Cover of Mr. Magoo's Christmas CarolA Blog-o-rama Christmas!
Before 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer', 'A Charlie Brown Christmas', 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas', and all of the hundreds of other animated Christmas specials that you can think of, one name stands alone as the first prime time animated Christmas special. That, my friends, would be good 'ole loveable, crotchety, near-sighted Mr. Magoo, voiced perfectly by irascible Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island).
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol
Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol is a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' famous short story A Christmas Carol. It was the first animated holiday special ever produced specifically for television, originally airing in December 1962, and the only one until Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was first shown in December 1964.
Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol was produced by Henry G. Saperstein, the UPA animation studio in its declining days. Commissioned and sponsored by Timex, it first aired on NBC on December 18, 1962.
Audiences and critics consider this program to be a holiday classic, due in part to the original songs of the Broadway team of Jule Styne (music) and Bob Merrill (lyrics), who collaborated on the musical Funny Girl soon after their work on the special. As recently as December 25, 2006, many listeners told the National Public Radio program Talk of the Nation that Mister Magoo was their favorite Ebenezer Scrooge.
The story is the familiar Dickens tale with Mr. Magoo (voiced by Jim Backus) cast as Scrooge, and Gerald McBoing-Boing (in a rare speaking role) as Tiny Tim. The cartoon is written as a Broadway theatre play, divided into acts with an actual stage curtain. In the often-cut opening and closing, the near-sighted Mr. Magoo arrives at the theatre, takes his bows with the other actors, and accidentally demolishes the stage scenery at the end. The 19th century English characters Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, etc., are thus not seen directly, but instead are portrayed by fictional American actors playing their parts. They generally have no British accents. The comic song "We're Despicable" is set at the grimmest part of the drama, and self-consciously breaks into the story. -Source: Wikipedia
Besides Jim Backus as Magoo/Scrooge, the show also had a celebrated cast of voice actors including Morey Amsterdam as James Brady, Jack Cassidy as Bob Cratchit, and Paul Frees as several voices including Fezziwig. Frees, in case you weren't aware was a distinguished voice actor in roles too numerous to mention. Perhaps his most memorable is as the voice of the narrator in Disneyland's and Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion.
Count me in as one of those who consider this the best of all Christmas specials. I remember actually seeing this when I was growing up at a local movie theater in a special Christmas afternoon triple feature for kids.
Amazingly for me, it is now on Hulu in it's complete, unedited version. And yes, here it is for you on the Blog-o-rama. So, if you haven't seen it scheduled this year on TV (I haven't) or don't already have the DVD, take the time to enjoy this treasure now.