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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). Originally broadcast by ABC television, it subsequently had a brief theatrical run, allowing it to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

London, 1843: On Christmas Eve, Ebeneezer Scrooge, a notorious miser and curmudgeon, is visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley warns Scrooge that he must change his ways to avoid a terrible fate in the hereafter, and tells him of the coming of three spirits: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. These spirits will teach Scrooge how to keep Christmas.

Michael Redgrave narrates the story, while Alastair Sim and Michael Hordern provide the voices of Scrooge and Marley, reprising their roles from the 1951 live-action feature Scrooge.

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, although a lot naturally 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.
  • 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.
  • This Is the Part Where...: During the "Are there no prisons?" exchange with the two men soliciting him for donations to the poor, Scrooge preemptively quotes their own response from the novel rather than even give them a chance to speak:
    Scrooge: Yes, I know, you'll tell me that many can't go there, and many would rather die; well, they'd better do that, and decrease the surplus population. Good afternoon, gentlemen.
  • 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:
    • This is one of the few versions to show Marley's jaw falling down onto his chest when he unties the bandage around his head.
    • 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. Before he leaves, he also introduces Scrooge to the spirits of Ignorance and Want, and tells Scrooge to beware of them. These scenes are almost always left out of adaptations, but they are included here.
    • This version also shows the Ghost of Christmas Present spreading Christmas cheer with flicks of his torch, and proportionally aging over the course of a single day, two plot points from Dickens that other adaptations rarely use.
    • Scrooge enjoying the characters in books is kept.
    • This is the only adaptation to depict Belle wearing mourning attire during the scene where she and Scrooge breakup.
    • This is one of the few versions that features Scrooge extinguishing The Ghost of Christmas Past with a giant candle snuffer.
    • Scrooge confronting his shrouded corpse is included in this adaptation.
    • This cartoon also includes the book's subtitle "Being a Ghost Story of Christmas", which virtually no other adaptation does.
    • 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.