DVD Review: Disney Animation Short Film Collection -- Classic Short Films Volume 7: Mickey's Christmas Carol (1993)

Now Available to Own

Previous Titles in the Series:
6 Classic DVDs
From the Disney Animation Collection

Most would surely join Ebenezer Scrooge in saying, “Bah-humbug,” since you can't out-Dickens, Charles Dickens, yet when it comes to his beloved holiday classic A Christmas Carol, it hasn't prevented individuals from the areas of stage and screen from trying like the dickens to do just that. And they've attempted the feat by staying one hundred percent faithful to the text as well as freely adapting the work into something contemporary from Scrooged to casting Jim Henson's The Muppets or ignoring the holiday angle completely in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past just to name a few of the more immediate ones that spring to mind.

Most likely before the book has even been thrust into their hands from an older relative, it's safe to say that by the time an American who celebrates this particular holiday has reached their teen years, they've no doubt seen dozens of variations of what pop culture has ensured has become Charles Dickens' most famous work.

While I'll grant that many of the efforts have actually turned out quite well, in my mind, there's still no greater presentation of Dickens' tale wherein the mean-spirited curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge is shown the error of his ways by an overnight trio of alternating ghostly visitors than the one I'm currently reviewing.

Similar to the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and my personal overlooked favorite starring Garfield, Mickeys' Christmas Carol has become one of those holiday season staples you look forward to seeing again just as much as decorating the tree or making frosted sugar cookies with too many red and green sprinkles.

Having made its world premiere as the short film tie-in with Disney's theatrical re-release of their 1977 film The Rescuers, the Oscar nominated 1983 creation helmed by Burny Mattinson is further historically significant for featuring Mickey Mouse in a new short film since studio budget cutbacks had left the character back in the Disney vault thirty years earlier following the unveiling of 1953's short The Simple Things.

Luckily for Mickey enthusiasts around the globe, he hadn't appeared to age a day in thirty years. Likewise, he looks better than ever in this reissue of the favorite as part of Walt Disney's Classic Short Films Animation Collection as the seventh volume that ties in three additional thematically similar holiday shorts together along with a gorgeous collectible Litho Print of a scene from Mickey's Christmas Carol.

Along with the reemergence of Mickey, Wayne Allwine made his feature film debut providing the voice that my generation would come to associate Mickey Mouse with the most up until his unfortunate passing in May of 2009. Although he'd begun to “play” Mickey in the late '70s on TV, the release of this short film brought both Mickey and Allwine's voice to the masses in an unprecedented way as simultaneously another era ended in the same film that also offers the memorable Clarence Nash's last vocal work as Donald Duck.

While it's truly Dickensian and admirably does its best to honor the work in a brief twenty-six minute running time, the thing that I always responded to the most in this version of Carol (unlike some other takes) is that it was a throwback to classic Disney animation's theory as Walt Disney had always told his animators how important it was to make the characters emotionally believable.

The first studio that consistently drew you into the plight of its animated characters in ways that you won't forget from crying over Bambi's mother or being frightened by the hunter in Snow White or some of the horrors awaiting Pinocchio reminds us once again why they stood out (and still do considerably) from the rest of the pack.

The transfer of the title-- which I know has been previously available and likewise plays often on television-- looks bright and far bolder than another more current Disney title I reviewed this week in 1999's Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving. While I'm unsure if this particular release was specifically remastered or it's just continued to be touched up and taken care of over the years, its beauty is unmatched with crisp colors and details that pop which you can see for yourself when you move to some of the dated short films.

While all three extra films are unique, The Small One in particular is perhaps a bit too depressing for younger viewers despite the fact that there's a sudden cameo by Joseph that turns frowns upside down in a Bethlehem tie-in at the end which Sunday School teachers will love. In another classic short I hadn't seen in ages, I was treated to Santa's Workshop which is a perfectly timed marriage of music and movement with the result being animation bliss. However, the one that surpasses even the title work itself is Pluto's Christmas Tree which is hands-down my favorite Mickey Mouse short of all time.

Not being familiar with it by name alone, I was delighted to see it once again on this review copy as Chip and Dale stow away in the tree much to the annoyance of Pluto in an imaginative, colorful confection. A childhood favorite-- the short walks that irresistible fine line between the madcap chases or chaos found in rival studio works like Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry with the sweet underlying message of friendship and unity for which Walt Disney is known.

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