Cinelinx gets its humbug on with Mickey's Christmas Carol on Blu-ray!
The Dickens classic gets the Disney treatment, with Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer and Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit. Features the voices of Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Hal Smith, and Clarence Nash.
Directed by Burny Mattinson.
It’s hard to believe that Mickey’s Christmas Carol is now 30 years old, and to celebrate, the Dickens/Disney mashup gets a Blu-ray release that features a restoration of the film and some nice extras.
At only 26 minutes, the Oscar-nominated short flies through the Dickens tale, but we get an entertaining story that hits all the tentpoles. It’s populated with a slew of Disney characters, including a number of lesser-known supporting characters Disney fans will recognize from classic films. It is nice to see Mole and Badger from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad are still working after all these years. Jiminy Cricket, Pete, and Willie the Giant all fill the roles of the Christmas spirits nicely.
Scrooge McDuck (voice of Alan Young), of course, is Scrooge, and Young gives the character a perfect reading. The film is notable for being the first to feature Wayne Allwine as the voice of Mickey Mouse, and sadly, this was the last film to feature Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald Duck. Nash died two years after the film’s release.
The cartoon is entertaining, and even tugs at the heart when Scrooge begins to make his turn. The scene in which Scrooge sees the future, only to witness a tearful Mickey at the grave of Tiny Tim, is still heartbreaking after all these years. It leads to an emotionally satisfying ending, which is still effective even though we all know how it ends.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol is a solid cartoon, even if the subject matter isn’t very Disney-ish. It likely won’t entertain very young kids raised on today’s overly-silly cartoons, but it will score with older kids and adults nostalgic for a classic Christmas tale with classic Disney characters.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Mickey’s Christmas Carol has been digitally restored for the Blu-ray, and like the recent restoration of The Sword in the Stone, the video image has been artificially manipulated to appear brighter and sharper. As a result, the original intended presentation is lost. The screenshots in this review are taken from the DVD included in the Blu-ray set.
The Blu-ray image has been digitally cleaned to remove the original film grain, which takes out some detail. The image comes across as a bit soft, and the original animation outlines were either left soft and a bit out of focus, or lines were retouched to appear bolder and darker. While some of the muted colors seem consistent, others (especially in brighter scenes) seem retouched. It results in an inconsistent quality and an image that is decidedly different from the original. While this appears to have been done to make the image appear “newer” for younger viewers, it is softer than the image seen in lower-resolution DVD releases. Sometimes, it is OK for a cartoon to show its age.
The audio has very good clarity overall, but in a few scenes, it appears the original audio track had a hollow, canned quality, so the sound suffers. .
With the feature being so short, Disney offers some great additions to boost the overall viewing time, and the value of the disc. Here, like previous DVD releases, Disney adds Christmas and winter-themed shorts as extras, and we get a mix of classic and current cartoons.
The shorts are led off with “Yodelberg” from 2013, a Mickey Mouse cartoon that combines the vintage “Steamboat Willie” look with modern, madcap Looney Tunes humor. The classic 1939 cartoon “The Hockey Champ,” in which Donald Duck teaches Huey, Dewey, and Louie hockey, is also included.
Perhaps the most well-known of the bunch is 1952’s “Pluto’s Christmas Tree,” in which Chip and Dale find their home used as Mickey and Pluto’s Chistmas tree. The 1941 Goofy short “The Art of Skiing” is also included, as is 1951’s “Corn Chips,” in which Chip and Dale do battle with Donald Duck over popcorn.
While “Yodelberg” looks great in high definition, obviously, the restoration on the classic shorts is much better than what Mickey’s Christmas Carol received. While the colors do seem brightened up a bit, Disney did not feel the need to overdo the digital cleanup, so the shorts retain more of a vintage look. Film grain and - dare I say it, dust specks - can be seen in some of the cartoons (Corn Chips in particular). Still, the quality is excellent, with a sharp picture that doesn’t sacrifice the original animation art.
Also included is a Christmas carol sing-along featured as an intermission, which can be seen when the viewer pauses the film. With the classic songs “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” included, it’s a nice touch.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR NETFLIX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Video: 5 (feature only)
Audio: 7 (feature only)
Overall grade: 7
A collection of classic Disney shorts is always welcomed, although the overdone restoration (if one can call it that) on Mickey’s Christmas Carol is a big letdown. The bonus shorts save the disc, making it a worthy buy for the holidays.
Release date: November 5, 2013
Running time: 26 minutes (features only), 58 minutes (additional shorts included)
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English, French, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish
Special Features: Five Disney shorts, Disney “Christmas Carol Sing-Along” Intermission
Label: Walt Disney Home Entertainment