Nov 6, 2009

Richard Williams' A Christmas Carol

This youtube posting is not of the very best quality to say the least, but I was reminded of this special yesterday and the impact it made upon me when I first saw it-old Magnavox, living room floor, Hancock Park, the 70s. One viewing cemented Richard Williams for me as someone working among animation's elite, although if I remember correctly he got a lot more press later for his "Return of the Pink Panther" titles.
But this TV special was just wild. It still is--even in these few clips, just the layout alone...amazing. And while I'd put the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Alastair Sim version a close second, the way it's done here is the most faithful to Dickens' description--a great marriage of film, drawing and concept realized together. And Marley still shocks me.



10 comments:

John-Michael Morgan said...

Nice find! Of the late, the only animated adaptions of this story were with Scrooge McDuck and Mr. Magoo.

-jmm

Jeff Pidgeon said...

Thanks for the timely post! This is still my favorite version, since it frightened me in my childhood and is still unsettling today (as I think a good ghost story should be).

Scares aside, it's got a great feeling for the setting, and uses it to strong effect - beautiful emotional and visual contrasts that plummet to bleak emptiness and return to friendly joy.

Sadly, I think it's still not available on DVD.

Joel Brinkerhoff said...

One of my favorites. It too cemented Richard as a force of animation nature. I had forgotten Jone was producer on this.

Jeff Pidgeon said...

I had no idea - according to Wikipedia, it won the 1972 Oscar for Best Animated Short. The Academy's policy was changed soon after that to disqualify any shorts first aired on television.

Robert said...

Although it's not out on DVD you can still see it all (in four parts) on Youtube.

Geez, that pan that starts at 0:53 is amazing. Is that all one painting?

David Nethery said...

This film made a big impression on me when I saw it on television. (I was 9 years old) After one or two airings in the early 70's it seemed to disappear. But I always remembered it vividly and finally located a 16 mm print from a library (around 1983). I'm glad it's available to view on YouTube, but the image quality is greatly diminished and it's really surprising to me that this film isn't out on DVD. It had a brief release on VHS about 8 years ago (or more) but the company which released it has never put it out on DVD which is odd given that almost any holiday-themed animated movie (no matter how poorly made) seems to get released to DVD , but this beautifully crafted film is not available ! Why ?

In my collection I have a cel from the film, from a scene animated by Abe Levitow. I let the AbeLevitow.com legacy site reproduce it on their site from the scan of the cel I posted on my blog :

The Ghost of Christmas Present, drawn by Abe Levitow

I wish the film were longer. It often feels rushed to get through the essential scenes of Dickens' story in 26 minutes to fit into the "half-hour TV Special" format. I suppose it was hard enough arranging the budget for a half-hour TV Special animated on this scale, but I wish they had been given an hour to tell the tale. The film feels like a compilation of sequences cut down from a longer film. (that doesn't actually exist)

Matt J said...

Ronald Searle told me that he had planned an animated version in the 60s-can yoou imagine how that would've looked?!

Anonymous said...

This remains the sole animated special to win both the Oscar and the Emmy, yet it's never been on DVD. The original production was sponsored by a consortium of banks, in a deal partly arranged by executive producer Chuck Jones. Money was tight even in 1971, the first year that it aired. Perhaps ownership is holding up a DVD release.

David Nethery said...

A one-hour version designed by Searle and animated by the Richard Williams Studio would have been amazing !

Alishea said...

I use to watch this as a kid on my grandmother's old VCR. I had to fast forward through the part when the ghost of the present shows Scrooge the two grotesque children! I was so little and it would scare the begeezus outta me! Great post! thank you!