Case Number 17380: Small Claims Court


Disney // 1983 // 64 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 30th, 2009

The Charge

Celebrate the holidays with Mickey!

The Case

If I never see another adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I would shed no tears. The story has been adapted literally hundreds of times, perhaps partially because the story is so easy to adapt to any setting. We've seen adaptations of the story by The Muppets, the Looney Tunes characters, The Smurfs, and...well, just about everybody. One of the more well-regarded versions is the 1983 television special Mickey's Christmas Carol, which serves as the highlight in the latest installment of the relatively new Disney Animation Collection.

In "Mickey's Christmas Carol," we meet the mean-spirited miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Scrooge McDuck, naturally). His assistant Bob Cratchit (Mickey Mouse) attempts to convince Scrooge of the value of Christmas, but Scrooge is having none of it. After all, Christmas is a day in which people are doing stupid things like spending time with their family instead of engaging in commerce. However, on Christmas Eve night Scrooge is visited by three different ghosts (Jiminy Cricket, the giant from Mickey and the Beanstalk, and an unidentified shadowy figure) who attempt to teach him what Christmas is all about. The production is an exceptionally tender and good-natured affair, actually feeling like a logical extension of the franchise rather than a crass commercial attempt to cash in on the holiday (anybody remember Shrek the Halls?). The animation is particularly lovely, and the voice work (featuring such veterans as Hal Smith and Alan Young) is top-notch. This 25-minute tale most assuredly deserves its top-billing status. Understandably, "Mickey's Christmas Carol" looks quite stellar due to being relatively new. The special is almost entirely free of scratches and flecks, while the level of detail is sharp and clear. Colors occasionally seem a bit faded, but there are no problems otherwise. The stereo sound is fresh and clear in terms of dialogue and sound design, though some of the music is slightly distorted.
Grade: A-

Next up is another 25-minute story, "The Small One." The 1978 television special is one of the most explicitly religious productions in Disney's history, offering a behind-the-scenes story of the donkey that would eventually carry the pregnant Mary to Bethlehem. The protagonist of the story is an unnamed boy, who regards the donkey (simply named The Small One) as his best friend. They play together at the end of every day, and life is carefree for both of them. Sadly, the day comes when the boy's father tells the young lad that he must sell The Small One. Unfortunately, it seems that no one wants The Small One. All of the potential buyers tell the boy that the donkey is too puny and scrawny for them. Dejected and defeated, both the boy and the donkey start to descend into despair...that is, until they meet a kind fellow named Joseph. It's a very straightforward and charming tale, benefiting considerably from warm animation and direction courtesy of Don Bluth. The transfer is a bit rough, as scratches, flecks and discoloring afflict the imagery throughout. The audio is also a bit distorted and pinched. Still, the simple story is well worth a look, as it represents good storytelling in the classic tradition.
Grade: B+

The next two pieces included on the DVD are very brief animated shorts. "Pluto's Christmas Tree" is a seven-minute piece in which Chip n' Dale cause a great deal of mischief and generally make poor Pluto very grumpy. I was startled to discover that this short was made in 1952, because it looks and sounds amazing. Far and away the best short on the set from a purely technical perspective, it's clear that Disney has gone to great pains to clean this one up. The short itself is merely a cute diversion.
Rating: B-

The final installment is the six-minute "Santa's Workshop," in which a group of cheerful elves prepare for Christmas. This is one of those "slice-of-life" shorts, in which witnessing the basic pleasures of witnessing a musical presentation of the eccentric way in which things work in the North Pole serves as a substitute for the complete lack of a plot. Technical qualities are pretty disappointing, particularly in the audio department. Everything sounds as if it were recorded in a tin can. Meanwhile, the image is blurry and covered in scratches and flecks.
Rating: C-

There are no extras on the disc, aside from a collectible litho featuring an image from "Mickey's Christmas Carol."

Despite the inclusion of the throwaway "Santa's Workshop," this disc is a stellar collection of holiday-themed animated shorts. Recommended.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Disney
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 64 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Collectible Litho

* IMDb: Mickey's Christmas Carol

* IMDb: The Small One

* IMDb: Pluto's Christmas Tree

* IMDb: Santa's Workshop