An Adaptation of Dickens' Christmas Carol (1974)

This is a bit unusual for us, in that the media in question is a record, rather than a special. There are, of course, countless audio recordings of A Christmas Carol - as a rule of thumb, we don't bother tracking those down, as they're rarely well-known or influential enough to justify a review. This one is a little more interesting. Despite its unassuming title, this adaptation, courtesy of Disney Records, was the source material later adapted into the 1983 animated film, Mickey's Christmas Carol, which in turn led to the creation of DuckTales.

Like the movie, the album features Disney characters playing the cast of Dickens's story. The lead role, of course, is Scrooge, featuring Alan Young as Scrooge for the first time. Young co-wrote the album and would of course reprise that role in the '83 film, as well as Scrooge McDuck on DuckTales (the McDuck surname gets a brief callout on the album when Ebenezer Scrooge lists a couple debtors).

Quite a bit of the story and content on the album were reused in the script for Mickey's Christmas Carol, though there are a number of significant changes. First, the album is narrated by Scrooge himself, which allows for the inclusion of some of Dickens's descriptions, arguably making this slightly closer to the original than the animated version.

The most pervasive change comes from the fact this, unlike the short film, is a musical. There are a number of songs sung by Scrooge and other characters throughout the narrative. Stylistically, these are clearly intended for kids. The music is simplistic, the lyrics straightforward and silly, and you could obviously cut the songs entirely without affecting the narrative (which is more or less what they did in 1983). All that's a long-winded way of saying I didn't much care for the music (though, to be fair, I'm not exactly the target audience).

The other obvious change comes from the cast of characters. Scrooge, Donald, Goofy, and Mickey are the same, as is the Ghost of Christmas Present, but several minor characters are played by different Disney characters and most notably the Ghosts of Past and Future are different. Here, Past is portrayed by Merlin, while Future is the witch from Snow White. At least that's what we're told.

Neither of them sound anything like their counterparts from the movies. Merlin sounds far younger than he did in Sword in the Stone. It's difficult to imagine why they chose that character if they couldn't find a better match for the voice actor. The witch is even more jarring, though I at least have a theory as to what they were thinking. She sounds nothing like either iteration of the character in Snow White, but I wouldn't call her unrecognizable, either. Instead, she has a cackling laugh that seems to have been modeled after The Wicked Witch of the West from the 1939 Wizard of Oz.

I should note that while the witch laughs constantly, she doesn't actually speak until the end, similar to the way Pete didn't speak until the end. It's an unusual choice, but an interesting one.

The other major change is the end of the story. For the most part, it starts ending the way the animated would nine years later, with Scrooge spending Christmas dinner with the Cratchits. But rather than close on that scene, they include a version of the sequence on Boxing Day in which Bob shows up late, Scrooge pretends to be angry, and then reveals he's a changed duck. I find this strange, as Scrooge and Bob have already made amends the previous day, making the idea Bob would fear for his job unconvincing. To be fair, this medium is more forgiving when it comes to the subject of continuity, so take this how you will.

Unless you're obsessed with Mickey's Christmas Carol, there's really no reason to track this down. The aspects of this that are good - namely, Young's voice acting and the comedic beats - are all elements you're familiar with. Everything that was cut or changed was done so with good reason in my opinion. But people interested in the development of Mickey's Christmas Carol may find some interesting tidbits and hints as to the process the animated movie went through. For example, the opening portrays the story as deviating from typical holiday tales due to its frightening content, an indication they were viewing this as a ghost story from the outset.

But the value of this is really limited to its academic appeal. The music is too childish to appeal to most adults, and frankly too antiquated stylistically to appeal to kids today. This was used to construct a timeless animated film, but the recording itself is kind of dated.