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Western Animation / A Christmas Carol (1971)

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A Christmas Carol is a 1971 film adaptation of the novel of the same name. It is a half-hour animated film directed by Richard Williams (with Chuck Jones as executive producer, and Grim Natwick as an uncredited animator).

It's a faithful adaptation. Ebeneezer Scrooge, a notorious miser and curmudgeon, is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley warns him of the coming of three spirits: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet To Come. The ghosts teach Scrooge how to keep Christmas.

Alastair Sim and Michael Hordern star as Scrooge and Marley, reprising their roles from the 1951 live-action feature Scrooge.

Won the Academy Award for short animated film.


A Christmas Carol provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adapted Out: The young debtors celebrating Scrooge's death are left out, as is Scrooge's sister Fan.
  • Compressed Adaptation: It follows the story from the book pretty well for a 25 minute show, but naturally a lot had to be cut since it's only 25 minutes long.
  • Creepy Child: Ignorance and Want, who in this version look positively demonic.
  • Deranged Animation: Anything involving the ghosts, especially Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: The animated equivalent thereof, as the film proper (after the opening credits) starts with a long swooping pan over the roofs of London before zooming down to the window of Scrooge & Marley.
  • Narrator: Michael Redgrave provides narration.
  • Nightmare Fuel: A lot of it, crammed into 25 minutes. Jacob Marley is a terrifying apparition with rolled-back eyes and a hollow voice. Each of the three Ghosts has their own version of Nightmare Fuel, and as mentioned above Ignorance and Want are monstrous little things. (Ignorance in particular is quite scary-looking, gnashing its teeth at Scrooge as the Ghost of the Present warns him to "Beware this boy!")
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  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Being only 25 minutes long, hits most of the plot points of Dickens' book, but it does cut out the scene with Scrooge's sister.
  • Role Reprisal: Alistair Sim and Michael Hordern previously played the roles of Scrooge and Marley twenty years earlier in Scrooge (1951).
  • Time Passes Montage: An amazingly brief one in which the film shows Scrooge as a child at school bent over a book, then whips through several shots of a gradually aging Scrooge bent in the same sitting position, before finishing with him as a young man bent over his desk at Fezziwig's business.
  • Truer to the Text:
    • In Dickens' novel, the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge various scenes of lonely, isolated people keeping the holiday: a group of miners, two lighthouse keepers, and sailors on a ship at sea. These scenes are almost always left out of adaptations, but they are included here.
    • Scrooge enjoying the characters in books is kept.
    • The Ghost of Christmas Past comes closest to the description in the original book, with looking simultaneously old and young, its shape constantly flickering like a candle, and giving it the appearance of multiple eyes and limbs.


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