A Christmas Cartoon Collection! Tom and Jerry, Mister Magoo and Casper!
By Dave Newman on 21st December 2020
Today is a selection of requested reviews of shows available via Dailymotion, pretty much stuff I’ve never seen before or am not aware of having seen, so it’s almost all new to me.
First up, Tom and Jerry in The Night Before Christmas from 1941.
Some cheese with a ribbon around it awaits Jerry on a mousetrap, which he deftly avoids before surveying the presents under the tree, at one point getting his head trapped in the jaws of a toy lion. Eventually he ends up unwittingly on Tom, but seals his mouth with a ‘Do Not Open Till Xmas’ sticker before tricking him into grabbing a fairy light for a shock. The gloves are then on as they engage in an almost boxing match. The olive branch is almost extended with a kiss under the mistletoe, but it’s a distraction to get away.
Jerry is seemingly left outside with Tom enjoying the warm indoors. Kindness and goodwill to all men (and cats and mice) eventually prevails as Tom lets Jerry back in from the cold and growing snow, although he thinks he’s frozen him to death. He warms him up on the fire like a marshmallow. A candy cane is offered in apology, which Jerry uses to fish a mousetrap out of Jerry’s bowl of milk. He then retrieves the cheese off the original trap with the end of the cane.
A good start, as it’s a game of paying attention and watching out for the funny bits as well as the emotional touches, plus there’s a sense of enormity created in the room with a train track around the tree and other obstructions. Tom definitely comes off a little fruity, though!
Next, Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol from 1962.
Magoo plays the Ebenezer Scrooge role in this adaptation. Not having watched much of him beyond just being aware of the character and his quirks, I was impressed with the colours and angles used in the animation. Coincidentally, Marley is presented in a portrait as a green-skinned figure with a misshapen head. The two gentlemen looking for donations have bizarre hair that you can’t work out whether it’s sideburns or moustaches. The special is obviously a musical too, so songs are performed in Jim Backus’ braying voice. Jack Cassidy provides a very good English accent as put-upon Bob Cratchit.
The appearance of Marley on the doorknocker and in the fire is played in quite a creepy way and the sound effects are incredibly effective too in sending a chill down your spine. Royal Dano’s echoing voice for him is very stentorian, warning Scrooge/Magoo of his fate if he doesn’t change his fate. Then, strangely, we skip the Ghost of Christmas Past to go straight to meet the Ghost of Christmas Present, who takes him to the Cratchit home, including the lame Tiny Tim. As is often the case, he’s pretty overly precocious instead of being endearing. Upon taking pity on Tim, Scrooge is reminded of his “Decrease the surplus population!” remark before the act ends, pulling back to show the view within the theatre.
Back from the break, we now meet the Ghost of Christmas Past. He takes Scrooge back to his lonely childhood as a boy at school. Young Scrooge writes the names of his mother, father and sister on the blackboard, although Fan and Fred are absent from characterisation beyond that. Then to Fezziwig, his generous and friendly employer, and the party he holds where Scrooge enjoys the company of Belle, who is beautiful, but not as worth pursuing ultimately as money, leading to their separation.
Finally, the red-cloaked with skeletal hands figure of the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come, where he’s the whipping boy after his unknown death for anyone who came into his path. The people who steal from him are like witches and goblins and Old Joe wears a patch over his eye like a pirate. The song they sing matches and celebrates their terribleness (“We’re just blankety-blank-blank… Blank-blank!” in a bit of self-editing).
Concluding his sojourn with a visit to the grave he will fill after realising Tiny Tim has died too, Magoo promises to change his ways in song. The graveyard is awesome, using pink and green neon colours to highlight the darkness, rather than just grey and black and dark blue. Scrooge awakens, seeing some of the events he was shown may happen have not, and begins to repair the errors he made prior. A good little change is the doorknocker giving a wink after Scrooge has gone back indoors to acknowledge happiness that he has changed. A song finishes before the cast take their bows, leaving Magoo alone at last facing the back of the stage.
Great and interesting adaptation, one which I wasn’t familiar with, but came away impressed with as a result of the interesting visual style and the commitment to the original source material and the tone of it, even with the changes. Two out of two so far!
Last one for today is Casper’s First Christmas from 1979.
If Casper looks like as he does as a ghost, what did he look like as a kid?
The Hanna-Barbera stars, including Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Huckleberry Hound, are heading away for a Christmas holiday while Casper writes a letter to Santa even though he resides in a condemned house with Hairy Scarey. Misdirection brings everyone together when Yogi and the gang arrive at the house and clean it up, which pretty much involves pulling sheets off everything. Casper makes friends with everyone, Hairy tries to scare them off. Nobody seems to get until the end that they’re two separate characters. Hairy then learns the error of his ways when he realises Casper asked Santa Claus to restore Hairy’s house, so he lets everyone celebrate Christmas there.
We’re gonna be stuck at two out of three, as Casper is such a saccharine character that I’m worrying about cavities after watching it. Ah well, can’t like them all!
Tomorrow: Some Rankin-Bass Christmas specials!