Pros: Faithful, funny and well-done version of Dicken's classic.
Cons: Minor...a few songs are less than great.
I just had the pleasure of watching Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol on sparkling Blu-Ray. I was fortunate enough to be given a free copy to review, but with the understanding that I always give my honest feedback, and a freebie was no guarantee of a good review.
Well, there needn’t have been any concern. I have not seen this particular classic TV special since my childhood. (It arrived in 1962…I arrived a year later.) I have no particular affinity with Mr. Magoo or his antics…but he proves to be a perfectly fine Ebenezer Scrooge. Mr. Magoo becomes Scrooge because in this story, he is a modern Broadway performer, debuting in the new musical version of the classic Dicken’s story. So we are briefly introduced to Magoo as we might normally see him in another cartoon…but quickly, the curtain rises and he becomes Scrooge, with only minimal Magoo-like characteristics.
This telling of the classic tale is breezy and fast-paced. It’s very faithful to its source material, including taking lines directly from Dicken’s writings. Because this is a 1962 production, there is not really the irony that we see in so many current versions. It tells the story with sincerity, and this sincerity might be appreciate by parents who would like their children to just know the story without so much special effects clutter or modern cynicism. The show is also a musical and features a number of songs by Jule Styne (Broadway great…FUNNY GIRL, etc.) and Bob Merrill. Not every tune is a homerun, but many are quite funny (many of the best visual jokes accompany the songs) and a couple are fairly moving.
The animation for this early color TV special is pretty rudimentary. This is not Pixar or even classic Disney. It’s early TV, but honestly, it has a late ‘50s/early ‘60s flair & style to it that make it quite fun to watch. The whole thing feels DESIGNED, rather than just low-budget. The animators did a great job, and even better, the voice actors bring so much color and life to the proceedings.
The new blu-ray / DVD combo set is lovely. There’s a nice booklet talking about the history of the show. There’s a postcard of Magoo & Tiny Tim, “signed” by Jim Backus (who played Magoo, of course) and there are more bonus features than I would have expected from a 50 year old TV special. They are brief and while I wouldn’t call them “essential viewing” they DO add to an overall understanding of how the show was put together. This collection is a very fitting tribute to what was, after all, the first true animated Christmas classic for TV…paving the way for RUDOLPH, CHARLIE BROWN, FROSTY and more. I’d rank it right up there with the best of ‘em.