MISTER MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL: The Animated Special That Launched a Gajillion Animated Specials

Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962) – Starring Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy, Royal Dano, and Paul Frees.

Not that you shouldn’t always respect your elders, but you definitely should respect them at Christmas. And not because they’re more likely to spoil you that way, but because of ’tis the season and deck the halls and all that.

MISTER MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL was, according to the Never Wrong, the first animated Christmas special produced especially for television and not starring marionettes. Pre-dating Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by two years, MAGOO rightfully earns our respect as an important cultural treasure.

Also, it’s rather awful.

I mean, it’s really rather dreadful stuff. Truthfully, Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is one of those adapted stories that’s been done so many times there’s nothing special simply by the existence of another. One of the ways adaptations of A Christmas Carol have overcome the familiarity is to “stunt cast” the special. So we get Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit or Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Unfortunately, there’s no familiar characters in the Magooverse, so we just get a bunch of actual characters.

The premise is a good one – Magoo is a Broadway actor putting on A Christmas Carol and so what we’re watching is a projection of a stage play. The problem is that it’s just not very engaging stuff. The songs are full of Broadway bombast and other than “Ringle, Ringle” they’re just not very appealing. The problem, too, is that Magoo is just not a very interesting character to me. He’s this blind old buffoon who stumbles and bumbles his way through life, which is bad enough, but then the play has him playing old and mean.

The story is not poorly told, but it can’t escape Magoo sitting right there in the center of nearly every scene.

I didn’t enjoy MISTER MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL but I respect it’s importance in the long line of holiday specials. For 1962, a relatively straight-forward adaptation was probably a marvel, but for me, a plain adaptation starring an unlikable character is a special I don’t have much desire to watch.

Be sure to check out the Holiday Review Index for all the Holiday-themed reviews to be found at Atomic Anxiety.

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