. Speaking of music, that's the only song you get in the entire cartoon, which is a bit of a downer since Disney does a really great job at creating songs. It just feels like a missing piece of the puzzle, especially since Magoo and The Muppets managed to fit in songs. Though to be fair, those had a full hour and if the story itself is done well, that's all that should matter.
Scrooge is played by Scrooge McDuck and I honestly can't think of a better Disney character playing the role. While the creators do keep the cartoon aspect of the character, they don't at all shun away from the nastiness of the Charles Dickens character. The hate he has for Christmas and others; the love for his money; and being so cheap that he not only stands the cold, but also has the feathers to bury his deceased partner at sea, instead of below ground, really make you hate this character, while also getting a few laughs out of him. Also seeing how cruelly he treats his employee Bob Cratchit by making him freeze; paying him very little; yelling at him; and making him do his laundry, makes you hate him just as much as all the other versions. A trait that I've noticed from Scrooge, that I have not seen any other version do is, when he has customers, he drops his nasty and sinister behavior, and starts acting polite, like a regular business man. Obviously, he's acting this way since it has to do with money, and the transition of him from being polite, to going back to his nasty old ways is done well, but I always felt that it was sort of out of character. I mean, in almost every version I've seen, Scrooge never acts this polite when we first see him as this cold hearted greedy miser. It doesn't bother me that much, but it does stick out like a sore thumb.
As for the rest of the cast Disney characters that we meet in this act, they too are just as great for their roles as Scrooge McDuck is. You have Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, who brings out the innocence of the Dickens character so well, that you do feel sorry for him, especially the fact that it's Mickey Mouse taking (For the most part) non-comical abuse. By the way, a little fun fact, this is Mickey's first cartoon short since his last cartoon short that was made in 1953 called "The Simple Things". This is also Wayne Allwine's first shot at voicing Mickey, as well as Alan Young's first shot at voicing Scrooge McDuck. The two animals that are collecting for the poor are played by Rat and Mole from the Disney cartoon short "The Wind In The Willows", and honestly I can't picture any other Disney character playing these two characters. Finally, there's Donald Duck as Scrooge's nephew Fred, and while it's odd seeing the hot tempered Donald Duck playing a happy and jolly character, who gets insulted and literally kicked out by Scrooge, I still do think it's done well, even though I think Goofy would make a better choice, but sadly he's not a duck. Well, can we at least have Hewy, Dewey, and Louie play Scrooge's nephews instead? It could work if done well; I mean, years later when Disney started owning The Muppets, they had two Jacob Marley's played by Statler and Waldorf, and that was done really well. I'm not saying Donald's portrayal as Fred isn't done well, it just feels odd seeing Donald playing a happy Christmas loving fellow. Just a quick little fun fact, this was sadly Clarence Nash's last time voicing Donald before he died, which in a way, does make Donald's appearance in this short feel special.
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST
The Ghost Of Christmas Past is played by Jiminy Cricket, and this is the perfect choice to have as your ghost. He carries the same traits that we love from both the Disney character and the Dickens character. He's fun, subtle, wise, heartwarming, and none of it feels out of character. It just has the right balance of both characters. Yes, pretty much every character so far fits their roles perfectly, by having a great mix between being a Disney character and Dickens character, but let’s be honest, there should be a reverse or a change in the casting between Donald and Goofy, since Donald is too sweet; and Goofy is just too clumsy for you to believe that he was actually a sinister miser.
Our first visit in Scrooge's past is when we see him at Fezziwig's party, as he has a great time and meets the love of his life played by Daisy Duck. I'm not going to give away the Fezziwig party, since it's loaded with surprise Disney cameos, but I will say, it is indeed just as fun of a sequence as the story itself. As for the scene when Scrooge breaks up with Belle, it's short, but it is still very heartbreaking, while also having a bit of dark comedy to it. The past scenes are fast, but they still manage to carry out Scrooge's joy and sadness of his past perfectly.
GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT
The Ghost Of Christmas Present is played by Willie The Giant from "Mickey And The Beanstalk", and I think he's another perfect choice. I once again can't think of a Disney character that can fit this part better than Willie. He's just as funny and jolly as both the Disney character and the Dickens character. Every time I see him, I not only get a laugh, but I literally do see him as the Ghost in general, due to how well he tells Scrooge about kindness, and the horrible fate that might await Bob Crachit's son Tiny Tim. Since Willie loves to eat in the cartoon he came from, I love how he addresses Scrooge about generosity, through the food he's eating and die of laughter when he brings back one of his famous jokes that involve a certain dish he loves.
The scene when we see Mickey Mouses family is just as sweet and Christmasy as the scene in the story itself. Just the whole scene when they live in poor conditions, and have very little to eat, but still get through it with the power of love and being together, maybe a very short sequence, but does it the message right on the nail. I also admire seeing Mickey and Minnie having a family, even if they are technically playing different characters. Even the Mouse who plays Tiny Tim, is just as sweet as the character. When the scene is over, as the lights go out, and the Spirit vanishes off-screen, leaving his two gigantic footprints, and a worried Scrooge behind, it all leads perfectly into the third and final visit.
THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE
When Scrooge encounters The Ghost Of Christmas Future, the whole sequence itself is just as dark and depressing as the story itself. When we see Bob Craitchit cry over Tiny Tim's graves, there's no dialogue; no sounds of Bob crying; it's just the animation and the music that expresses the scene, which is done really effectively. When Scrooge sees his grave, and when the spirit reveals himself; without giving anything away, it's a really dark and scary sequence, and the surprise appearance for who the ghost is, is great casting, even though it's already hinted at.
In the Christmas Day ending when Scrooge reforms, and spreads the spirit and joy of Christmas, it's all done just as well as all the other versions. Seeing Scrooge change is not only heartwarming, but really funny as well. His encounters with the poor collectors and his Nephew is both sweet and funny; the cameos of Disney characters are still everywhere; and the final scene when he goes to Crachit's house as he gives the family toys, a Turkey, a higher pay, and granting Bob a new position, is done just as powerful and joyful as the classic ending to the classic story. Also ending it with Tiny Tim saying "God Bless Us, Everyone"; Scrooge sitting on a rocking chair playing with Cratchit's children; and hearing the reprise of the opening song, as the cartoon turns into a picture (Just like the pictures in the opening credits) makes for a wonderful conclusion.
Surprisingly, this Disney adaptation to this classic story holds up just as well as the ones with Mr.Magoo and The Muppets. Yeah, I still do feel like the casting of Donald as Fred, and Goofy as Jacob Marley should have been changed, but with that said, the creators do such a great job making these characters fit the characters that they're playing, that it actually does become plausible. Siskel and Ebert gave the film a Thumbs Down, because there was no Disney twist to the story, and that it had too much dialogue, and while I respect and understand where they are coming from, I strongly disagree with it. It does have lots of dialogue, but I never found it boring, even as a kid, because it not only stayed true to the classic Dicken's story, but there are plenty of Disney characters and gags to make the film fun for kids, while also maintaining the emotional impact of the story, which is very, very hard to do when it is not only a half hour long, but when it's also starring iconic Disney characters. So I really don't have much to fault this short film. It's true to the story; the casting is great (Even the ones who I do feel like shouldn't be casted, do a great job); it manages to be fun for kids, while also treating the dark and depressing stuff seriously; the animation is magnificent; and it plays an important part in the history of Disney.
HAVE A "VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS" EVERYONE! SEE YA NEXT YEAR!