I wouldn't ordinarily post on anything related to Christmas this early in the year... goodness knows, I've just now put the yacht into dry dock and hung up my seersucker suits. But I see in the news that the garn-teed Christmas blockbuster A Christmas Carol came out this past weekend, and is making big at the box office, though not as big as some studio execs had hoped.
Personally, it's not one I'm all hopped-up to see. Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been interpreted so many times, and there are so many versions that I already enjoy, that one more just isn't of much interest unless it offers to bring something really unique and special to the table. As I'm not one who is normally bowled over by special effects as such, I'm just kind of ambivalent about this new Robert Zemeckis movie. I haven't seen it, though, so there's always a chance I might change my mind.
One of my favorite versions is a couple of major epochs behind in terms of animation technology, but is one I still find stunning in many ways, simply because of the expressive artistry.
The one I'm talking about is the Oscar-winning, animated version directed by Richard Williams, and executive produced by Chuck Jones (though you might never guess it), released in 1971. I remember seeing it as a boy on a black and white television, and I was absolutely dumbstruck by the artwork.
Williams and Jones and their team of animators made a tremendously beautiful film by forgetting about making a pretty or a happy-Jingle-Bells-y kids' film. They stripped all the modern holiday fluff from the more stark passages of Dickens' tale and let it be itself, and yet brought their own interpretation to Dickens' powerful visual metaphors. I only wish that it was longer, like feature-length... instead of being only 28 minutes.
Much of the film is more or less conventionally animated, but many scenes appear to make full use of the most basic drawing tools, exploring the raw emotive power of charcoal or pencil. I only recently re-discovered this animated version, and was almost disappointed that it was in color. I may just go to the MENU button on my TV remote and turn off the color, if I can buy a copy on VHS.