Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol
|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
|Music by||Walter Scharf|
|Distributed by||UPA (1962-2000)
Classic Media (2000-2012)
DreamWorks Animation (2012-present)
|December 18, 1962|
Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol is a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's famous short story A Christmas Carol starring the character Mr. Magoo. Aside from the 1950 marionette special The Spirit of Christmas, it was the first animated holiday program ever produced specifically for television, originally airing in December 1962, and the only one until the stop-motion 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. 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. 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 1994 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 series to the air for the first time since the 1980s; the special 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. A scene remains missing from the DVD version that was included in the original television program. In the scene, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to a large country home. In it we see Belle later in life. Her husband and children come home, and it is obvious that they are a happy family getting ready for Christmas. Belle's husband remarks to Belle "I saw an old friend of yours in town today," i.e., Scrooge, and tells Belle how mean and unhappy he looked. Belle turns and stares at the snow falling outside the window and the tune from "Winter Was Warm" is reprised. This scene underlines the happiness that Scrooge missed out on, and also demonstrates the sense of loss that Belle still feels even though she lives such a good life. The CW acquired the broadcast rights to the special for the 2014 season.
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. 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.
Comparisons with the Charles Dickens story
The story is the familiar Dickens tale with Mr. Magoo (voiced by Jim Backus) cast as Scrooge, and Gerald McBoing-Boing (in a rare speaking role) as Tiny Tim. The cartoon is written as a Broadway theatre play, divided into acts with an actual stage curtain. In the often-cut opening and closing, the near-sighted Mr. Magoo arrives at the theatre, takes his bows with the other actors, and accidentally demolishes the stage scenery at the end. The 19th century English characters Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, etc., are thus not seen directly, but instead are portrayed by fictional American actors playing their parts. They generally have no British accents.
Comparison with the book
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. Nor is Scrooge's sister Fran 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, as there is in Patrick Stewart's made-for-TV version. A number of references to Scrooge's (more accurately 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
|Jim Backus||Ebenezer Scrooge
|Jack Cassidy||Bob Cratchit|
|Royal Dano||Marley's Ghost|
|Paul Frees||Charity Man
Top Hat Man
|Joan Gardner||Tiny Tim
Ghost of Christmas Past
|Marie Matthews||Young Scrooge|
|Laura Olsher||Mrs. Cratchit|
|Les Tremayne||Ghost of Christmas Present|
Note that sources differ on credits for the Eye Patch Man, 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. However, Foray has stated on several occasions that she was not in the show at all. 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.
"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.
In the Christmas Past sequence, Backus/Magoo as Scrooge sings in poignant duet with Scrooge's younger self (sung by Marie Matthews), 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]." 
- 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, once beloved of young Scrooge, sings of the cooling and hardening of his feelings toward her in "Winter Was Warm", a song of lost and yearning love. She is saddened that he has chosen gold over her, and he protests that that is the "way of the world", as he forlornly tries to cling to her. Broadcast television airings starting from the late 1980s cut the scene in which Belle sings "Winter Was Warm", despite the fact that the theme permeates the score as bridging music. Additionally, a chorus rendition of "Winter Was Warm" during the end credits was replaced by a reprise of "The Lord's Bright Blessing".
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 a finale, Scrooge and the Cratchits sing a reprise (with happier lyrics) of "The Lord's Bright Blessing".
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."
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
- 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.
- 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 & 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
- Nov 10, 2008; DVD; UCA
- Nov 16, 2010; Blu-ray/DVD; Classic Media; 2 Discs - Collector's Edition
- Oct 4, 2011; DVD; Classic Media
In popular culture
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.
- "The Official Jule Styne Website". Julestyne.com. 1962-12-14. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
- Hill, Jim (November 28, 2006). "Scrooge U: Part VI -- Magoo's a musical miser". JimHillMedia.com. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
- 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.
- Kurer, Ron (2007-10-25). "The Nearsighted Mister Magoo". Toon Tracker. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
- Conan, Neil (host) (2006-12-25). "Choose Your Favorite Scrooge" (audio). Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
- Howe, Tom (2002). "Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Scrooge". Featured CED VideoDisc No. 26 - Fall 2002. CED Magic. Retrieved 2006-12-25.
- "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol Cast & Crew List". The Big Cartoon Database. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
- "June Foray Biography (1919-)". Theatre, Film, and Television Biographies. Film Reference.com. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
- Biographies of the Voice Talents, Featuring Jim Backus (DVD special feature). SONY. 2002.
- IMDB commentary
- "Movie review". Epinions.com. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
- Taylor, Theodore (1979). Jule: The Story of Composer Jule Styne. Random House. ISBN 0-394-41296-6.
- source: 1970 movie theatre posters
- "DVD Releases for Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol". AllMovie. Retrieved 2011-01-18.
- Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol on Internet Movie Database.
- Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol on JuleStyne.com.
- Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol at AllMovie
- Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol on Big Cartoon Database
- Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special, by Darrell Van Citters
- Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol on Popdose.Com