A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1997)

Christmas Carol-a-Thon 2022 continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at the often-overlooked animated version from 1997.

christmas carol 1997A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1997) – This musical cartoon version of the Dickens classic was produced by DIC, the animators known for the early Real Ghostbusters and Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons. The animation quality is adequate but nothing outstanding. However, I will say I find this version’s animation superior to that in the 1982 Australian cartoon A Christmas Carol.

The songs range from bland and forgettable to annoying. I take back everything bad I ever said about a few of Leslie Bricusse’s songs in Scrooge. Every bit of his work towers over the “striving for competence” songs we get in many other Christmas Carol renditions. Santa’s Sooty Suit from this one sticks in your head but not necessarily in a good way.  

Tim Curry of all people voices Ebenezer Scrooge and shows how good he can really be. If you’re like me, you can’t see anything but Dr. Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show whenever Curry appears as himself on screen. Because he gets to hide behind animation in this production it’s much easier to lose yourself in the character he plays, and he does an excellent job. 

Michael York provides the voice for the long-suffering Bob Cratchit and is pretty good. He certainly doesn’t distract from the proceedings in any negative way. This is one of the Carols in which Tiny Tim (Jarrad Kritzstein) comes to visit his father at work, so their relationship gets an early affirmation that pays dividends down the road.

From dividends we go to Debit, Scrooge’s cartoon canine sidekick who is unique to this version of the story. Debit doesn’t ruin the movie, but being a Carol geek I couldn’t help but note how out of place it is for a cold, callous figure like Scrooge when we first meet him to tolerate a dog or any other companion. Maybe Debit should have been the Cratchit family dog and could have come with Tiny Tim to visit Bob.   

When Scrooge stops off to dine after work, the waitress mentioned in the book is fleshed out a bit in this production and even gets to sing a song. To me this was a very nice addition. Per my own personal preference for adaptations of books the fact that she IS referred to in the original text makes her fair game for character expansion. 

Ed Asner voices Marley’s Ghost and has just the right kind of weary resignation to his fate that drives home what Dickens intended for the figure. This 1997 cartoon includes a look at the other wandering spirits who share Marley’s fate, so that earned this film additional points from me. That crucial moment is left out of too many adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is played by Kath Soucie, who also provides the voices for Mrs. Cratchit and Ebenezer’s sister Fan. Instead of an androgynous spirit clothed like an early Christian, this ghost is depicted as a poor beggar child in contemporary apparel. It’s certainly not a fatal change.

Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog may remember that I get bored with the way so many Carols extend the time spent with Scrooge’s lost love Belle. She overstays her welcome here, too, but for trivia buffs I’ll mention that she is voiced by The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel – Jodi Benson. She and Ebenezer get a duet that is nice but no showstopper.

Whoopi Goldberg is cast as the Ghost of Christmas Present and does a thoroughly inept British accent that will make you forget all about Dick Van Dyke’s awful Cockney effort from Mary Poppins. Her performance is the worst in the entire production and is Razzie worthy.

The one nice part about the Christmas Present section this time around is the way this is one of the few versions which keep the novel’s depiction of the spirit aging as it accompanies Scrooge (“Are spirits lives so short”). Some reviews claim that this movie was the first time a black woman played the Ghost of Christmas Present but that’s not true. In 1995, the Susan Lucci Carol, titled Ebbie, featured Lorena Gale as Christmas Present.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come segment is dealt with nicely, as are Scrooge’s Morning After conversion scenes. This cartoon has Ebenezer visit the Cratchit family on Christmas Day to punk Bob before giving him a raise. Scrooge’s nephew Fred and his wife show up at the Cratchit home, too, to save time I guess.

Overall, this version of A Christmas Carol is more than worth watching, and makes for good semi-annual viewing, as opposed to an every single year Carol. The running time is just 72 minutes, so it will depend on individual attention spans to decide if this animated movie is right for any children you may have around.

I like this Christmas Carol more than this review may make it seem, it’s just that I try to avoid the trap of routinely smothering every version with nonstop praise. 

FOR MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE:   https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/

10 Comments

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10 responses to “A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1997)

  1. A feel good Christmas movie with a liberal dose of reality. Love it!

  2. Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It is the little changes that will make the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  3. Garrett Kieran

    This version was, if nothing else, an honest effort. The songs, to me, are memorable enough on the spur of the moment, but don’t really stick out in memory. But they don’t detract from the story like the overall score of the Kelsey Grammar version. Also, a word on Whoopi Goldberg. While her accent was certainly unusual enough, it was creative enough that (at least) I wasn’t thinking about the voice actor, which is often a problem in animated movies.

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