Mickey’s Christmas Carol at Forty


  • James Hamby


This year marks not only the 180th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, but also the 40th anniversary of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. This film is significant because it was the first time Mickey Mouse had appeared as a major character in a longer animation for many years, and because it served as a bright spot for Disney animation, which had experienced a drop in quality since Walt Disney’s death in 1966 that would last until the Disney Revival beginning with the release of The Little Mermaid in 1989. The voice acting, the animation (especially the sumptuous backgrounds), and the writing were all far superior to the animated feature-length films the Disney corporation had been producing for nearly two decades. For me, however, this production has a great deal of personal value. My parents recorded the network television premiere on VHS, and I watched it over and over. In it I found a different type of Christmas magic that had nothing to do with Santa and reindeer. It was a story of ghosts and other-worldly beings who shatter the stark realism of Scrooge’s counting house and Bob Cratchit’s poverty. It was a story that insisted upon the necessity to find good in the world, even in such a terrible miser. It was a story that taught me we are all interconnected and that we have obligations to one another. After a few years of watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol, I graduated to the VHS cassette my had father labeled “Versions of a Christmas Carol” that contained the adaptations starring Reginald Owen (1938), Alastair Sim (1951), and George C. Scott (1984). These films told the same story in different ways, and I became intrigued with the time period, with Dickens, and with the way a work of fantasy could comment on the social realities of our world. In many ways, Mickey’s Christmas Carol began me on my path to becoming a scholar of Victorian literature.