It’s that time of year again, where we break out our disc collections of our favorite Christmas specials and movies. There is no story more done than Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. There are multiple versions of this, some more famous than others, a few that we would like to forget. Several actors have played Ebenezer Scrooge, from Alastar Sims, to George C Scott, Patrick Stewart, Kelsey Grammar, Michael Caine and Jim Carrey, to other comedians such as Bill Murray. It has also inspired many differing spin offs from Christmas style to even American style. Yes this story loosely based upon Joseph Smith being visited by the Angel Moroni, was so popular that it even inspired the modern Christmas that we know and love. At the time this book was published, the United States of America didn’t celebrate Christmas, nor did they have any intention of celebrating it. When Charles Dickens wrote it, he confused his fellow Englishmen, for Christmas at the time was remembered as a lewd and depraved celebration much more in common with Mardi Gras and Carnival. It was this story that brought about our modern Christmas. It took a while for Hollywood to adapt the story, but with the musical version of the 70’s and many people complaining that it embellished upon the book. Many more people set out to do more accurate portrayels of it. From the television movie starring George C Scott, to eventually Patrick Stewart doing a one man show of the story. However, Disney did their first version in 1983 with Mickey Mouse.
This short version brought to the screen Scrooge McDuck from the comics. Incidentally, Scrooge McDuck made his first premiere in December comics and was named after Ebenezer Scrooge. So it was him who would play the miser, with Mickey Mouse playing Bob Cratchitt, Minnie Mouse playing his wife, Donald Duck playing Fred, Daisy Duck playing Belle, Goofy playing Robert Marley, Jiminy Crickett playing the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant playing the Ghost of Christmas Present, Pete playing the part of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Ratty and Mole playing the parts of Poole and Hattie, and finally J Thaddeus Toad playing the part of Fezzywig. This short was Mickey’s first screen appearance in close to 30 years and proved an instant classic.
1992, Disney now partnering with Brian Henson who controlled the Muppets, did a version with the Muppets. Since no muppet was found to play Scrooge, Michael Caine took on the role. Kermit the Frog played Bob Cratchitt at Miss Piggy’s recomndation, while she would play Cratchitt’s wife. Fozzy played Fozzywig, Gonzo portrayed Charles Dickens, and Rizzo the Rat kept his usual role as Gonzo’s friend. Statler and Waldorf portrayed Jacob and his long lost literary brother Robert Marley. Sam the Eagle played a professor, and many other beloved muppets snuck in there. The ghosts were brand new Muppets that have never appeared again.
In 2009, Robert Zemeckis joined with Disney to do a Motion Capture version of the story. Starring Jim Carrey, who is the only actor to play all of Ebenezer Scrooge. Remember, in past we see the younger version of Ebenezer. However, like in plays and movies up to this point, the actors portraying prime Ebenezer and ghost stood off to the side and watched the scene unfold. So usually a younger male that could resemble the main actor was cast, but in this version, Jim could play all of these ages. He also portrayed the three spirits.
So how do these three versions line up with the written story. First consider this, two of these were heavily intended for children. Since children are too young to grasp the problems of a solitary life. Scrooge had to be portrayed as more selfish and greedy, so children can get that this is a bad thing. Most children who are bothered by siblings would like solitary. So Scrooge had to be upgraded. Also, gift giving wasn’t a custom of the time. At that time Santa didn’t deliver to anywhere outside of Scandanavia, and parents didn’t give children presents on Christmas. So Scrooge buying presents at the end is a way for modern children to grasp a changed heart.
Perhaps for adults as well. The constant theme of the book is death. A reminder that once dead there is nothing you can do. You are finished, your probationary life is gone. As bemoaned by Jacob Marley’s ghost. So when Scrooge sees his corpse, that he refuses to look at it, the signs of his demise, he refuses to accept them. Because it means he can no longer change. When he confronts the death of Tim Cratchitt, and immediately sees his tombstone, he sobs because he can no longer change. Obvious in Dicken’s days, but lost on modern audiences. The themes of hellfire are put into children versions to drive the message home.
So how does the modern motion capture compare to the book. It actually does so better than almost any version. For one, the lines aren’t watered down, being very surprising for Disney. Next, the ghost of Christmas Past was never anthropomorphical, it literally was a flame that would occasionally have a face of someone from Scrooge’s past. In essence the past can’t be rid of, no matter how much we try, it is a pesky reminder of who we are. The ghost of Christmas Future literally was a shadow, only it’s hand ever took form. It only took real form at the end when Scrooge begged mercy from it. As for the rest it is up to you to decide to like it or not.
So this Christmas season watch a version, I always watch multiple versions of this story every Christmas. For it is one of my favorites, and this story captures the spirit of Christmas better than any story I know of. To my 5th grade teacher miss Stoneman. I have read the book finally, when are you going to? Because Scrooge is barely based on the book.