About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol

If you're a fan of the 1962 animated TV special Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, you must check out Darrell Van Citters' book Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special.  The 2009 hardbound book is not only filled with color stills from the original TV special but it includes photos of the original sketches and artwork from the production as well as photos of the creators, artists, staff, and the voice talent.  A fascinating read, the book gives the details behind the history of the Academy Award-winning, nearsighted Mr. Magoo character in theatrical animated shorts and the UPA studio in general.  I never connected that UPA was busy making the feature-length Gay Purr-ee at the same time they were making Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.  I grew up watching Gay Purr-ee on TV in the 1970s--I'd love to see it again!  This history of UPA productions will also answer questions about why Tiny Tim looks just like the cartoon character Gerald McBoing Boing.

The animated feature Gay Purr-ee was made concurrently with Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

What also caught my attention was the author speculating about the unusual order of the visits by the Ghosts of Christmas.   In the 1962 animated version, the Ghost of Christmas Present visits Scrooge before the Ghost of Christmas Past--a change from the logical order established by Charles Dickens.

Have you ever noticed that Scrooge visits the Present before he visits the Past in this animated version?  In the above photo, Scrooge lays a comforting hand on his younger self during his journey to a Christmas past.

In addition to detailing the animation process, the animators and the evolution of the story, the book also covers the involvement of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, the composer and lyricist for the musical numbers, the vocal talents, and the details behind the recording process.   You'll certainly come to appreciate the effort and love that went into creating the TV Christmas classic.  Another element I never quite connected before reading the book is the obvious influence of the musical Oliver! that was on the stage in London at the time.  Surely this successful musical of another Charles Dickens book, Oliver Twist, would have been a timely inspiration.  The book also mentions that Styne and Merrill collaborated again on the 1965 live action Christmas TV special The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood with Liza Minnelli--a TV musical that I've come to love.

The book also includes details about the many actors whose voices brought these Christmas Carol characters to life.  Did you know that Jane Kean, who performed the singing voice for Belle also played Trixie Norton in the later 1960s color episodes of The Honeymooners?

Considering the importance and the influence of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol on the history of Christmas on television, this book is surely a must-read.  Have you seen my earlier post on the 50th anniversary of 1962 animated classic?  Click HERE for the link to that original post.  I'm so excited to see that NBC is going to air Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol in prime time on Dec. 22nd, 2012 at 8pm (ET).  Click HERE for the link to the NBC holiday specials listing.  Hopefully a younger generation will discover what some of us already know--that this animated Christmas Carol is an entertaining treat.


  1. Just ordered it from Amazon, thanks to your post. Such a beautifully animated special, looking forward to reading more about it! Thanks!

  2. Very cool. Sounds like the book was a labor of love! Glad the special is airing on NBC, although I just added it to my Netflix queue!

  3. This hotel was recommended by a friend and lived up to every expectation!! The decorations and music put you in a good mood and get you ready for the Christmas season! What to Buy Dad for Christmas