I never was a big fan of Mr. Magoo. But I do love his Christmas Carol special. It is interesting to have Mr. Magoo, as an actor, play Ebenezer Scrooge in a Broadway Musical. This is the first Christmas musical special that I have loved almost every musical number in it. Even the opening number, that has nothing to with Christmas, “Back on Broadway”, is a delight.
I love the simple animation style using matte paintings. It is simple but yet so beautiful.
Scrooge’s ode to money, “Ringle, Ringle”, makes me rock to and fro with rhythm. He loves greed. It is the only thing that gives him joy in his otherwise wretched life.
Tiny Tim is my favorite character in this special. He oozes cuteness with his little tuff of blonde hair. “The Lord’s Bright Blessing” is both a song of sadness and of hope. “We haven’t had a hen since we can’t remember when. We will have a hen again with Razzleberry Dressing.” That and the line “Dream of then and prize what we have now.” are hopeful. Children represent hope, a hope for a better future and a hope of continuing our legacy. Another great lyric from this song, “We can’t afford a Christmas tree, we will someday, I vow. Start smiling and enjoy with me, the miracle of now.”
Watching this special, I just realized that when Tiny Tim dies in the possible future, hope dies as well.
“All alone in the world” is one of the saddest songs in any Christmas musical. When the older Scrooge looks upon his younger self left alone at school by his family, it is heartbreaking.
“You don’t know how it feels when you talk and nobody’s voice talks back. A hand for each hand was planned for the world. Why don’t my fingers reach? Millions of grains of sand in the world. Why such a lonely beach?” I dare you to watch this and not cry. Old Scrooge putting his hand on his younger self and singing together is heartbreaking. Loneliness is the cause for most of the sadness in the world and for a child or teen to feel alone, there is nothing worse.
The song between Belle and young Scrooge, “Winter Was Warm”, is the only song that doesn’t move me. It’s not bad, just kind of weak. This is a common thread in Christmas Carol musical adaptations. There is always a “love lost” song when Scrooge’s fiancé leaves him and it is the weakest number in all of them. I don’t why that is though.
“Despicable” is a funny little ditty about how awful humanity can be. In some adaptations, the scene with Spider the pawnbroker and Scrooge’s housekeeper selling the bedding that Scrooge died in, is cut for time. I have always believed that it was a potent part of The Christmas Yet to Come segment. It shows how much resentment and hatred that Scrooge brings out of people. Such resentment, that she took the bedding off when “It was still warm.”
Mr. Magoo’s Ebenezer Scrooge laying on his own grave with arms stretched out singing a reprise of “All Alone in the World” is like a dagger into my heart. A 52 minute animated special with Mr. Magoo should not elicit so much emotion. But it does and that’s amazing. Sung in a lonely graveyard, this tears me apart emotionally in such a wonderful way.
And in the end, you rejoice for Ebenezer Scrooge. He is such a happy man. True redemption does that for a soul. He is so happy, he is almost flying. “I don’t know anything. I am quite a baby.”, he blurts out, quite giddy. Being a new man, finding redemption you do feel reborn. All the ugliness leaves you.
I am not a fan of the Mr. Magoo cartoon series. I find the blind jokes in the cartoon series unfunny and tasteless. But Jim Backus put so much pathos into this character making this is one of the most powerful Christmas Carol adaptations. If you are not a Mr. Magoo fan, don’t let that stop you from watching this special. You can find it on Vimeo or NBC Peacock streaming services.
Let us all enjoy “The Lord’s Bright Blessing” this Christmas and please pass the Razzleberry Dressing.