A Christmas Carol (1971) is a 25-minute animated cartoon adaptation of Charles Dickens’ book which was originally shown on Dec 21, 1971 on ABC television in the United States.
Originally produced for television in 1971, A Christmas Carol was recognized for its excellence and nominated for an Academy Award… but there was a problem. Only films shown theatrically were eligible. So, the short was released briefly in theaters to make it eligible! It went on to actually win an Academy Award for best animated short subject in 1973; it remains the only film adaptation of the story to date to be so honored. However, some industry insiders were unhappy that a short originally shown on TV was awarded the Academy Award, which led to the Academy changing its policy, disqualifying any shorts that were shown on television first. This adaptation has a distinctive look, created by multiple pans and zooms and excellent scene transitions. It also was largely inspired by John Leech’s illustrations for the original edition of the novel “A Christmas Carol.”
Alastair Sim, Michael Hordern and Mervyn Johns reprise their roles as Scrooge, Marley and Bob Crachit from the classic British film version of A Christmas Carol.
Director Richard Williams, previously known for his stylized animated movie titles and TV commercials, went to work for animation studio owner Chuck Jones with the understanding that the film should be, as the subtitle says, “A Ghost Story of Christmas.” And a ghost story it is; one of the reasons that the TV network stopped running it several years after its debut was because it was deemed too frightening for children.
Jacob Marley lays on the horror in a jaw-dropping scene!
The dark and atmospheric scenes make it perhaps the scariest adaptation ever made! Many kids that saw it have not only fond memories of it, but also relate how frightening some of it was to them. Which is how it should be in any effort that tries to remain faithful to the original story.
Richard also wanted the drawings to reflect the look of the John Leech drawings from the original publication of the book, and the film seems at times to be Leech’s pen-and-ink drawings come to life. More an exercise in artistic expression than a typical cartoon, the film has a dynamic and energetic motion invested in nearly every frame. The camera swoops and zooms, combined with the unique artwork and backgrounds, make it a wonderful viewing experience.
For your viewing pleasure, here is the entire film, available on Youtube!
Here are some screengrabs from the film that enable you to see the great artwork and character designs.