In my humble opinion Disney’s A Christmas Carol is the best version I’ve ever seen (I’ve not seen them all-there’ve been more than 50) of the Charles Dickens classic novella. Yes, some of the dialogue and action deviated from the novella but at the same time it stayed true to Dickens more than any version I’ve ever seen. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against modification of the original. It’s not the Bible. With the story Dickens helped secularize Christmas while at the same time keep the Spirit of “Peace on Earth-Goodwill to Men.”
Nevertheless, it’s always been my favorite Christmas story (other than the original) and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie as did my nine year old son. On the way home we discussed some of the finer points of the story.
I hear that some folks thought Disney’s depictions of the ghosts were a little too “scary.’ No doubt young children would be frightened by some parts of the movie. In fact they are represented in the movie about as close to Dickens’ descriptions as could be. Dickens originally named the book, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. The ghosts were meant to frighten Mr. Scrooge and they did.
As far as I know it’s also the first movie that includes the scene in which Mr. Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas Present why he allows people to demand that grocers, bakers, and other establishments at which people might acquire food be closed “every seventh day.” The Spirit replied it is not he but people of the earth who do their “deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name [Christmas].” The Spirit tells Scrooge, “Charge their doings on themselves, not us.”
Dickens was obviously describing the hypocritical religious people of his day; people who spoke with piety but acted very differently toward their fellow man. That scene is where Disney inserted a reference to “men of the cloth” evidently to make sure audiences knew the Spirit was speaking of religious people. I don’t think it was necessary.
With A Christmas Carol, Dickens helped return Christmas to a time of joy and goodwill. By the 1840s Christmas had become in England and America a rather somber and commercial affair. So too, Dickens drew on his childhood experiences as a poor boy and his adult empathy for England’s poverty stricken population.
Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” is sure to take its place among such Christmas classics as It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. It will at least in my movie library.
May it be said of us like it was said of Scrooge, that we know how to “keep Christmas well.”