Richard Williams & Ken Harris (1971)
Still my favorite animated adaptation of my favorite classic Christmas tale, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol, based on the Classic 1843 novel written by Charles Dickens, was directed by Richard Williams and its visual style is also largely due to Ken Harris, credited as “Master Animator”. It starred Alastair Sim as the voice of Ebenezer Scrooge — a role Sim had previously performed in the 1951 live-action film Scrooge. Michael Hordern likewise reprised his 1951 performance as Marley’s Ghost in the same film. Michael Redgrave narrated the story and veteran animator Chuck Jones served as executive producer. Williams’ son Alexander Williams, then aged four, provided the voice for Tiny Tim.
This adaptation of A Christmas Carol has a distinctive look, created by multiple pans and zooms and by innovative, unexpected scene transitions. The visual style, which is unusually powerful, is inspired by 19th century engraved illustrations of the original story by John Leech and the pen and ink renderings by illustrator Milo Winter that graced 1930s editions of the book. The intended audience does not include young children, and the film’s bleak mood and emphasis on darkness and shadows lead some to consider it the most frightening of the many dramatizations of the Dickens classic.
Originally produced as a 1971 television special, A Christmas Carol was considered so well done that it was subsequently released theatrically, thereby rendering it eligible for Oscar consideration, and the film did go on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for 1972. Some industry insiders took issue that a short originally shown on television was given the award, and the Academy responded by changing its policy, disqualifying any future works initially shown on television.
Industry insiders should chill. Art is art, no matter its origins. To those persnickety insiders I say bah, humbug!