Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Carols

Ahhh, we're going to talk a little bit about holiday cartoons and Christmas Carol. The blog starts off with a Christmas comedy record, not really a "cartoon" but technically the stars that appear on the recording are all first-rate cartoon voice actors. Stan Freberg released this comedy recording at the height of his popularity in the world of comedy records. He wrote the satire about the over-commercialization of Christmas, aiming his recording at advertising, a field in which he himself was a member of, which made the recording even more hard-hitting. Freberg plays the part of "Scrooge", a big-wig on Madison Avenue searching for new ways to promote products using a Christmas theme. Daws Butler co-stars in the recording playing "Bob Cratchit", the voice of reason, attempting to sway Scrooge's plots of commercializing the holiday for profit. Along the way Scrooge sings songs decorated in commercialism and tries to show how meaningful Christmas can be to your wallet. Cratchit's attempts backfire, of course, as Scrooge gets frustrated by Cratchit's agenda of trying to show what Christmas is really about; Scrooge, unshaken by Cratchit's pleas for less profit during December, shouts "wake up, Cratchit...it's later than you think!" to which Cratchit meekly replies "I know, Mr Scrooge, I know" as the production moves to it's finale...before coming to an end amidst the sounds of a cash register ringing out a sale. In spite of the song's attack on commercialism, Freberg continued to work in the advertising world throughout the '60s, '70s, and '80s.


In the above picture, Scrooge McDuck, a character in the Walt Disney universe, plays the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in the now-classic 1983 short film Mickey's Christmas Carol. The film marked the first time the character's voice was provided by Alan Young, a face actor known for his role as Wilbur Post on Mister Ed. The film featured Mickey Mouse as Cratchit and Donald Duck as Fred, Scrooge's nephew. Wayne Allwine provided the voice of Mickey for the first time while Clarence Nash provided the voice of Donald for the last time. The film celebrates it's Silver Anniversary this season, 25 years since it's original release. Scrooge McDuck, primarily due to the voice acting of Alan Young, would go on to headline the mega-successful series DuckTales in the later part of the 1980's.

The Flintstone cast got into the Christmas Carol act as well. This wasn't the first Christmas special featuring the Bedrock bunch but it's the only one intentionally re-creating the Christmas Carol story. In it, Fred portrays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge for a town play. The plot involves Fred becoming obsessed with the part that he in "real life" starts to carry himself like a thoughtless miser-type. Soon, reality and fantasy blend together as Fred gets caught up with being a "star". Wilma initially isn't a part of the play until Fred's co-star becomes ill...causing the producers to cast Wilma in the role vacated by the Bedrock bomb shell. This, however, leads to more irritation as Fred sulks over having Wilma be his leading lady instead of the glamourous actress. Barney plays the Cratchit role while Bam-Bam is Tiny Tim. Henry Corden voiced Fred Flintstone while Jean Vanderpyl voiced Wilma. Frank Welker voiced Barney and BJ Ward voiced Betty. Don Messick voiced Bam-Bam and Joe Rockhead. John Stephenson voiced Mr Slate.


In the Bugs Bunny Christmas Carol, several of the characters from the Warner Brothers library get into the spirit. Yosemite Sam is easily depicted as the Scrooge character. The short was only eight minutes in length but it's widely remembered. Porky Pig played the role of Cratchit while Bugs Bunny appears as himself, trying to get Scrooge to see the light of day about his stinginess, dressing up as a ghost in the process. The short appeared in 1979 as part of a special called Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales which also featured the short subject episodes "Freeze Frame" and "The Fright Before Christmas". Mel Blanc voiced all the characters except the women, they were voiced by June Foray.

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