Have you been out and about lately? Maybe doing some Christmas shopping? Or out to dinner?
Maybe you just got home from commuting back and forth to work?
In case you haven’t noticed, the world is a horrible place. Why? Because people suck. All of them. In fact, I often feel like the world would be much better if some apocalypse did happen and wiped us all out.
We’re savages. A point that has been made countless times, but bears repeating, is that we’re all selfish assholes, throwing dung at all the other selfish assholes to achieve some end that may, or may not, be known to even us.
If you’ve driven anywhere in the past 20 years, you know this already. The anonymity of the modern vehicle allows people to act the way they naturally are because they don’t have any fear of social consequences.
Last night, my wife was taking that Personality Test that is so popular on facebook right now. She wanted to ask me the questions, so I said, “Skip to the end, mine is ‘Nihilistic Misanthrope’.”
Turns out, I’m a “Dreamer Idealist”.
Because, as I’ve said a thousand times to my friends, I don’t hate humanity because we are awful. I hate us because we are incredible beings, capable of achieving limitless heights of greatness on this earth, but yet we choose to be the worst things ever created.
People starve every day, in our own neighborhoods and cities, but yet we blow our money on 3D televisions and living the most decadent lifestyle that we can afford. Notice I use the pronoun “we” here, as I am indicting myself just as much as my fellow man.
Or, like our eternal friend Mister Scrooge, we horde it for ourselves. Whatever makes us happy.
“Mankind should have been my business!!!!” – Jacob Marley’s doomed soul.
Why do we love Charles Dickens’s masterpiece “A Christmas Carol”?
Why is it a perennial holiday favorite? I, personally, own at least four different versions of it. My favorites being Muppet, Mickey, and Magoo. The George C. Scott one is great, too.
I believe it is because we all identify with Ebeneezer Scrooge. While watching, or reading, any version of this classic tale, I often wonder what the bluebloods of the world think about it.
We are all selfish and miserly.
But, like Scrooge, we all think we can change. It’s that hope that we can all become some sort of benevolent force of good that makes us love it. None of us are “Mr. Scrooge as redeemed at the end”, but we are all Mr. Scrooge at the beginning. Granted, most of us don’t have the means that Scrooge has, just to go throwing our material wealth around willy-nilly, but think about the wealth and means that we do have. We could all volunteer our time and, for the most part, able bodies to affect some change in the world. To make it a little less horrible and, by proxy, give humanity a little bit of redemption.
It’s the story arc, the classic Darth Vader tale of a good person turned evil by an evil world, but redeemed despite it all.
Plus, “A Christmas Carol” is, in Dickens’s own words, “A Ghost Story of Christmas”. And we all love ghosts and Christmas.
“Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” is the first Christmas Special. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.
Take that in for a minute. I’ve never lived in a world without Christmas Specials. Rankin/Bass was already churning out the hits by the time I had any concept of Santa Claus or “Silent Night”.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have been a kid in 1962. No Rudolph every year. No Heat Miser.
For a kid in 1962, Mr. Magoo must have hit like an atom bomb.
For those who don’t know, Mr. Magoo, the title character, is an old man who is blind, which is a strange protagonist for a cartoon. Most, if not all, of the gags revolve around him being blind and refusing to acknowledge it. Sort of a Don Quixote situation, except Magoo isn’t mentally disturbed, just stubborn.
Mistaking fire hydrants for lovely ladies, accidentally crossing a street in heavy traffic, going into one place and thinking it is another, are all classic Mr. Magoo tropes. He stumbles and bumbles his way to success, like a Barney Fife or Ernest P. Worrell.
In 1962, Magoo was an already-established character, and the audience would have been familiar with his schtick.
That said, without doing any research whatsoever and going on my own intuition, I get the impression that this version of “A Christmas Carol” may have been intended as Magoo’s triumphant return to television. After a little research, I know that it was the animation studio’s last-ditch effort to save their business. It failed to do that, but succeeded in becoming a holiday classic, despite most kids these days having no clue who Mr. Magoo is, or his contributions to television.
Before we get started sho’ nuff, I wanted to say a couple things about this special.
1. Its complete running time is about 52 minutes. That means that in 1962, kids got 52 minutes of show and 8 minutes of commercials. The full feature is on the dvd, which I am currently using for this review, so if you notice a scene that you don’t recognize, it’s because television people are greedy Scrooges.
2. VeggieMacabre requested that I do this. Blame him if you hate it, but I must thank him for the idea and for getting me to revisit this almost-forgotten classic.
3. I love animation from the 60’s. These days, it’s all about computers and making things look as real as possible. In “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” there is still a touch of whimsy, like you might see in the best Disney stuff from pre-Pixar. It is all hand-drawn, and it all looks great. This is the kind of stuff that made me want to draw comics when I was a kid, and even though I still can’t draw really great, it makes me remember that things don’t have to look great to look good or be good. You don’t have to be Jimi Hendrix on the guitar to write a great song.
On with the show… as always, you can click on the pics to make them big as Christmas.
The show starts out in New York City, with the short intro serving as a frame story of Magoo is back-back-back on Broadway. I have no idea when he was first on Broadway, but Magoo is delighted to be back, but the Moog is also old and blind and probably senile. In fact, seen from that angle, this whole thing could just be some feverish Old Man Dream, while the Moog himself lies dying in a nursing home in Des Moines.
Apparently these people are famous Broadway folk. They wrote the songs, which is the main difference between the Goob’s Christmas Carol and other versions; there are original Broadway-style songs smattered throughout and, believe it or not, are actually tolerable, if occasionally bordering on the stupid.
Still, it makes you wonder if Magoo’s Christmas Carol was seen by anyone at Disney in the early 1990’s.
I have no clue what the layout of Manhattan is. I’ve been there twice and the whole time I had no clue where I was. All I know is 42nd Street was home to all the grindhouse theaters in the 70’s. Maybe the Goob is heading to catch a peepshow before he hits the stage.
Magoo is old and he drives an old car. What kind of car is this? Ford Speedbuggy? Chevrolet Dragula? I like that goose horn on the side. That way everyone will know to get out of this blind asshole’s way. Magoo is a perfect example of why old people should have to re-take their Driver’s License test. There’s no way Magoo should be driving. You’d think a rich star like him could at least afford a cab.
I really like how the theatre looks. Everything is purple and red. This frame story, of the theatre and Magoo getting there, is cut completely out if you catch this one on television. The audience is ready to see Quincy play the part of Scrooge.
Jacob Marley. Dead as a doornail these seven years now. Look at that mug! He’s scary looking already! And as the scariest ghost of the entire tale, when I saw this for the first time, I hafta admit I got a little nervous.
These fellas come by looking for a handout from Scrooge. You know the story. It’s weird, but I hafta wonder if these guys have no clue who Scrooge is. In other versions of the tale, including the book, we’re led to believe that Scrooge is fairly notorious in the jolly ol’ town of London. Surely someone could have told them not to waste their time with this old cheap bastard. Although they don’t know that Marley is dead, so maybe they’re from somewhere else.
It really doesn’t matter, as this scene’s purpose is just to show how much of a dick Scrooge is, even at Christmas.
Magoo takes this opportunity to sing a song about how much he loves money. It’s the kind of song you might sing while you make coffee, “Doo doo doo… making coffee…. doobie doobie dooooo…” I do that, anyway.
This shot here made me think of the final scene in Slaughter High, where Marty, played by poor, doomed, Simon Scuddamore, looks right into the camera and peels a bit of his own face off.
I know that’s not really Christmas-y of me. Still, that image jacked up my dreams in 1986, so it stuck with me. And Magoo looks just like it here.
That turns the song into a duet about money, from two perspectives. Here we have a good split-screen shot comparing the blueblood misers with all the money, to the hardworking proletariat who has nothing. Not even a lump of coal. Ya gotta think a good guy like Cratchit, with all his million kids at home, would have tried to find better employment somewhere. Maybe he’s a masochist. Cratchit’s wearing a ball gag at home in bed, is what I’m saying.
Bob: “Yessir, Mister Scrooge!”
I knew it. Pervert.
Seriously though, this is the first time he says “Bah, humbug!” in the show.
This is a running gag throughout Magoo’s Christmas Carol, a nod to his usual blind antics.
People shouting is scary. If I was in Scrooge’s shoes at this point, I think I would lose my mind with fright. Instead, he’s like, “Nah, I don’t really want any more ghosts tonight, thank you.”
I haven’t really mentioned it, but the dialogue in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is almost word-for-word from the book. This may not seem like a big deal, but it means that they didn’t dumb it down for the kids, an example followed by the Muppets in their fantastic version of the tale. I can really respect that.
Yeah, for some reason, Present goes first in this version. And he’s the same shade of pink all over. And he looks like a Flintstone.
And while we’re at it, let me get something straight: the lifespan of Christmas Present is 24 hours. What about Past? Future? I guess they are eternal, which means Present gets a huge shaft up his hollyhole.
I guess Past is a kid, Present is a man, and Future is death. I’ve seen tons of versions of this story, and Past is many times the creepiest one, while Present is the most fun. I guess that’s a little metaphor for us: if we live in the present, it’s fun. If we live in the past, it’s sad. And if we think too much about the future, it’s scary.
So live in the here and now with Santa Claus.
It goes without saying, but he really does cut his eyes at the audience for a minute right here with an incredulous look. He can’t believe someone as stupid as Magoo is as rich as he is. Welcome to the real world, Santa Ghost.
Then he sings a crazy song about how someday they’ll have the stuff they want. This puts a little too much pressure on Bob, don’t ya think? As the sole breadwinner, Bob shoulda wrapped it up. So maybe it’s his own fault. Him and his Dom, having too much kinky unprotected sex. Tiny Tim is probably gimped up from some weird STD that Mrs. Cratchit got in an orgy down Whitechapel way.
Don’t look at me like that. They’re the perverts, not me.
Gross. You nasty little bastard.
The curtain opens on the next segment with Scrooge in bed, snoozing away. The theatre audience has been put on their toes by Magoo’s deviation from the usual order of Christmas Tense Ghosts. Will they skip to Future? Maybe go back and pick up the Past? Perhaps Magoo will throw them a curveball and trot out the Ghost of Christmas Past Participle? Who knows what to expect when the Present can leapfrog over the Past??? How’s a man supposed to live in the Present when he has no memory of how much his Past sucked donkey balls?
Scrooge reluctantly agrees to a Disney ride over Merry Old England, where people just live in castles in the middle of the city. Seriously, check that pic out. I wonder if whoever drew this has ever actually been to London. I have not. Therefore, I choose to now believe there are castles right in the middle of the city.
A famous line from the Ghost is when Scrooge asks it, “Long past?” and it answers, “No, your past!” Which makes me wonder why the Ghost doesn’t just look like a younger Scrooge, if he is the Ghost of Scrooge’s past.
Scrooge is on the streets when he was a boy, and he couldn’t be happier about it. He “Merry Christmas”-es every single person walking by, even though the Ghost tells him that they can’t see or hear him. I think it would be hard not to want to interact with your old friends. I’d probably try anyway, too.
Magoo remembers the pain of being left alone for Christmas, while all his pals went home. At first he claims to have not minded being solitary, but during the song he breaks down and cries and tries to comfort his young self. It really is a heartbreaking scene, and it reminds us that Scrooge wasn’t always this way. It was an evil, unfair world that crushed his young spirit. But like I said, it’s the fact that Scrooge can still be redeemed, in spite of having his soul pulverized by the fates, that we can all identify with and cheer for.
Check out that look on Past’s face. Past don’t give a fizz.
Scrooge: “Why, it’s old Fezziwig’s!!! This is where I first was apprenticed in the art of professional misering and skinflinting!!!”
I know I’m a 12-year-old, but I couldn’t help but laugh when he said that.
Fezziwig’s business is decked out for the annual Christmas party. The point of bringing Scrooge to Fezziwig’s is, of course, to show Scrooge that there is another way to conduct business. To show him that you can have compassion for your fellow man, yet still make a profit.
Everyone has a good time at Fezziwig’s Christmas Party! In every version I’ve seen, anyway. There may be a German version out there where Scrooge is taken to a factory and shown how much fun it is to not have a sense of humor, but I haven’t seen it.
Another staple in every version I’ve seen is some really good fiddlin’. You’ll also notice that all the fiddlers in these shows are old. That’s because that’s how long it takes to get good at fiddle. This guy probably started taking lessons when he was 2.
Not only does Scrooge get to see one of his role models, Fezziwig, but he also gets to see the girl he once loved: Belle. In some versions, the Fezziwig party is the first time he has met Belle. In Magoob’s version, Belle turns down several suitors before settling on the one that looks the most like a cave troll.
The break-up scene. At least they have the decency to do it in private. Belle doesn’t understand the pressures of modern London society. Scrooge is doing all this money-making for their benefit, but she sees it like he’s replaced her with money, as the thing he loves most. You can tell Scrooge here is trying to explain to her the way the real world is, but all she can think about is how he doesn’t pay enough attention to her.
Then, after a while, it starts to wane. Like Fall, the life starts to go out of it and the spark begins to go out. As a guy who has been married for a long time, I can say with some certainty that this metaphor is spot-on.
I love this shot. I like how the ice looks. As for the metaphor, the love in their relationship has grown cold and has died like the leaves on the tree. If Belle has stuck around, she’d know that Spring comes again after Winter, but she figured she could get a better deal elsewhere. Let her go, Scrooge. Look where you are now. Rich! And where is Belle? Probably dead of diphtheria or some other olde-timey English ailment.
As a horror fan, I’ve always liked Future the best. Even when I was a kid I found him to be thrilling. For one thing, he’s almost always portrayed as the Grim Reaper because, let’s face it, that is the only future any and all of us have. One day there will be a Christmas that we’re not here for.
Future also never talks. I can respect that. I don’t talk to strangers either. Even though, as a person who has an increasingly-unpopular blog, I “talk” to strangers every day, I feel like everything is best left unsaid.
Scrooge is kind of an idiot in this scene. In every version. He’s like, “Whose death are they talking about? And where am I? I’m always here at this time of day! And why do you look like the Grim Reaper, Spirit?”
This guy is doing a little snuff, which is something I’ve seen in several versions of “A Christmas Carol”. I’m always amazed at how many dumbasses don’t know what it is they are tooting up, and assume it’s cocaine. That seems like a safe assumption in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, don’t ya think? That some characters are getting capped out, right out there on the street?
The next scene has always been one of my least favorite, in any Chrstmas Carol incarnation. I’m sure as a kid I didn’t understand exactly what was going on here, so it was boring, but I still almost always think the Pawn Shop scene is boring and drags down the pace of the film.
One thing Magoober does, to try and spice it up and make it clear that what these people are doing is wrong, is to make the people at the Pawn Shop classic villains. They all look like they could be the antagonist on a lost episode of Scooby Doo.
In case you are unfamiliar with the story, as soon as this unknown person, who is obviously Old Ebeneezer Scrooge, died, these looters came into his house and swiped his stuff and are now selling it. In some versions, one of the three people is his maid. You’d think he’d put 1-and-1 together and recognize his maid and his own bedclothes. Maybe like a lot of us, he’s being willfully ignorant and ignoring the fact that it could be him that is dead and looted.
Scrooge then does a reprise of his hit song from earlier about being alone, while the “camera” pans around the graveyard, reminding us all that, in death, we are all finally alone and don’t have to put up with any more of humanity’s shenanigans.
Charity Guys: “?????”
At least it looks like no one has walked out yet. I don’t really know why they didn’t bother coloring everything differently and just hit everything with the purple brush. I assume it is because of budget constraints. It’s interesting now, to me, because it looks cool now, but back then it was probably strictly for financial, rather than aesthetic, reasons.
The cast takes a bow. Where’s Future? He doesn’t get to take a bow? Just because he doesn’t have any lines doesn’t mean he didn’t play his part with deft and nuance!!! Maybe one of these people played both parts. Typical cheapskate Magoo studio with their dual roles and half-ass backgrounds!
hyuck yuck yuck.
And that’s really it. It cuts to the credits and we’re left assuming that Quincy Magoo’s turn on Broadway as Scrooge was a massive hit.
To wrap it all up, like Bob Cratchit should have done: there are certainly better versions of “A Christmas Carol” out there. I prefer Muppet or Mickey’s, personally. But, Magoo did it on television first, so that deserves plenty of recognition. And I can only guess how weird it was to have a cartoon be in the style of a Broadway musical in 1962. Nowadays we don’t bat an eye when cartoons start singing and dancing for no reason, but other than the greatness of Bugs Bunny’s “What’s Opera, Doc?”, I can’t really think of a pre-1962 cartoon musical. Not in this style, anyway.
I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of Mr Magoo’s take on the Dickens classic and, like I said, if you didn’t like it, blame yourself for reading the whole thing first, but then blame VeggieMacabre. He made me do it.