Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol

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Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol
DVD Cover for Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol
Directed by Abe Levitow
Produced by Lee Orgel, executive producer Henry G. Saperstein
Written by Freely Adapted from Charles Dickens, by Barbara Chain
Based on A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Starring Jim Backus
Morey Amsterdam
Jack Cassidy
Royal Dano
Paul Frees
Music by

Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Bob Merrill,

Music Scored and Conducted by Walter Scharf[1]
Distributed by UPA (1962-2000)
Classic Media (2000-2012)
DreamWorks Animation (2012-present)
NBCUniversal Television Distribution (2016-present)
Release date
December 18, 1962
Running time
53 min
Language English

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol is a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's famous short story A Christmas Carol starring the cartoon character Mr. Magoo. Aside from the 1953 marionette special The Spirit of Christmas, it was the first animated holiday program ever produced specifically for television, originally airing in December 1962,[2] and the only one until the stop-motion special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was first shown in December 1964. The special also inspired the 1964 TV series The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.[3] It featured the voice of Jim Backus as Magoo, with voice-over appearances by Paul Frees, Morey Amsterdam, Joan Gardner, and Jack Cassidy.


Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol was produced by Henry G. Saperstein and the UPA animation studio in its declining days. Commissioned and sponsored by Timex, it first aired on NBC on December 18, 1962.[4] Although the special led to The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo television series, the studio ultimately found it could not adapt to the rigors of mass-producing cartoons for television.

The program was broadcast as a TV special many times during the Christmas season from the 1960s through the 1980s—though not always on NBC—before being released on VHS in 1982 and on DVD in 2001. The original 53-minute running time is often cut to make room for additional commercials, primarily by removing the framing device about Magoo himself. For the 2012 holiday season, NBC, which last telecast it in 1969, announced it would return the special to the air for the first time since the 1980s; it aired on NBC on December 22, 2012 even though it was heavily edited for the addition of more commercials including opening and closing wraparounds scenes, the finale scene of the musical as well as the end credits and other crucial scenes being cut from broadcast. The CW acquired the broadcast rights to the special for the 2014 season which was originally broadcast in its entirety but for the 2015 season, the broadcast was the heavily edited NBC version instead.


Audiences and critics consider this program to be a holiday classic, due in part to the original songs of the Broadway team of Jule Styne (music) and Bob Merrill (lyrics), who collaborated on the musical Funny Girl soon after their work on the special.[2] As recently as December 25, 2006, many listeners told the National Public Radio program Talk of the Nation that Mister Magoo was their favorite Ebenezer Scrooge.[5]

Comparison with the book[edit]

The credits for the cartoon state that it is "freely adapted" from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This adaptation mostly serves to shorten the story to fit the television special's one-hour time slot. The Ghost of Christmas Present appears before the Ghost of Christmas Past, and no reference is made to Scrooge's nephew Fred or the metaphorical children Ignorance and Want.[6] Nor is Scrooge's sister, Fan, seen in the Christmas Past sequence. Two of the post-redemption scenes from the book are rewritten and combined, so that Scrooge visits the Cratchits instead of Fred, and threatens Bob (as a self-mocking prelude to raising his salary) at home rather than waiting to do so at work the following day. At the same time, however, the remaining scenes are remarkably faithful to the original, with characters often speaking the lines as Dickens wrote them, and little or no simplification of the language to suit a younger or less literate audience living over a century later. A number of references to Scrooge's (i.e., Magoo's) poor vision are sprinkled through the story, a nod to the Magoo character, but except for the beginning and ending pieces which occur outside the framework of the Dickens story, there are none of the usual Magoo catastrophes.

Cast of voices[edit]

Actor Role
Jim Backus Ebenezer Scrooge
Mr. Magoo
Morey Amsterdam James
Jack Cassidy Bob Cratchit
Royal Dano Marley's Ghost
Paul Frees Charity Man
Old Joe
The Undertaker
Stage Director
Joan Gardner Tiny Tim
Ghost of Christmas Past[7]
John Hart Billings
Stage Manager
Jane Kean Belle
Marie Matthews Young Scrooge
Laura Olsher Mrs. Cratchit
Les Tremayne Ghost of Christmas Present

Note that sources differ on credits for the Laundress, Charwoman, 3 Cratchit children at table, Dick Wilkins, Boy that gets turkey, and the Ghost of Christmas Past, with June Foray sometimes credited for female voices.[8][9] However, Foray has stated on several occasions that she was not in the show at all.[citation needed] Other sources credit Joan Gardner as the Ghost of Christmas Past.


The cartoon's framing device consists almost entirely of Jim Backus as Quincy Magoo singing "It's Great To Be Back On Broadway", thus explaining in song that the character Magoo is portraying a character in a Broadway theatre production.[2]

"Ringle, Ringle", Scrooge's theme song about "coins when they mingle", is half-sung by Jim Backus as Magoo, and serves to delineate the character's change of heart. Initially he appreciates the coins aesthetically and for the wealth they represent, while Jack Cassidy as Bob Cratchit sings in counterpoint that "it's cold, it's frightfully cold", and musically begs Scrooge to spare the expense of "just one piece of coal" to warm him. Later, in a musical reprise, Scrooge sings that the coins are "meant for passing around" as he spends the coins to help the Cratchit family.

Joan Gardner as Tiny Tim ("played" by the animated character Gerald McBoing-Boing) sings of "razzleberry dressing" and "woofle jelly cake" in "The Lord's Bright Blessing". The Cratchit children's requests for better food, a tree and presents are countered by Jack Cassidy as Bob Cratchit singing of what the family has, in his view: "the Lord's bright blessing, and knowing we're together" - a togetherness that Scrooge lacks.[2]

In the Christmas Past sequence, Backus/Magoo as Scrooge sings in poignant duet with Scrooge's younger self (sung by Marie Matthews),[6] left behind in boarding school after all the other children have gone home for Christmas. "In perhaps the most touching moment... Magoo is transported back to his childhood, where he stands side-by-side with his youthful self. He watches his 'child' self sing Alone in the World, tracing his hand on the blackboard, hoping to find a hand of his own to hold... the quavering elderly voice blending with the clear, sweet youthful one, the invisible Magoo putting a transparent arm around his 'child' [self]." [10]

A hand for each hand was planned for the world
Why don't my fingers reach?
Millions of grains of sand in the world
Why such a lonely beach?
(Lyrics source with screenshot.)

Jane Kean as Belle performs the love ballad "Winter Was Warm", which also serves as a leitmotif throughout the special, and is heard during the end credits sung by a studio choir.

Veteran voice actor Paul Frees sings two roles in "We're Despicable (Plunderer's March)". The laundress, charwoman, and the undertaker go to Old Joe's rag & bone shop to sell the items that they have taken from the newly deceased miser "with him lyin' there", and gleefully cackle their way through such lyrics as, "We're rep-re-hensible. We'll steal your pen-and-pencible".

Backus sings a short reprise of "Alone in the World" in the scene where the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-to-Come abandons Scrooge in the cemetery.

For the finale, Scrooge and the Cratchits sing a reprise (with happier lyrics) of "The Lord's Bright Blessing".

A longstanding story suggests that "People" was originally written for Mr. Magoo,[2] but Theodore Taylor's biography of Styne disputes this.[11] The Cleveland Plain Dealer also disputes this, saying "Producer Lee Orgel heard Styne playing the piano. He thought the song was sensational and asked if it was a solo for Magoo's Scrooge. Styne and Merrill told him it was for "Funny Girl." It was 'People', which would become a huge hit for Barbra Streisand."[12]


All home videos are Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1, Rating G (MPAA certificate #20330), Running time 52 or 53 minutes (exclusive of any extra features).

  • US Television Release Date: December 18, 1962
    • Production Company: United Productions of America (UPA)
    • Available Formats: VHS • Laserdisc • DVD • VHS: Clam Shell • VHS: Slip Sleeve
  • 1970 Theatrical release; United Productions of America (UPA)/Maron Films Limited[13]
Mr. Magoo's Holiday Festival "Matinee Only" Motion Picture Double Feature:
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
Mr. Magoo's Little Snow White
  • 1977; Book version adapted from the cartoon feature by Horace J. Elias. 64 pages.
  • 1982; VHS; Paramount Home Video; VHS 2320
  • September 28, 1994; VHS, Paramount Home Video, NTSC, ASIN: 6301175239, UPC: 097361269337
  • January 1, 1999; Laserdisc
  • October 23, 2001; VHS, Good Times Video, NTSC, ASIN: B00005OLAZ
UPC: 018713074584 (VHS Clam Shell); UPC: 018713766656 (VHS Slip Sleeve) ISBN 0-7662-0858-3
  • October 23, 2001; DVD, Good Times Video, Region 1, ASIN: B00005OLB3, UPC: 018713812391
DVD Features: Audio: English, mono Dolby; A history of Mister Magoo in film and TV; Retrospective of composer Jules Styne and lyricist Bob Merrill; Movie poster; Bonus Magoo cartoon short
  • September 24, 2002; VHS, Sony Wonder (Video), NTSC, ASIN: B00006HB09, UPC: 074645433332
  • September 24, 2002; DVD, Sony Wonder (Video), Region 1, ASIN: B00006HAWI, UPC: 074645433394
DVD Features: Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0); A history of Mr. Magoo in film and TV; Career retrospective of the composer and lyricist; Poster; Mr. Magoo Meets Gerald McBoing Boing short
  • September 14, 2004; DVD, Sony Wonder (Video), Region 1, ASIN: B0002I82ZA, UPC: 074645864198/073892864104
Format: Color, Dubbed, Original recording remastered, NTSC; Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Sep 4, 2007; DVD; Classic Media[14]
  • Nov 10, 2008; DVD; UCA[14]
  • Nov 16, 2010; Blu-ray/DVD; Classic Media; 2 Discs - Collector's Edition[14]
  • Oct 4, 2011; DVD; Classic Media

In popular culture[edit]

Baltimore-based rock group Animal Collective titled their debut album Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished after a line in the movie spoken by Mr. Magoo.

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol was parodied in The Simpsons episode "'Tis the Fifteenth Season" as "Mr. McGrew's Christmas Carol".

Clips from the special were seen in the television monitors in the 1988 Christmas comedy film Scrooged.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Official Jule Styne Website". Julestyne.com. 1962-12-14. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Hill, Jim (November 28, 2006). "Scrooge U: Part VI -- Magoo's a musical miser". JimHillMedia.com. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  3. ^ Murray, Noel (2010-12-20). ""You will be visited by 69 spirits": 23 TV episodes based on "A Christmas Carol" | TV | Inventory". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  4. ^ Kurer, Ron (2007-10-25). "The Nearsighted Mister Magoo". Toon Tracker. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  5. ^ Conan, Neil (host) (2006-12-25). "Choose Your Favorite Scrooge" (audio). Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2007-01-03. 
  6. ^ a b Howe, Tom (2002). "Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Scrooge". Featured CED VideoDisc No. 26 - Fall 2002. CED Magic. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  7. ^ "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol Cast & Crew List". The Big Cartoon Database. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  8. ^ "June Foray Biography (1919-)". Theatre, Film, and Television Biographies. Film Reference.com. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  9. ^ Biographies of the Voice Talents, Featuring Jim Backus (DVD special feature). SONY. 2002. 
  10. ^ "Movie review". Epinions.com. Archived from the original on 2008-01-15. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  11. ^ Taylor, Theodore (1979). Jule: The Story of Composer Jule Styne. Random House. ISBN 0-394-41296-6. 
  12. ^ http://www.cleveland.com/tv-blog/index.ssf/2012/12/christmas_classic_with_mr_magoo_returns_to_nbc.html
  13. ^ source: 1970 movie theatre posters
  14. ^ a b c "DVD Releases for Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol". AllMovie. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 

External links[edit]