- Year: 1982
- Director: Jean Tych
- Starring: Ron Haddrick, Robin Stewart, Barbara Frawley
I can’t even start on this review without talking about my issues with the freaking DVD cover. A picture with Scrooge holding a present and smiling spoils the ending, but I’ll let that go. The animation style of the film is drab and not at all like the 3D style the cover suggests. While I suppose the woman on the cover is supposed to be Mrs. Cratchit, the befuddled gentleman with the white hair and glasses resembling Benjamin Franklin is nowhere in this film. The man behind him doesn’t even appear to have eyes. And you dare to put this in something called the CLASSICS COLLECTION? (I suppose they’re saying the book is a classic, but it’s deliberately misleading.) Alright, rant over, on to the actual review
As you know, I love Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol so much that I reviewed ten separate versions of the thing last year. Some were good and some were bad, but I was trying to review the most famous and most important. This year, I wanted to find the very worst, and various sources suggested that this 1982 offering from Australian television was the special I was looking for.
Really? This is the animation style in the worst version of A Christmas Carol? It’s actually quite nice… until you get to the character design.
It is unbelievable how lazy the animation in this is. While characters walk in the foreground of the scene, characters in the background do not move. The camera often pans around characters who are frozen in place like department store mannequins. Look, if you’re going to slack on animation, wait until your audience is already drawn in to the story so they don’t care as much. Remember Muppet Christmas Carol? The investment of Michael Caine’s performance and the quality of the songs dipped around Christmas Present, but the first 8 minutes of that film were phenomenal. They won their audience. Now, I wish that whole film was consistently great, and I am of course not promoting laziness in film making, but this movie clearly doesn’t care from the get-go.
Scrooge is voiced by Ron Haddrick… I assume. At the end, it just lists all the voice actors without telling us what characters they played, and IMDB doesn’t know either. Maybe no one wanted to be any more associated with this than what was necessary for a paycheck. As you also might be able to tell by the picture, this movie has a weird obsession with Dutch angles. I’d call it a weird stylistic choice, but it’s probably just an excuse to show the exact same drawing from a different angle.
The voice acting in this ranges from tolerable to absolutely terrible. Scrooge sounds like a duck a lot of the time, (which was fine in Mickey’s Christmas Carol) and he says “Bah Humbug” probably more than any other Scrooge. Also, it appears that the animator who drew Scrooge was told he was drawing the old man in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and they just went with it anyway.
The charity workers are without a doubt the worst iterations of these characters I’ve ever seen. How hard is it to say “We’re collecting money for the poor. Can you help?” Here, they both sound like drunk people trying to do their best Cockney accents, and their mannerisms are stilted and awkward. The red-haired one in particular has a voice so grating that I have a feeling the actor lost his voice and they couldn’t afford a replacement. This is honestly the first version in which I don’t blame Scrooge for telling the charity workers to buzz off.
Scrooge goes home, where he is confronted by the ghost of Dee Snider… I mean Jacob Marley.
Seriously, what is going on with Marley here? I mean, I guess hell being a never-ending season of Rock Star: Motley Crue is as accurate a depiction as any, but this Marley looks nothing like the Marley of the flashbacks.
I mean, the nose is the same but how is this the same person? In a movie that is clearly skimping at every Dutch angle, why did they entirely redesign this character to look like someone that would get kicked out of a Juggalo convention? Also, I think he’s voiced by Gravelly McMumbleson as well, but I suppose life on the road will do that to your voice.
Every version of A Christmas Carol tends to do their own unique (often terrible) take on the Ghost of Christmas Past, but what is up with He-Man Skywalker here?
This ghost tries some humor that ends up results in more shrugs than laughs. After Scrooge tries to avoid going outside by saying he has a cold, this exchange happens:
- Past: You’ll be warm enough after the life you’ve led.
- Scrooge: You mean, there is such a place as hell?
- Past: Your past is hell enough.
Hold up, Marley is trying to help Scrooge avoid his fate (some portray it as hell, others as purgatory), but now the Ghost of Christmas Past says there is no hell except for a bad past? What kind of punishment is Scrooge trying to avoid then? If the only hell is in fact Scrooge’s past, and the ghosts are here to save him from hell, then he’s being punished already. This makes absolutely no sense.
After showing him his childhood, Christmas Past takes Scrooge to Fezziwig’s famous Christmas party… except in this version there are a total of seven people there. Yep, the most crowded lively scene in most adaptations is here populated just by the four Fezziwigs, Scrooge, Dick, and a fiddler, yet they treat it just like the wild parties of every other version.
When Scrooge realizes where he is, Christmas Past asks him if he has a “beetle in his pants.” While I assume this is an expression somewhere along the lines of “ants in your pants,” I kept expecting “Wonderful Christmastime” to start playing somewhere in the vicinity of Scrooge’s crotch (Happy Xmas (War is Over) is far too good of a song to be included in a special this shoddy.).
While the Ghost of Christmas Present is clearly inspired by British depictions of Father Christmas, here they just take the common image of Santa Claus and run with it.
As usual, Christmas Present explains that he has over 1800 siblings, which we of course understand to mean that there has been one every year since Christ… but since this Scrooge is unbearably stupid, Christmas Present goes on to clarify “By the year 2000, there will be 2000 of us.” Thanks, that was a necessary line. We’ve got just an hour long special, but we needed to include that just in case you missed exactly what we were going for.
Christmas Present takes Scrooge to the baker, where he magically turns the poor’s small turkeys into large ones with what I assume are fun holiday hormones.
They then go to the Cratchit home, where Christmas Present doesn’t bother to do anything to the family’s small meal, because Scrooge should be a better boss and it’s all his fault. None of the voice actors portraying the Cratchits are as painful as Scrooge, the ghosts, the charity workers, a hernia, etc. but none are exactly good. It’s particularly strange that the family plays Blind Man’s Bluff with Tiny Tim (great job, you caught the crippled kid) and then proceed to talk openly about him as if he’s not there, when he’s sitting in the corner.
Again, the animation is so cheap that the bowls are filled with no food known to mankind. What is this green goop they’re all eating anyway?
This special actually does stay in the spirit of the book by having Christmas Present show Scrooge people he doesn’t know celebrating Christmas, but the ghost goes from the Cratchits home in London to a distant lighthouse back to Fred’s house in London. He’s only alive for one day and he’s taking these extended detours?
In most versions, Christmas Future shows Scrooge the scariest scenes, but here it’s Christmas Present who shows him the scariest thing of all: animation so cheap we see the edge of the paper it’s drawn on.
The Christmas Future scenes are tolerable I suppose. There’s nothing as unbearably bad as the earlier scenes, except for Scrooge taking way too long to figure out he is dead in this future (but to be fair, that’s an issue in many versions). I’ve seen much worse designs for the Ghost of Christmas Future at least.
The only really obnoxious thing about the ending is Scrooge singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” which is surely offensive to Charles Wesley, Charles Dickens, Angels, and guys named Harold.
At the end of the day, there’s just no heart in this thing. Everything about it just seems like a cheap cash-in, from the careless animation (Drink every time they don’t show the characters’ feet) to the poor voice acting. With every version I watched in last year’s match-up, there was something great about it, whether a character or an image or just an idea, but this is a complete throwaway. Let’s see where it lands on the Christmas Spirit Meter.
We’ll call it a tie with fruitcake, as both are dry, lazy and don’t stick with you for very long. This is just forgettable. Yeah, there are some moments that are offensively bad (Scrooge 1970’s hell scene is still worse than any one scene in this though), but for the most part, it’s just the blandest telling of A Christmas Carol out there. It’s the current placeholder for worst, but it will very likely be unseeded soon.